When you see Alana Haim on screen, she’s mostly in the same place: stage on the right, guitar in hand, next to her two older sisters and as a Grammy-nominated band Haim. But audiences will see Alana in a whole new light this winter when the musician completes her starring role in Licorice Pizza, the latest film from Oscar-winning director and longtime Haim collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson. Set in the 1970s San Fernando Valley, the comedy-drama is Alana’s very first acting appearance, and the singer says she was shocked when Anderson called her to join his cast. “You hang up and wonder what just happened?” She tells ELLE.com. Fortunately, she was joined by another newcomer and her real friend Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Their questionable love story – in the film the characters of Alana and Hoffman are 10 years apart – anchors the two-hour film.
While the film is riddled with big name cameos (in a nerve-wracking scene, Alana has to drive a moving truck with Bradley Cooper in the passenger seat), Alana steps into the picture the moment she wears a skort and a baby blue polo. It is obvious that the film is entirely hers. “I was so happy to have this chance because when I thought about it, the only thing that really held me back was fear,” she says. “To have someone like Paul who tells you you can do it gives you the greatest confidence in the world.”
Besides, she didn’t go all alone. Alana’s real sisters, Este and Danielle, as well as her parents Mordechai and Donna, play their family throughout the film. Now, while Alana prepares for Haim’s upcoming tour, she has earned the praise, with one review calling her performance “one of the most exciting screen debuts of recent times.” Below she shares what it was like to play with her bandmates and the real family story that found its way into the script.
This is your very first acting role. What went through your mind when you were asked to be part of the film?
I mean, a lot of emotions: shocked, so incredibly happy, freaked out. I remember reading the script for the first time and just loved it. I had never read a script before. Nobody has ever asked me to read a script, so the fact that it was a complete page turner felt like a good sign. I thought I can’t wait to see this movie. When Paul asked me to be there, I was speechless. Then you hang up and wonder what just happened? Can i do that What’s happening? And of course the fear comes along somehow. But my first reaction was, “Oh my god, yes please. Can I play in this film, please? “
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You get rave reviews for your performance. Do you read that?
I learned very early that even in Haim you can never read anything. It’s scary. I am just hearing from my mother. I ask her to give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down and she gave me a thumbs up.
I read that some of the situations in the film are based on your real life. Can you reveal if that’s true?
There is a very specific moment in my life. The Shabbat scene with my family is based on something that actually happened when my middle sister was dating this guy she brought on Passover, which is a big deal. You will not only meet my family, but also my extended family. We’re all home to celebrate and there is a tradition of going around reading a paragraph of the Haggadah and it got to him and he respectfully declined for being an atheist. I think it was the worst Passover dinner I’ve ever been to. I remember telling Paul this story and then reading the script and thinking, huh, well, it’s in the script.
Este, Alana and Danielle Haim will play at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards in 2021.
Kevin WinterGetty Images
How was acting with your family? Was it much different than making music together?
I’m very happy that Paul made our music videos so we’ve had some experience standing in front of a camera with Paul. But I think the hardest part was working with my sisters, keeping a straight face. Especially in the meantime [Shabbat] Scene we couldn’t stop laughing. I think there was a point where Paul said, “You have to bring this together. You have to stop laughing at your father. This scene is never finished. ”To make matters worse, I yelled at my father in my life as Alana Haim. I’ve never yelled at my father before. I think he was just shocked. But it was so fun. I’m so happy that my whole family is in this movie with me because it makes me laugh. It didn’t get old to see this scene.
Is there a difference when you’re in the band and you’re the youngest sister and when you’re in the movie and say I’m the main character?
It’s so funny you mention this because at the time we were filming the Shabbat scene, we had only been filming for a little less than a month. So I kind of boosted my confidence. I felt good. And because of COVID, my siblings couldn’t come to the set. I was very alone. And we were preparing for the Shabbat scene, and Paul said the second my whole family showed up, I just went back to my babyism. I got everyone what they needed, such as: “You need water? Are they all good? ”Paul said,“ What happened? You were that confident girl and now it’s like, oh no, now you’re back in your place in the family. ”But I mean, I’ll never change. I am the baby I’m the family fixer.
Hoffman and Alana in licorice pizza.
Melinda Sue Gordon
We also need to talk about the truck scenes. I read that you drove most of it yourself! What was the hardest part about filming this?
All truck stunts started on the second day of shooting. It was like that, day one was [Bradley Cooper’s] Jon Peters yells at [Cooper Hoffman’s] Gary. Day one was Barbra Streisand. That was our introduction to the world as an actor. The second day I drove a truck with Bradley Cooper, my best friend Cooper Hoffman, and myself. So I had three souls in this car, and I have two cameras strapped on either side, lights in front. I had just learned how to drive a stick maybe three months earlier. And it was like driving through the tiny streets of Tarzana and improvising. Only playing with one of the world’s greatest movie stars for the first time. I really think the second when I put it in first and I rolled over, I was like, “Okay, let’s go. Let’s ride We got that. “But so much could go wrong. There have been so many times that I made a turn and I almost just ruined a camera that cost more than my life. But we made it through and no accidents.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Thank God. OK, let’s do some rapid fire. Favorite outfit from the movie?
The brown dress with the boots I wear on the first date.
What do you think is your character’s favorite song, Alana Kane von Haim?
Probably “My Song 5”.
What’s your number one recommendation in the San Fernando Valley?
There are so many. You have to go to Art’s Deli. You have to go to Casa Vega. Also check out Circus Liquor, because Clueless is the best movie of all time. And that’s where [starts imitating Cher Horowitz], “It’s an Alaïa! Is it an a-watta? It’s a really important designer. ” [takes place]. I mean, drive down Ventura Boulevard. Here is everything, there is the valley.
This interview has been edited and shortened for the sake of clarity.
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