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Paul Thomas Anderson on Robert Altman, Joaquin Phoenix and 3-D

This photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows, actor Joaquin Phoenix, left, and director/writer/producer, Paul Thomas Anderson, on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and IAC Films’ "Inherent Vice," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, Wilson Webb)
December 09, 2014 - 12:11 PM

During a recent interview, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson reflected on some of the inspirations to his latest movie, the Thomas Pynchon adaptation "Inherent Vice," and how his previous films changed him as a filmmaker.


I had to get it out of my mind. Growing up, it was so important to me. Altman's work was so important to me. And that was well enough. I had no need at this point in my life, in my career to try to do another Altman movie. Done that. Did that in my 20s. So if anything, it was about ignoring that and trying to shut it out in my mind in a peculiar kind of way. This is about the book. It can't be about other movies. But you can't ignore Altman. Ever.


There were formal structures in place that normally I'm terrible at, that I found really helpful to have as a foundation to start writing from. I deviated a lot from (Upton Sinclair's "Oil!"), ultimately. But without that book to start with, that movie wouldn't exist. At that time, I was just so obsessed with classic things. Looking at "Treasure of Sierra Madre," looking at "East of Eden," looking at these classic things, just sort of studying how they work and how their bits and pieces are put together. That was really good. It sort of affected everything that's followed. Like going back to school a bit.


"The Master" was a bit more of a dreamy film, kind of in a little of a sleeping head, is a way to describe it, that leant itself to that kind of stuff. You could write something simple like, "Freddie's on the beach" and then just know you're going to go to the beach for a day and you should get as much ammunition as possible to do things. So you get 50 sailors, a machete, some coconuts — just kind of bring some supplies and try to come up with good stuff to happen before the sun goes down. That kind of shooting is really electric and fun, too, because the clock is ticking. ... A lot of that, too, comes from working with Joaquin (Phoenix) because he's very instinctual and very inventive. It's probably a little bit of me creating that situation, but it's born out of working the best for him.


He's so good. I don't know if he does it on purpose. I don't know if he does it by accident. And I don't ask. I think he does it on purpose. I've done this to him a few times where he looked so confused, and I thought he didn't remember the line and I fed him the line, and he was like, "(Expletive)! I was acting."


I like my movies in a square box in a theatre in front of me. I don't like them with glasses on. I don't like them behind me. I like that. I think it's a really good presentation for a movie. Within that, do whatever the (expletive) you want. Anything else is a ride.


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