Boogie Nights Interview With Director Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson's slight figure is slouching across from me at a Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. Neither his wire-rims nor his day-old stubble obscure the 27-year-old director's youth. He's just come from New York, where his film Boogie Nights, premiered the night before, and he doesn't look as if he's had too much sleep. Nevertheless, Anderson is cordial and disarming, in a geek-boy sort of way, while he answer questions, downs iced tea, and chain-smokes.Boogie Nights, about a freewheeling band of porn filmmakers, is generating the kind of press that a young film director can only dream of. Much of the hype centers on a scene at the end of the movie in which Mark Walhberg, as porn star Dirk Diggler, whips out his 13-inch penis for reassurance before walking out on the set of a porn movie. I ask Anderson about the prosthesis Wahlberg used for the scene. "Well, first of all I'd say, I don't know where these rumors start," he says. "It's not a prosthesis. It's absolutely 100 percent real. That's why I cast him."He's looking straight at me. He's got a completely straight face. Being the discerning journalist that I am, I of course believe him without question.Since then Mark Wahlberg himself has admitted that he doesn't have a 13-inch dick. "Anyone who knows me can tell you that," he told Rolling Stone. Apparently, I'm not the only one Anderson has, ahem, stretched the truth with. He even tried it with The New York Times. Isn't this guy getting enough press?Well, I guess what can you expect from a guy who has been thinking about the larger-than-life porn industry for perhaps far too long? "I first came up with the idea when I was 17," Anderson explains of his film. "I actually made a short film on video called 'The Dirk Diggler Story.'" Anderson grew up in the San Fernando Valley, the center of the American porn industry. "As a kid, in my preadolescence and adolescence, it was always around -- in a peripheral way. You always kind of knew it was happening," Anderson explains of his fascination. "In industrial parts of town where I went to high school there was a concrete warehouses with no signage with people coming in and out who were clearly doing something weird. I mean, like, they're not lifting boxes in there -- there's something going on." And, because he was obsessed with filmmaking in general (he claims he knew since he was five or six that he wanted to be a filmmaker), a movie about the porn-movie industry seemed like a good vehicle to explore the Valley during the 70s and 80s.Inspired in part by the story of real-life porn star John Holmes, Anderson, whose only previous feature was Hard Eight, says his film in particular borrowed from the character Johnny Wadd, a detective Holmes portrayed in a series of movies. "He would go to the beautiful starlet to get the clue to solve the mystery, and of course he'd have to have sex with her or coerce her by having sex with her to get the clue. It was very funny, you know?" Anderson says. "What you saw as the series progressed, as his drug problem got worse and his ego got bigger, his character totally changed from being a smooth guy trying to charm women to beating the shit out of them for the clue."Given Holmes' sad end (he wound up with AIDS), I asked Anderson about the relatively upbeat ending he gave his movie. "I tried to come up with what I thought was a truthful ending but also the saddest happiest ending I could possibly come up with," he explains. "There Dirk is and he's cleaned up, he's clearly not on drugs, he's doing OK. He still can't resist stopping to take his penis out and look in the mirror before he walks out to make another porno movie. So there you go."