Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson on Licorice Pizza, who grew up in LA in a time of innocence and mystery
Licorice Pizza was the name of a popular record store chain from the late 1960s to early 1980s that sold LPs, cassettes and eight tracks throughout Southland, including in the San Fernando Valley (SFV), home of filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (“Boogie Nights”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Phantom Thread”). His new film is called “Licorice Pizza” and tells the story of growing up and falling in love in the SFV in the 1970s.
“We can look back and it was an innocent time and we had no phones and there were more puzzles. We didn’t know where everyone was that we would think of them any more. But then again, a lot has changed for the better, ”Anderson told KCRW.
He remembers riding around on his BMX bike, desperately trying to make friends with older kids who might be driving him.
As a high school graduate, he was rejected by all of the film schools he applied to, and eventually attended Santa Monica College (SMC). “I was very scared. I was somehow convinced that my career was over. If I couldn’t get into film school, how am I supposed to learn how to make films? Fortunately, I ended up at SMC and was able to get into change this time. And a couple of filmmakers came by, [including] Steven Soderbergh. … You realize … maybe I can take the film course at Santa Monica College and … I have a little more time, I could just work on film sets. “
Looking back, he says he was grateful that he didn’t get stuck in film school because, he jokes, he should have asked his father for tuition money and still pay off student loans.
“I think it served me quite well. And I don’t think anyone these days thinks that you have to go to film school to learn how to make a film. Every child has a film studio in their pocket. “
Anderson’s father, who was the voice of ABC television, influenced his career. “He was completely eccentric, completely independent. … [I was] follow him around and go to ABC. … It was just magical for me, the camaraderie of the people he worked with, the machine around the corner with the stale coffee and sweets. [I wanted] to be part of it. And here I am.”
Anderson has worked with a who’s who of A-list actors including Daniel Day-Lewis, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Joaquin Phoenix … but “Licorice Pizza” plays two young and relatively unknown actors, Cooper Hoffman, Son of Phillip Seymour Hoffmann and Alana Haim.
Anderson says he has known Haim (and her sisters, who also appear in the film) for years from working on music videos for her band Haim – and her mother was his elementary school art teacher when he was 7 or 8 years old.
“I suppose it’s a combination of instinct and experience … that made me look at Alana and believe she can do it. And most of all, she’s really, really, really good at it. … I said, ‘Let’s read the script and take tests.’ … She’s gorgeous. And it makes the movie great, ”he says.
Anderson has won multiple awards for his work, but not Oscars, but he doesn’t think about it much. “The last thing you think about while struggling to complete a 10-hour day… is getting into a tuxedo, going to an awards show, and losing an award. That’s the last thing that comes to mind when you’re making a movie. ”