A/V Room









Punch-Drunk Love - Paul Thomas Anderson Q&A

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Excerpts from a syndicated interview with Paul Thomas Anderson

Q. What was the inspiration for Punch-Drunk Love?
A. These are usually nice triggers that get you going on a path more than anything else. You get into a situation, you have a bunch of ideas floating around, and you want to make a movie. So what do you need?
With this, it was a story I read in Time magazine, about a guy who finds a loophole in a frequent-flyer promotion. It was just a piece of inspiration really. It’s nice to wave that story around too and say it’s true, it really did happen.

Q. What made you think of casting Adam Sandler as your leading man, Barry Egan?
A. I thought of him when I was editing Magnolia. I love his movies, I think he’s a terrific performer, very handsome and really funny. When I met him I found someone that I shared a similar work ethic with. And that’s always nice, to go to work with someone you have that in common with.
I’ve heard horror stories about some actors, you want to make sure that the people you work with are right there with you. I’ve heard of actors who do three takes and then say that’s it. But meeting Adam, and hanging around with him, I thought he would be a great person to have as a collaborator.

Q. Are you surprised that people have made so much of his casting in the movie?
A. I would hate to think that it feels like stunt casting. You’re aware of his place in the world, that he’s supposed to make this kind of movie and I’m supposed to make another kind. That’s bull really, but I can understand how there can be some confusion.
I think now that the movie is out there and that people are seeing him doing what he does, it’s not very confusing. It’s very clear that he’s really terrific.

Q. Was he surprised at all to be asked?
A. I think he was at first. Maybe he was surprised, having seen my movies, but sitting in the same room as me I don’t think he was. We’re really similar guys, we live very similar lives outside of Los Angeles. We have this established group of people that we work with and we both love making movies. We’re really in similar situations really. I think that he was happy and excited to be an actor, especially in not having to generate the whole movie from scratch. And, also, I’m a good director, so he knew it would be a good movie.

Q. Your work has attracted such a loyal audience, and has proved so diverse, that there must be a lot of pressure on whatever you choose to do next, isn’t there?
A. That doesn’t seem like pressure, that seems wonderful to have. That’s great. I feel pressure on myself to do good work, but I don’t feel it in a bad way at all. It would be silly if I was always comparing what I was doing to what I’ve done. People will like one movie more than they like another, the audience is always going to have their preferences but I have no control over that.

Q. Do you not have any fear of failure though?
A. I think everybody does. I know when I’m honest with myself and I know when I’m proud of my work and I know when it’s going good and when I done what I set out to do. I know if I stop doing that, it’ll be pretty bad. But I love what I do, and I love to make movies. I think as long as I’m writing stories that are personal to me and an accurate reflection of who I am, then I’m doing my job.
You do different things, and maybe something will be more successful than something else, but I think I know enough about myself to know what my standard is. Just the level of quality I attain. Did I do it how I wanted to do it? Yeah, I did. And after that, you see if people go for it. But, of course, you have movies that are going to be more successful than others financially, or critically.

Q. Was Punch-Drunk Love made in reaction to the darkness of Magnolia?
A. I did want to make a lighter movie. It’s a bit like if you’ve been in your house all day, you just want to go outside. It’s like that kind of feeling. Wherever you were last, you generally want to go somewhere else next. And there are so many stories to tell, I wanted to try to make a real love story, a romantic picture. I certainly don’t want to repeat myself. I have so many interests and so many genres that I would like to do, and stories to tell. It’s nice to make movies that are funny. I wish this movie was funnier, that there were more laughs, but it was fun to make.

Q. Will this film you have answered critics who were not keen on the ambitious, multi-strand storyline of your previous two films, Magnolia and Boogie Nights.
A. Well, let me tell you, it’s harder to do a stripped-down, straightforward story like this. That’s what I found, anyway. You’ve got to stay in the boat, you can’t really go anywhere else. It is nice to see what you can do away with, wonder what economy you can work with, but on the other hand how much can I cram into 90 minutes to tell the story effectively to make it entertaining for an audience?
What it does is help focus in on what you really want to say, on what your real point is. I’ve brought the audience to this point, so what am I trying to say? That can get a bit muddled in three hours. I wish I could take 10 or 15 minutes out of Magnolia. I don’t know where from, but it might help pinpoint what it was saying a bit better. But in 90 minutes you have to get to it, say what you’ve got to say and get the hell out of there.

Q. Have you experienced ‘punch-drunk love’ yourself?
A. I certainly remember the experience of punch-drunk love. So many of the emotions in this movie are personal. I come from a large family, too, so I know very well the insanity and craziness that goes on there. They’re not all sisters in my family, though, thank God. That would be a nightmare, to have that situation that Barry has in the film. The smack you and kiss you thing would really screw you up. But a lot of big families are like that, that tendency that siblings have on each other to have that push and pull thing going on all the time. Being completely aggressive toward each other but then completely protective from any outsiders. It’s a crazy dynamic.

Q. Years ago you dropped out of film school. Any regrets?
A. I think it’s worked out pretty well for me, all things considered. It might have worked out differently if I’d stayed there, sure. The problem is, when I was growing up, people like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese went to film school and they preached in its favour.
It made a lot of kids think that the only way you could make a movie was if you went to film school. But that’s nonsense, really, you basically get a lot of kids who love movies going to watch more movies.
That’s the last thing that they should be doing, because they’re going to be watching movies anyway. I don’t know if it would be different if there are great teachers there. My experience with the teachers I had was not so good, so that’s what turned me off of it.
But I also think that it’s silly to make someone think that they have to go to school to do this job. It should be a little bit of a broader base of abilities to get it done, it shouldn’t be school related.

Q. You have developed a terrific repertory of actors over the years, some of whom appear in this movie. Is that part of the fun of the whole process for you?
A. It is like working with a family, it’s a great way to go. But they’re also great actors. It’s not nepotism in the family, they’re great. It’s nice, too, because in the movie business, the big drag is that you spend time with these people and then they go off to work. You’re always separated. You talk over the phone all the time, but that’s it. It’s great to come back together and hang out for a couple of months, because it is a bit of a circus life really.

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