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Paul Thomas Anderson Discusses "Magnolia."

Director, screenwriter, and producer Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson’s new film is called Magnolia. The 29-year-old filmmaker also wrote and directed the movies Boogie Nights and Hard Eight. Magnolia stars Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, and Julianne Moore.


Other segments from the episode on January 19, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 19, 2000: Interview with Paul Thomas Anderson; Review of Fiona Apple's album "When the Pawn..."; Commentary on late night television.


Date: JANUARY 19, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011901np.217
Head: Paul Thomas Anderson Discusses `Magnolia'
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, this is FRESH AIR.

On today's FRESH AIR, screenwriter and director Paul Thomas Anderson talks about making his new film, "Magnolia." The Toronto Film Critics' Association voted "Magnolia" best film of the year and gave Anderson the award for best director. He also wrote and directed "Boogie Nights" and "Hard Eight."

Also, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews Fiona Apple's new CD, a follow-up to her popular debut title. And our TV critic, David Bianculli, has a suggestion of what CBS should do with "The Late Show" while waiting for David Letterman to recover from heart surgery.

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.

First, the news.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Paul Thomas Anderson, wrote and directed the new film "Magnolia." He also wrote and directed "Boogie Nights" and "Hard Eight." The Toronto Film Critics Association voted "Magnolia" best film of the year and gave Anderson the award for best director.

Film critic Joe Morgenstern of "The Wall Street Journal" also described "Magnolia" as the best film of the year. He wrote, "At a time when cynicism passes for wisdom, Anderson has made a wildly funny, truly wise, and subversively sincere film about pain, forgiveness, and the possibility of healing."

I'll add that "Magnolia" has a terrific cast. Jason Robards plays a dying man, Philip Seymour Hoffman is his nurse, Julianne Moore is the dying man's wife, Tom Cruise plays his estranged son. Philip Baker Hall plays a quiz show host, William H. Macy is a former quiz kid, John C. Reilly is an LAPD officer called in to check on a reported disturbance at the home of a young woman played by Melora Walters.

The officer does something very out of character. He asks her for a date, not realizing that she's a heavy cocaine user. Here they are on that date in a restaurant.


JOHN C. REILLY, ACTOR: I haven't been on a date since I was married, and that was three years ago. And Claudia, whatever you want to tell me, whatever you think might scare me, won't. And I will listen to you. I'll be a good listener to you, if that's what you want. You know? You know, and I won't judge you. I know I can do that sometimes, and I won't.

And I can listen. And you shouldn't be scared of scaring me off or whatever you think that I think and on and on, you should just say it, whatever it is, and I'll listen to you.

MELORA WALTERS, ACTRESS: You don't know (bleep) stupid I am.


WALTERS: You don't know how crazy I am.


WALTERS: I've got troubles, OK?

REILLY: I'll take everything at face value. I'll be a good listener to you.

WALTERS: (inaudible), didn't I, didn't I?

REILLY: Whatever it is, just say it. You'll see.

WALTERS: You want to kiss me, Jim?

REILLY: Yes, I do.


GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson, welcome to FRESH AIR.


GROSS: What's your way of describing what this film is about?

ANDERSON: (laughs) Well, there's the sort of generic -- or as generic as I could make it -- line that we kind of came up with, sort of nine intersecting lives on a day in the Valley line. And those are the sort of things you have to come up with because the studio basically says, Come on, we got to put this into one sentence. What is this movie about?

And I think we were all really bad about it, so we just tried to make it as general as possible. So there's the nine intersecting lives on one day in the San Fernando Valley, question mark? That's my sort of fake summation of it.

But a larger one is, it's about family relationships and all kinds of -- it's about the sort of struggle to mend them or to break them, depending on which needs to happen.

GROSS: One of the things that holds the nine stories in this film together is the way you use music. After the prologue in the movie, there's an opening scene that I've come to think of as the overture. There's a song by Amy Mann playing on the sound track, and as that plays, we're introduced to each of the key characters in the movie. And it's like an overture. Instead of getting all the musical themes that you're going to hear in the movie, you get all of the, like, themes of the characters that we're going to meet.

ANDERSON: Yes. That was the -- that's really well said, and kind of exactly what the plan was, was to just -- you know, I thought it would be a cool idea to just bombard with information, you know, for about 20 minutes, and then, if you -- catch what you catch from those 20 minutes, but then the sort of promise that we would go back and pick up the pieces, you know, and I thought that was a cool way to sort of tackle telling the story.

GROSS: And more about the way you use music. Toward the end of the movie there's a song by Amy Mann on the sound track, and as that song, which is called "Wise Up," plays, there's a sequence in which each of the characters -- the camera just moves from one character to another, and each of the characters sings a few bars along with the record. And I thought that was really just an incredibly interesting way of using the music, and a really effective emotional moment in the movie.

It reminded me of opera, in a way, where all feelings are sung, even by the character who is dying.

ANDERSON: Yes. Oh, well, that's -- yes, there you go, you hit -- that -- thank you. And, you know, the music in this movie, it's so hand in hand with the creation of it, you know. They're linked. There's -- it's not an afterthought. Basically, I -- when I started to write the movie, I had just a million ideas buzzing around in my head, and I had Amy Mann, who is a close friend of mine, writing all these wonderful songs, whether they were sort of demos or B-sides lying around and stuff.

And it was a weird thing, because I could look at her songs, and they were really articulating things that I had buzzing around in my head. And so I latched onto her music as a sort of concrete thing that existed for what I was thinking I was trying to say. And so it just became this hand-in-hand partnership in writing the script and listening to the music, and both of those things bouncing off each other. And Amy eventually wrote two or three new songs based on reading my script.

So -- and, yes, thank you for liking that scene (inaudible).

GROSS: Oh, a lot, yes. Now, the line that I consider to be, like, one of the themes of the movie is said by the earnest cop, played by John C. Reilly. And he's talking about how hard it is to do the right thing. And he says, "Sometimes people need to be forgiven. Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes they need to go to jail. And that's a very tricky thing on my part, making that call."

How did that become a theme of the movie for you, deciding who really needs to be punished and who needs to be forgiven?

ANDERSON: It really was something, I guess, going on in my life or around me. Or I think everybody's life. You just sort of -- you -- to me, I've sort of always made -- tried to make a big deal out of decisions, you know, decisions that I make or looking at mistakes that you -- You just have to decipher what is forgivable and what is unforgivable. You know, and as far as the characters go in the movie, you're just sort of seeing everybody at critical mass, you know, and sort of at a decision-making point.

And it's kind of interesting. It was kind of an interesting thing to create those situations and decipher what, from the author's point of view, my point of view, is forgivable and what is unforgivable. I think there are certain...

You know, it's funny, because I think that's kind of -- it was kind of a reactionary thing for me based on "Boogie Nights." I really liked the compliment that I got from that movie, which was that I didn't judge the characters. But I also felt like I wanted to make sure that what I thought morally was very clear in my next movie.

So I hope that I've done that, is to make very clear moral decisions or very clear sort of -- the author has really sort of made his mark about what he thinks is moral.

GROSS: This may be perhaps too personal, so you could just let me know about that, but were you going through something in your life where you had to -- where you consciously tried to figure out whether somebody close to you should be forgiven or punished?

ANDERSON: No, it's -- it's -- I -- Sure, but I think it's the kind of stuff you go through every day, you see -- have people around you making decisions. Or you actually may -- even mistakes of my own that I've made, you know, where I just -- You know what happens is, I think, if you sort of lead any kind of life that's sort of self-aware, you're wondering, you know, I keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again.

Then you start to decipher why you're making them. And it's just not good enough to decipher why you're making them. What's important is to make sure that you are not doing them again. And I was kind of going through a phase like that where I found myself making the same mistakes over and over and over again. And I was scared that I was going to get to a point in my life where, you know, it wasn't good enough to have a wonderful excuse about, you know, maybe something happened to you once upon a time that has created this situation. It just wasn't good enough to have that excuse at this point.

It was very important to be a man and not make the same mistakes again and again.

GROSS: What kind of mistake did you think you kept making over and over?

ANDERSON: None of your business.

GROSS: All right, that's fine.


GROSS: Probably not.

ANDERSON: No, I mean, I -- probably less severe mistakes than you might think, just sort of simple, everyday -- Why am I doing that? Why am I getting upset over these things that I shouldn't get upset at? Why am I hurting the people around me that I love? You know, just simple everyday mistakes.

GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson is my guest, and he wrote and directed the new film, "Magnolia," as well as "Boogie Nights" and "Hard Eight."

One of the characters in "Magnolia," the character of Frank T.J. Mackie, played by Tom Cruise, does these incredible self-help seminars called "Seduce and Destroy." These are seminars for guys who are real losers and, like, need help in scoring. And he teaches things like how to fake like you are nice and caring and teaches men that having a couple of chicks for friends can be useful in setting jealousy traps.

Forgive me for killing these lines.

ANDERSON: No, don't worry.

GROSS: But who inspired this character?

ANDERSON: A friend of mine, a guy named Brian Kehew (ph), is a -- just the kind of guy everyone should have as a friend. He'll always show up at your doorstep with just fascinating videotapes or audiotapes. And one day, it was about three or four years ago now, he showed up with this audiotape that he had. He was teaching a class in recording engineering, and there was two guys in the studio part, and there was an open mike out there. And it was lunchtime. They were going to lunch.

And he just kind of hit Play and Record because he saw these two guys talking. So he sort of surreptitiously recorded them talking. Anyway, like a year later, he found this DAT, you know, that he'd recorded, and he played it for me, and we listened to these two guys talking. And it was basically one guy sort of lecturing this other guy on how to control women, how to pick them -- pick up women, how to sort of master them in the relationship, how to not -- how to basically just keep them down, keep them in their...

And all these sort of catch phrases that are in the movie are stuff these two knuckleheads were talking about on this audiotape. And I'd just sort of stolen it and sort of switched it around and mocked it up. And on top of that, there's actually legitimate -- there's guys that do do these kinds of seminars. You know, back to the days when Eric Weber and his book in the '70s, you know, "How to Pick Up Women," which was pretty tame compared to some of the stuff that's out there now, guys like Ross Jeffries and R. Don Steele, really sort of creepy situation.

But they do exist. So...

GROSS: Did you...

ANDERSON: ... on top of that, you know, I just factored in sort of many guys that I went to high school with who always had theories on, you know...

GROSS: How to score. (laughs)

ANDERSON: ... (inaudible), yes.

GROSS: You know, I've read that Tom Cruise, who plays the role of this self-help guru, actually asked to be in your next movie after seeing "Boogie Nights." Did you know for sure that you wanted to use him, or did you think, Oh, big commercial star?

ANDERSON: Oh, God, yes. Oh, no, and actually -- it actually wasn't as direct as Tom saying to me, I want to be in your next movie. I think it was just sort of -- a sort of call, like, (inaudible), Hey, I loved "Boogie Nights," and I was in London, I met him there, and -- while he was shooting "Eyes Wide Shut." And we just -- we -- I was a massive fan of his from all of his movies. I really loved him, I thought he was a wonderful actor.

And I had just started to write Frank T.J. Mackie as a character, just started to think about making that a character in a movie. And at the -- exactly at the time that I met him. And I just said, OK, so I'm about to start writing something, why don't I just call you in eight or nine months and see if you want to be involved? And that was actually perfect timing, because he was finishing "Eyes Wide Shut" eight or nine months later. And I finished writing and handed him the script, and, I don't know, I tried to make it the un-turn-down-able part, you know.

GROSS: (laughs) Did it change the set at all to have the kind of movie star that everybody wants the latest gossip about, you know, was there, like, the personality press on the set?

ANDERSON: Not really. You know, maybe just once kind of early on we learned our lesson. You know, we just sort of had -- you have signs when you're shooting (inaudible) the crew as they exit the freeway, there's a -- will be a sign that says, you know, "The set is this way," and the name of the movie. Used to put those mile markers up all over town.

When we did that the first day, and just mean that -- meant that people could find us, you know, people could find the set and they could find where Tom was. So we just very quickly learned lessons of subterfuge and confusing people and dodging it, and then they're not around any more. It goes pretty easy.

But -- so it was -- that was the first time I had to deal with anything like that. But he was great about it too, he was (inaudible) clued us in to how it usually goes for him. It's a different situation. But then, once -- but then once that stuff was sort of done away with, it was so easy. He's just a director's dream to work with.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Paul Thomas Anderson, and he wrote and directed the new film "Magnolia." He also wrote and directed "Boogie Nights" and "Hard Eight."

Why don't we take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more?

ANDERSON: Okey-doke.



GROSS: Back with Paul Thomas Anderson. He wrote and directed the new film "Magnolia." He also wrote and directed "Boogie Nights" and "Hard Eight."

I want to play a clip from the film. And this is a scene where Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a nurse who's taking care of an older dying man played by Jason Robards. And he finds out that the estranged son of this man is really this self-help guru who teaches men how to manipulate women.

And so he's trying to track down this estranged son, and he finds out how to reach one of his people. So here is the nurse, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, on the phone with one of T.J. Mackie's people, trying to convince this person to tell Mackie to come see his father before he dies.


PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, ACTOR: Look, there's number for Frank in any of Earl's stuff. You know, and he's pretty out of it. I mean, like I said, he's dying, dying of cancer. So...

ACTOR: What kind of cancer?

HOFFMAN: It's brain and lung.

ACTOR: My mother had breast cancer.

HOFFMAN: Oh, I'm sorry. Is she all right?

ACTOR: Oh, she's fine now.

HOFFMAN: Oh, that's good.

ACTOR: Yes, it was scary, though.

HOFFMAN: Oh, it's a hell of a disease.

ACTOR: Oh, it sure is.


ACTOR: So -- wait, I'm sorry, so why call me?

HOFFMAN: I know this sounds silly, and I know that I might sound ridiculous, like this is the scene in the movie where the guy's trying to get ahold of a long-lost son, you know, but this is that scene. This is that scene. And I think they have those scenes in movies because they're true, you know, because they really happen. And you got to believe me, this is really happening. I mean, I can give you my number, and you can go check with whoever you got to check with and call me back. But do not leave me hanging on this. All right? Please. I'm just -- please.

See, see, this is the scene in the movie where you help me out.


GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson, when you wrote these lines, were you really aware of the fact that this is the kind of thing that happens in a movie, and somehow you couldn't let it happen without commenting that you knew this happens in a movie, but it also happens in real life?

ANDERSON: Yes, totally. You know, I think I wrote what I would have tried to say, you know, in that desperate a situation. Phil's character is so desperate to do the right thing and get in touch with Tom's character that he'll sort of just spell out the truth. And the truth is, I was coming from a lot of situations in my life that were -- that you just would stop and look around and say, You know, this is a movie scene, this is a movie scene, this isn't really happening to me, right? This is something that I saw in a movie -- this is a -- You know, it becomes a very scary thing.

If you've grown up on movies like I have, you know, you sort of depend upon the movies to tell you the truth about things. And then when the movies betray you when you're in a real-life situation where it's very desperate and someone's dying, or you need to get in touch with someone very desperately, and the movies have not taught you the real truth, you kind of start to get mad at them, you know, and you start to sort of reference them. At least I do. I'm such a product of the movies.

But I wanted to get to that -- hopefully show these scenes in the movie, in "Magnolia," that are kind of traditional movie scenes, you know, there's nothing sort of new about, Help me find my long-lost son as I'm lying on my deathbed. Now, that's a really sort of good old-fashioned dramatic situation. But there's -- they're true, you know, I've been there, I've seen that situation happen. And all you can sort of say to make it somehow more realistic is to reference the movies.

GROSS: Did you ever write that scene without writing the lines, comparing it to the emotional scene in the movie?

ANDERSON: No. No. I just wrote it that way and stuck with it, and -- no, (inaudible) one time did somebody say -- I can't remember who -- said, Do you really want to do that? Don't you think you might take them out of the movie? I said, No, I -- this is probably the most honest line in the entire movie.

GROSS: (laughs) Because this movie is so much about the nine characters at the center of it, there's a lot of close-ups of faces. You know, as the director of the film, what are some of the considerations about how to shoot a closeup of a face? You know, what angle? How long to keep it on there so it remains interesting and doesn't overstay its welcome? Could you talk about facial close-ups a little bit?

ANDERSON: I'm a really, really big fan of close-ups. I think that's because I'm such a big fan of my actors, you know, and you got to sure have somebody that can hold a close-up. And I feel like I do, you know. All of them, really.

You know, it's a thing that I -- it's really just about picking the right lens. It's a very technical thing, you know, it's about picking the right lens to make a close-up with.

GROSS: Why is it the right lens?

ANDERSON: Well, there's a sort of -- there's a thing that can happen if a lens is too wide and it's up in somebody's face, they can look kind of silly, they can look kind of goofy, you know, sort of distort the proportions of their face. But if you use a much longer lens, it's a much prettier, much more attractive close-up, but it also feels very distant. It's not a true close-up, because you feel very far away, you don't feel like you're right there in the room.

So it's sort of about picking the right lens, it's sort of a middle ground between those two, where you can feel present and right there in their face, but also make it look attractive. Not to cheat, you know, not to cheat and gloss it up, but you can distract an audience if somebody's nose is sort of sticking right out at them, you know.

GROSS: Or there are nose hairs growing out of their nose...

ANDERSON: Nose hair, right.

GROSS: ... you don't want to be seeing that.

ANDERSON: Right. But I'm such a big fan of it, and it's -- of close-ups, and it really has to do with actors being able to hold it more than anything else.

It also -- it's a tricky thing too when you do close-ups, it does mean that the camera, if you pick the right lens, like, I -- the lens that I like to use, it means that the camera does have to be physically close to them. And that creates a situation of eye lines, where sometimes an actor won't be able to see the other actor they're acting with. And that can sometimes be the greatest thing in the world for an actor, and sometimes it can be a detriment to their performance, their communication with the other actor. You kind of have to decipher when to do that.

GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed the new film "Magnolia." He'll be back in the second half of the show.

We'll close this half hour with one of the Amy Mann songs used in the film. This is called "Wise Up," and it's the song that the characters sing along with.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


It's not what you thought
When you first began it.
You got what you want.
Now you can hardly stand it, though,
(inaudible) going to stop.
It's not going to stop.
It's not going to stop
Till you wise up.



GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with screenwriter and director Paul Thomas Anderson. He made the films "Hard Eight," "Boogie Nights," and "Magnolia," which is currently in theaters.

Let's pick up where we left off, talking about writing and directing "Magnolia."

I'll say here, if you haven't seen the movie yet and you're about to see it, you might want to just put your hands over your ears for the next question. So here's a moment for you to do that. Or, you know, leave the room and come back in about 90 seconds.

OK. Paul Thomas Anderson, there's a scene in "Magnolia" -- you know, throughout the movie, which is set in Los Angeles, it's raining really hard, adding to this atmosphere of gloom. And near the end, it begins to rain frogs. Now, a lot...

ANDERSON: It's been said.

GROSS: A lot of people who have seen the movie have speculated -- I think it's fair to say everybody who's seen the movie has probably speculated, what was he intending to say with that? So...

ANDERSON: Well, the...


ANDERSON: I think the best thing to do is keep them speculating. I don't want to be the (inaudible) -- my theory is that you'd hate me in the morning, you know, you'd just...

GROSS: (laughs)

ANDERSON: ... you'd just be, like, God, if he'd only shut his mouth about it, I'd still probably be enjoying that sequence. But I think that there's -- but the one thing that is -- that I would want to say is that it is something that really happens.

And I -- there's a very funny story. About two years ago, when I was sitting down to write the movie, I got together with Philip Baker Hall, and I just -- who's on all my movies and will continue to be, I hope. I said -- he said, "So what's the next one about?" you know. And I said, "Oh, it's got this and this, and you're going to play this game show host." And I just sort of mentioned a few things to him.

And then I was kind of nervous, because I was sort of getting to the whole rain of frogs idea. And I very seriously explained to him that there was this thing that's called a rain of frogs, and it really does happen. It does in fact happen. I'd first read about it in Charles Fort's books. And I started sort of babbling on about the rain of frogs, and this really does happen, and what will happen is that waterspouts might pick them up, or for as many times as they can be explained, they'll just -- you know, frogs that are indigenous in Florida will fall in California, and how can you explain that?

And I was just going on and on and on and on about the rain of frogs. And he was just staring at me, "Mm-hm, mm-hm, mm-hm." And then I finished. And he said, "Interesting story. I was actually in a rain of frogs once. It was 1950-something in the Swiss Alps." He was in Europe right after the war, and he was on a mountain pass. I believe it was Switzerland. And it started to rain frogs. And he said that the scariest part was not that it was raining frogs but rather that he was on this mountain pass and his car could get no traction.

And so he pulled over to the side of the road, and he waited 10 or 15 minutes for it to pass. And he drove along. And I thought right then and there that if I don't go through with this sequence, I'm just a big pussy.

GROSS: Now, you explain to me, there's really been rains of frogs?

ANDERSON: Yes. That's -- it's not just something that's in the Bible or something that I made up, it's really something that has happened.

GROSS: And is there any explanation for it, or are you pulling my leg? (laughs)

ANDERSON: No. There are explanations, but I think everybody has their own explanation.

GROSS: Uh-huh. Well, let me -- this is one of the movies -- one of the few movies, probably, that sent me back to the Bible...


GROSS: ... to Exodus. And let's see, the Lord is telling Moses to go to the Pharaoh and tell him, "And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs."

ANDERSON: Hmm. Who wrote that?

GROSS: (laughs) Yes.

ANDERSON: Who wrote the Bible? Who wrote that line?

GROSS: Shall I ask Charlton Heston? Did you go back to the Bible? Did you go back to Exodus? You must have, because there's a little reference on the screen to it.

ANDERSON: Yes, you can find, if you want to watch closely, there's sort of Exodus 8 and -- the numbers 8 and 2 are sort of planted throughout the movie. The fact of the matter is that I should sort of own up to the fact that I didn't -- when I was writing the sequence initially, I really wasn't completely clear-headed that it was in the Bible, you know. And Henry Gibson reminded me and put it in front of me. And I said, "Oh, good, you know, OK, great, great, it's in the Bible."

So how does that factor in? I was coming from a -- sort of a different place, and then it became an afterthought, sort of what it meant in the Bible. I was coming from a different place.



GROSS: Have you tried to -- have you overheard any conversations of people walking out of theaters talking about the frogs, and hearing their interpretations of what it means?

ANDERSON: The one thing that I did hear, I was in a screening in Los Angeles, I snuck in the back for the frog sequence. And when the frogs start hitting it, because it's very, very, very, very, very, very, very loud for awhile, you know, and there's just constant barrage of frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs, frogs. And then right in the middle of it, it cuts to a very silent moment, you know.

And in that silent moment, this one guy had turned to his friend sitting next to him, and in the barrage of noise, he'd leaned to his friend and he said -- and he opened his mouth, and the screen goes completely silent, and you could hear him as clear as a bell say, "This is really stupid."

GROSS: (laughs)

ANDERSON: And everyone kind of looked over at him and just, you know -- he was kind of completely caught in that silent moment thing, "This is really stupid." And that was really fun for me to hear him say that that loud and that clear.

GROSS: Did anyone try to talk you out of this scene and say, You know, look, in a realistic movie, this scene just isn't going to make sense?

ANDERSON: No, no. I think once you sort of read it, what can you say? You know, I -- somehow I didn't -- don't see that anybody could come and say, Can we talk about cutting the frog sequence? I think it's just so insane to begin with that you just either go with it or you don't. And I think that was what was great about the studio was that they didn't even think about it. They were wonderful. It was just sort of, like, It's going to rain frogs in this movie, wonderful. You either completely give it up to that fact, or you just -- you don't make the movie.

GROSS: Well, when I saw that scene, I have to say, what went through my mind is, Yes, sometimes I feel like there is about to be a rain of frogs. (laughs)

ANDERSON: Great, great. Well, that's really good to hear, because that means a lot to me, and that helps make up for that guy saying it was stupid. That's nice, what you just said.

GROSS: My guest is Paul Thomas Anderson. He wrote and directed the new movie "Magnolia." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is screenwriter and director Paul Thomas Anderson. His movies are "Hard Eight," "Boogie Nights," and "Magnolia."

Now, you grew up in Studio City in the San Fernando Valley, and both "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights" are set there. And you've said that -- and I think it was in "The New York Times" magazine -- you said that for years you were ashamed of the fact that you grew up there. You were thinking that, you know, you weren't from the big city of New York or from the farm fields of Iowa, so therefore you had nothing to say.

How did you get over that?

ANDERSON: I think just time, I suppose, or -- time or desperation of wanting to write something and write what I know, you know. I'd gone to New York for a little while and I'd been there, it just felt so foreign to me. I couldn't get a grip there. And I think when I came back here -- and I think, you know, what did help was seeing a movie, "Short Cuts," you know, was seeing "Short Cuts" and seeing a movie about Los Angeles that looked like Los Angeles. It was kind of a nice thing when someone helps to validate it for you, like Robert Altman. It becomes -- you can start to look at yourself a little bit more.

GROSS: Are there things you've come to think of as being the defining characteristics of the San Fernando Valley? Not the cliches, but what you think of as the defining characteristics?

ANDERSON: Yes, but I got to keep them to myself so I can make more movies about it.

GROSS: Yes, OK, OK. You do your own coming attractions for your films. Why is that necessary?

ANDERSON: I guess I just feel like it's part of my job, is that, you know, people's first impression of the movie, I think they take to the movie. I don't think it starts and stops just with the movie itself, but it carries over into all of the things that we associate with the movie, and that means the poster, the commercials, the trailers as well, because you remember a lot of those just as much as you do the movie, I think.

GROSS: So many coming attractions now give away the whole movie. You see the beginning and the middle and the end, except that it's just a lot shorter than the movie is. And you think, Why should I bother going?

ANDERSON: It's true, it's true. It's funny, because, you know, this time I studied a lot of trailers from way back when through today, just to sort of -- just to get a grip on the history of movie trailers, you know. And it's a fascinating thing. But I can see why they do it, because when you test these trailers in malls, you know, in Albuquerque, people will say, Well, what's the movie about? They just want to know what the movie is about.

First they want to know who's in it, you know, who is in it, and what is it about? And those are the two things. So it's interesting, I think, you know, maybe I had leeway to create a trailer that didn't exactly tell you what it was about because the cast was so strong. I think it created a leeway where I could kind of get away with not telling you what it was about.

You look at the "Shining" trailer is one of the greatest trailers of all time. I don't know if you remember it or not.

GROSS: I don't.

ANDERSON: It's just -- it's as -- it's very long, and just single shot, there's no cuts in it, of the elevators in the hotel. And the music's sort of building, and it's sort of letting you know, Coming soon, a Stanley Kubrick production, Shelly Duvall, Jack Nicholson -- who was at the height at that time, so instantly, like, it's the new Jack Nicholson, great -- and then blood begins to pour from the elevators, and just gallons and gallons and gallons of blood come gushing out of the elevators, right into the lens, sort of wiping away all of the furniture, it gets carried away in this wash of blood.

And it wipes the screen red, and then it says, "The Shining," and that's the trailer. And it's just sublime and simple and enticing. It's a -- it's totally something that you see and go, I want to see more! What the hell was that? you know. Which I think great trailers could do. Great trailers could be great short films, you know, I just -- I think -- I would love to see more filmmakers tackle them themselves and take more control of that.

GROSS: Give you a sense of the atmosphere of the film without telling you the whole story.

ANDERSON: Exactly, exactly. And because at the end of the day, no one knows anything about marketing, you know, any marketing guy who tells you he knows that this will work is just out of his mind. Any of the great marketing people that I sort of met say, Oh, by the way, I know nothing. You know, I know some things that work. But the truth is, we don't know anything, you know. Every slam-dunk that we thought we had turned out to be a stinker, and vice versa, you know. It's always interesting. So it's great to hear people admit that.

GROSS: Because you use music so well, I want to end with a music question, and this gets back to "Boogie Nights." There's a kind of climactic scene in "Boogie Nights" where the two characters -- two of the characters who we've come to really like a lot, you know, the Mark Wahlberg-Dirk Digler character, and the John C. Reilly character, Reed Rothschild, are trying to score some drugs from a character...


GROSS: ... played by Alfred Molina, who turns out to be totally drugged out of his mind and absolutely insane. And he's in his bathrobe, and -- which is undone, and he's wearing these, like, I think, red tight underpants. And he's playing, like, his favorite mix of records for these guys, while he's absolutely terrorizing them. He's got this guy in the corner who's setting off firecrackers, and it sounds like gunshots, and they flinch like mad every time another firecracker goes off.

And the record that the Alfred Molina character is playing is "Jesse's Girl," you know, a, like, pop hit from the '80s by Rick Springfield, who used to be on, what, "General Hospital"?


GROSS: What a really interesting, inspired choice of records! What made you think of playing "Jesse's Girl" in the middle of this absolutely terrifying scene, this insane scene?

ANDERSON: Well, I'll tell you, I guess that it's a song that reminded me of being just, like, 12 or 13 years old, and rushing around and having your youth and your crushes on girls and things like that, and hearing that song functions so well there is that it's the song that Mark Wahlberg should be listening to, having feeling -- his character should be listening to that song, having crushes on girls at the mall, you know, thinking, Oh, gosh, this is this -- this is the song that me and my girlfriend listened to.

At that time in his life, that's where he should be. Instead, he's in this insane pseudo-drug deal, you know, with this maniac played by Alfred Molina. And it's just the complete opposite of where someone his age and of his heart should be. So to hear this kind of wonderful just ditty pop song that's so kind of romantic and actually personal to me, I think that's why it works well.

And also too, you just -- you know what? A lot of times, it's just good if a song works, if it's just cool, you know, if the vibe just works. That's a good enough reason. So this is one I think that works that way and also works in this weird kind of personal gut kind of romanticized way.

Does that make sense?

GROSS: Yes, it does.

ANDERSON: Oh, good.

GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson, I regret we're out of time. I look forward to your next movie. And thank you very much for being with us.

ANDERSON: Thanks so much, Terry.

GROSS: Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed "Boogie Nights," "Hard Eight," and the new movie, "Magnolia." Here's "Jesse's Girl" from the scene we were just talking about in "Boogie Nights."


(firecracker explodes)

ALFRED MOLINA, ACTOR: That's Cosmo. He's Chinese. That's why he likes to (inaudible) firecrackers, huh? (laughs)

(firecracker explodes)

RICK SPRINGFIELD (singing on sound track): Jesse is a friend...

(firecracker explodes)

SPRINGFIELD: ... (inaudible) very good friend of mine. But lately something strange (inaudible) hard to define...

(firecracker explodes)

SPRINGFIELD: ... (inaudible) a girl, and I want to make her mine, (inaudible)...

(firecrackers explode)

SPRINGFIELD: ... and she (inaudible)...

MOLINA: (inaudible), I just know it.

ACTOR: Ricky Springfield, (inaudible).

SPRINGFIELD: ... (inaudible)...

(firecracker explodes)

SPRINGFIELD: ... Jesse's girl, (inaudible), Jesse's girl. (inaudible), (inaudible) woman like that. I'll play along with the charade.

ACTOR: We're leaving, man.

SPRINGFIELD: There doesn't seem to be a reason to change.

ACTOR: Tough (ph).

SPRINGFIELD: You know, I feel so dirty when they start talking cute. I want to tell her that I love her, but the point is rather moot, because she's watching (inaudible), and she's (inaudible) with that (inaudible), and holds her in his arms late, late at night. You know, I wish that I had Jesse's girl...


GROSS: A scene from "Boogie Nights."

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Paul Thomas Anderson
High: Director, screenwriter and producer Paul Thomas Anderson discusses his new film, "Magnolia." The 29-year-old filmmaker also wrote and directed the movies "Boogie Nights" and "Hard Eight." Magnolia stars Tom Cruise, Jason Robards and Julianne Moore.
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; Paul Thomas Anderson

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Paul Thomas Anderson Discusses `Magnolia'

Date: JANUARY 19, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011902np.217
Head: Fiona Apple Refines Her Sound on Her New Album
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:45

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of Fiona Apple's new CD. She waited three years to follow up her 3 million-copy-selling debut title with this second effort. This new collection has a title that's 90 words long. Ken will recite it later.


KEN TUCKER, ROCK CRITIC: The way things are for Fiona Apple is that she's come up with the year's most annoying album title and some of the year's best music. The title is, "When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts, He Thinks Like a King, What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight, and He'll Win the Whole Thing for He Enters the Ring, There's Nobody to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might, So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Death Is the Greatest of Heights, and If You Know Where You Stand, and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Because You'll Know That You're Right."

That's it. "When the Pawn" is a remarkably assured collection of songs for a 22-year-old whose first album suggested talent, but not the ambition and range that's all over nearly every song here.


TUCKER: Fiona Apple builds songs around the jazz and rock chordings of her piano playing. Her producer and essential collaborator, Jon Brion, plays nearly everything else. Together, they create an airy, echoey atmosphere in which Apple's smoky voice wafts in and out of the melodies.

The most remarked-upon songs on her first album were the angry ones, in which she lashed out at people who'd hurt her. And there's no shortage of simmering rage here.


TUCKER: If the idea behind her long album title, as I read it, that you can be a pawn who wises up and, jiu-jitsu-like, use your vulnerability as a weapon to defend yourself, that's certainly the strategy she deploys musically. If Apple were a less disciplined songwriter, her music would have the nattering aimlessness of the artist whose voice and phrasing most closely resembles hers, the late Laura Nyro. But at the mere age of 22, Apple is already revealing a compositional rigor that keeps her willful flights of lyrical fancy well-grounded.

The result is sensual music that's an intellectual tickle as well.


TUCKER: On another song here, Fiona Apple sings, "If you want to make sense, what you looking at me for?" But it's clear from the music she's making here -- and this goofily titled album coheres as a decidedly ungoofy, unified suite of songs -- that her denial of common sense only suggests that she's crazy like a fox.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for "Entertainment Weekly."

Coming up, David Bianculli has a suggestion for CBS about what to do while David Letterman recovers from heart surgery.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, Ken Tucker
High: Fiona Apple's new CD is a remarkably assured collection of songs for a 22-year-old whose first album suggested talent, but not the ambition and range that's all over nearly every song here.
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Fiona Apple

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Fiona Apple Refines Her Sound on Her New Album

Date: JANUARY 19, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011903np.217
Head: Letterman's Absence Gives CBS an Opportunity to Feature Talk Show Legends
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Traditionally, this is the time of year when TV gives us news of midseason replacements and upcoming special events. Some of the TV news coming out now, though, is more serious. Michael J. Fox has announced that he will retire from ABC's "Spin City" at the end of the season to focus on his battle with Parkinson's disease. And David Letterman is looking at six to eight weeks of recuperation after undergoing quintuple bypass heart surgery.

TV critic David Bianculli has a few thoughts, predictions, and suggestions.

DAVID BIANCULLI, TV CRITIC: What happens to TV shows when their franchise stars get sidelined by a serious illness? It doesn't happen often, so most of the time there's no contingency plan. At both ABC and CBS right now, people are scrambling to figure out what, if anything, they can do about these unforeseen circumstances.

In the case of "Spin City," probably nothing. Even though it's got a fine ensemble cast, including the recently added Heather Locklear, Michael J. Fox is that show. When he walks away, the show should go with him.

Letterman is a different matter. CBS has announced its intention to hold the course with reruns of "Late Show With David Letterman" until he returns. Meanwhile, lots of current talk show personalities, including Rosie O'Donnell, Martin Short, and Howard Stern, have offered their services as guest hosts.

Now, guest hosts are a good idea, but ones borrowed from elsewhere on the TV dial are not. If CBS wants to not only keep Letterman's seat warm until he returns, but heat things up, it ought to turn this sudden adversity into a month-long event for the February ratings sweeps.

Here are my suggestions for a roster of "Late Show" guest hosts, and the reasons they might actually say yes.

Week one's guest host, Steve Allen. Twenty years ago, when Letterman hosted his ill-fated NBC daytime show, he introduced one of his final guests by saying, "There are two people in my life that I've always respected and admired, and these are people who make me laugh really hard. One of them is Johnny Carson, and the other one is here this morning, Steve Allen."

Allen hosted the first incarnation of the "Tonight Show," then called "Tonight," in 1954. He all but invented the form and was a huge influence on Letterman. By taking the first week of a month-long get-well-Dave tribute, Allen would be able to show people he's still got it, remind them he was there first, and support Letterman in time of need.

Week two, Jack Paar. Paar not only succeeded Allen as host of NBC's "Tonight Show," but also is Letterman's friend and neighbor. And whenever Paar has appeared on TV, in his prime or long after his retirement, he's never been anything less than unpredictable and fascinating.

He's also a very nice guy, which is why, under these circumstances, he might say yes to a week-long return visit to late-night TV.

Week three, Garry Shandling. When Shandling starred on "The Larry Sanders Show," he wasn't a real talk show host, but he played one on TV. Letterman even guest starred on that HBO series, playing himself. Yet before that, the real Shandling was a frequent guest host on the "Tonight Show," so he knows the form for real as well as for pretend.

Appearing as guest host for a week -- as Shandling, not Sanders -- would allow Shandling to blur the lines between reality and fiction even further. He could even invite former "Larry Sanders" co-stars Rip Torn and Jeffrey Tambor as guests. And who wouldn't watch that?

Finally, for week four, just before Letterman returns, here's my suggestion for the biggest guest host of all.

(Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" theme music)

BIANCULLI: That's right, Johnny Carson. I know what you're thinking. Why not just suggest the pope? But hear me out.

Yes, Carson went out on top in the best and classiest possible fashion and has stayed true to his word to shun the spotlight ever since his 1992 departure. Yes, it would take something extraordinary to get Carson back to television. But this could well be it.

And what a huge TV event it would be! For Carson, coming back to late-night TV for one week would be a no-risk venture. He's master of the form, ratings would be huge, and Letterman is a friend.

Carson wouldn't do it for fame or money, he's got plenty of both, but he just might do it to help a buddy, and especially to do it opposite "The Tonight Show," which didn't exactly treat him with the respect he deserved after his departure.

Allen, Paar, Shandling, Carson. That's a dream team for sure. But it's a dream that just might come true.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for "The New York Daily News."

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer today was Roberta Shorrock. Our engineer is Audrey Bentham. Dorothy Ferebee is our administrative assistant. Ann Marie Baldonado directed the show.

I'm Terry Gross.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, David Bianculli
High: Late night talk show host David Letterman underwent heart surgery last Friday. CBS, the home of Letterman's "The Late Show," will run reruns until Letterman recovers. TV critic David Bianculli has another idea for what to do in the interim.
Spec: Entertainment; Television and Radio; Health and Medicine; David Letterman

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Letterman's Absence Gives CBS an Opportunity to Feature Talk Show Legends
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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