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Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson

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Also Known As: P. T. Anderson Died:
Born: June 26, 1970 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Studio City, California, USA Profession: director, screenwriter, production assistant

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

From the debut of his short film "Coffee and Cigarettes" at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, Paul Thomas Anderson firmly established himself as an auteur to watch. An ambitious film that focused on five characters interacting in a Las Vegas diner, "Coffee and Cigarettes" set the mold for his later films: multiple storylines, dazzling camerawork and a detailed emphasis on dialogue and character. Anderson was a brash and gutsy filmmaker who enjoyed tackling big themes - love, hope, family and redemption, all often combined in biblical fashion - while paradoxically allowing them to unfold intimately onscreen. Though his first feature-length movie, "Hard Eight" (1997), failed to connect with audiences and critics, Anderson planted himself on the Hollywood map for good with "Boogie Nights" (1997), a surprisingly affectionate, albeit dark, look at the porn industry, as seen through the eyes of an eager and ambitious rising star. He followed this breakthrough success with the polarizing ensemble drama, "Magnolia" (1999), and the wistful romantic drama, "Punch Drunk Love" (2002), both of which underscored the fact that Anderson was at the top of his game. But with his Oscar-nominated epic "There Will Be...

From the debut of his short film "Coffee and Cigarettes" at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, Paul Thomas Anderson firmly established himself as an auteur to watch. An ambitious film that focused on five characters interacting in a Las Vegas diner, "Coffee and Cigarettes" set the mold for his later films: multiple storylines, dazzling camerawork and a detailed emphasis on dialogue and character. Anderson was a brash and gutsy filmmaker who enjoyed tackling big themes - love, hope, family and redemption, all often combined in biblical fashion - while paradoxically allowing them to unfold intimately onscreen. Though his first feature-length movie, "Hard Eight" (1997), failed to connect with audiences and critics, Anderson planted himself on the Hollywood map for good with "Boogie Nights" (1997), a surprisingly affectionate, albeit dark, look at the porn industry, as seen through the eyes of an eager and ambitious rising star. He followed this breakthrough success with the polarizing ensemble drama, "Magnolia" (1999), and the wistful romantic drama, "Punch Drunk Love" (2002), both of which underscored the fact that Anderson was at the top of his game. But with his Oscar-nominated epic "There Will Be Blood" (2007), Anderson took a giant leap forward that planted him firmly in the company of Hollywood's most elite filmmakers. Anderson's next several films, religious cult tale "The Master" (2012), first-ever Thomas Pynchon screen adaptation "Inherent Vice" (2014), and 1950s-set fashion drama "Phantom Thread" (2017), proved Anderson to be one of the most eclectic and original filmmakers of his generation.

Born on June 26, 1970 in Studio City, CA, Anderson was raised in a showbiz household. His father, Ernie, was a successful voiceover artist, best known for being the announcer on "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986). At nine years old, Anderson stumbled across his father's pornographic video tapes, sparking an interest that later came to fruition later in life. His dad, meanwhile, gave him a Betamax camera when Anderson was 12, which he used to make amateur films. Never one to be interested in school, Anderson was forced to leave the upscale Buckley School after the sixth grade due to fighting and poor grades. He managed to graduate from Montclair College Prep, only to drop out from Emerson College after two semesters as an English major. It was during high school, however, that Anderson made his first substantial film, "The Dirk Diggler Story" (1988), a 30-minute tale centered on a well-endowed porn star, a la John Holmes, trying to break into the business; a precursor to what eventually would become "Boogie Nights."

After high school, Anderson spent the better part of two days at New York University where he took a screenwriting class and subsequently dropped out due to the school's stodgy and formulaic approach. Knowing he was going to leave NYU, Anderson submitted pages from David Mamet's 1992 crime drama "Hoffa" as a gag, just to see what would happen. He received a C-minus. Anderson soon returned home to Southern California, where he began working as a production assistant on a television game show for kids called "Quiz Kid Challenge" (syndicated, 1990-91). After meeting actor Philip Baker Hall while working on a PBS special, Anderson directed the actor in "Coffee and Cigarettes" (1993), a 20-minute short about five people whose lives suddenly intersect in a Las Vegas diner. Anderson was admitted to the Director's Lab at the Sundance Institute, where he expanded on the short into the feature "Hard Eight" (1997), a crime thriller about a hard-bitten loser (John C. Reilly) taken under the wing of a pitying small-time gambler (Hall).

"Hard Eight" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996 to mainly mixed reviews, thought Hall was given near-unanimous kudos for his portrayal of an older, wiser gambler nearing the end of the line. Anderson ran afoul with the studio after they recut his film without his permission, distributing a movie not in line with his original vision. Anderson made sure to voice his discontent on several occasions, telling interviews, "It was the most painful experience I've gone through." Meanwhile, Anderson went to work on his next filming, writing a mammoth 300-page script for what ultimately become his breakthrough film, "Boogie Nights," an expansion of his 1988 short, "The Dirk Diggler Story." Though centered in the world of pornography, "Boogie Nights" was a coming-of-age story about a San Fernando Valley youth (Mark Wahlberg) with a rather large member who enters an adult film industry in the midst of undergoing the transformation from film to video. Under the guidance of producer and father figure, Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), and actress Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), the new star - dubbed Dirk Diggler - enjoys enormous fame, only to suffer a downfall brought about by drug addiction. Well-acted on all fronts - both Reynolds and Moore earned Oscar nominations - "Boogie Nights" firmly established Anderson as an auteur on the rise.

Anticipation was high as to how Anderson would follow "Boogie Nights." In an almost unprecedented move, New Line Cinema practically offered him carte blanche, including the coveted final cut most directors are denied. After meeting idol Francis Ford Coppola, who told him to use the moment to make whatever he wanted because it would be his last opportunity, Anderson vaulted headfirst into his next film. Inspired by the songs of Aimee Mann, he wrote the script for what became "Magnolia" (1999), a sprawling, engaging and sometimes befuddling look at several unconnected lives in the San Fernando Valley that collide through chance, human action and perhaps even divine intervention. Comparisons to another influence, Robert Altman, were inevitable; Anderson deftly layered multi-character narratives into a tapestry of near biblical proportions. Once again using his acting favorites Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Melora Walters, Anderson succeeded in delivering an ambitious story about fate and redemption that went on to earn several award nominations, including three Oscar nods for Best Supporting Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Original Song ("Save Me" by Aimee Mann) and Best Original Screenplay.

For his next film, "Punch Drunk Love" (2002), Anderson managed to keep his loquacious impulses under control in turning out a taut romantic comedy-drama about Barry (Adam Sandler), a socially inept small business owner henpecked by his seven domineering sisters who force him to constantly question his own manhood. In a moment of loneliness and vulnerability, Barry contacts a phone sex operator who ultimately threatens to blackmail him. Desperate to do something, Barry enlists the help of one of his sisters, who fixes him up with one of her coworkers (Emily Watson). With his emotions going haywire, fluctuating from lust to doubt to uncontrollable anger, Barry becomes willing to do whatever is necessary to change and hopefully have a shot at true romance. Anderson specifically wrote the role of Barry for Sandler; a bold move considering Sandler's pedigree in low-brow comedy. Nonetheless, Anderson earned wide critical praise while winning a Best Director at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Anderson also received special kudos for his ability to transform Sandler from frat boy to sympathetic romantic lead.

While Anderson firmly established himself as one of Hollywood's most creatively interesting filmmakers, no one was prepared for him to make a film with such sprawling scope and rich texture as "There Will Be Blood" (2007). Loosely adapted from Upton Sinclair's Oil!, a sympathetic look at the plight of oilfield workers in turn-of-the-century California, "Blood" told the tale of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a down-and-out silver prospector who heads out to dusty Little Boston on a mysterious tip-off that leads to striking a rich vein of black gold. But in the hardscrabble little town, a charismatic preacher named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) stands in the way of Plainview tapping into a lucrative ocean of oil on the preacher's land. What ensues is a battle of wills, as both men struggle to resist the humiliation and deception of the other. "Blood" stood in stark contrast to Anderson's previous work, particularly in light of genre and period. Hailed by many critics as being the best of 2007, the film went on to earn eight Academy Award nominations and won two: one for Day-Lewis as Best Actor and the other for Anderson's long-time collaborator, Robert Elswit, for Best Cinematography. Meanwhile, Anderson took his time making his next project, "The Master" (2012), a period drama about a sex-obsessed veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) struggling to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and a postwar world. He eventually meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a philosophical movement called "The Cause," and helps him spread his teachings across the country. While not explicit, the film was considered a loose interpretation of L. Ron Hubbard's early days in spreading Scientology, though Anderson incorporated other elements into his script, including early drafts of "There Will Be Blood." Hailed by most critics, "The Master" was yet another awards contender for Anderson and was among the favorites to receive nominations at the Academy Awards. Anderson next became the first person to adapt a novel by the notoriously reclusive author Thomas Pynchon to the screen. The comedy-drama "Inherent Vice" (2014), based on Pynchon's 2009 novel, followed hippie private eye Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) through Los Angeles at the dawn of the 1970s, with Josh Brolin co-starring as straitlaced police detective Bigfoot Bjornsen. The elliptical comedy-drama received mixed reviews, but Anderson scored an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Anderson's next film, a drama set in the London fashion scene of the 1950s, was the original "Phantom Thread" (2017). The film reunited Anderson with Day-Lewis, who announced during filming that it was going to be his final film. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning, appropriately enough, for Best Costume Design.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
3.
  Master, The (2012)
5.
  Punch-Drunk Love (2002) Director
6.
  Magnolia (1999) Director
7.
  Boogie Nights (1997) Director
8.
  Hard Eight (1996) Director
9.
  Cigarettes and Coffee (1994) Director

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

1993:
Met Philip Baker Hall while working as a production assistant on the PBS special "Campus Culture Wars"
1992:
Directed short film "Coffee and Cigarettes," starring Philip Baker Hall; film premiered at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival
1998:
Directed two music videos featuring then-companion Fiona Apple, "Across the Universe" and "Fast as You Can"
1990:
Worked as messenger and production assistant on syndicated game show "Quiz Kid Challenge"
1997:
Made first full-length feature "Sydney" (retitled "Hard Eight"), starring Philip Baker Hall
2002:
Directed "Punch-Drunk Love," starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson; also scripted
1999:
Helmed third feature, the ensemble drama "Magnolia"; received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay
1997:
Directed breakout film "Boogie Nights," an expanded version of his early short "The Dirk Diggler Story"; starred Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, and Philip Baker Hall in minor role; earned Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay
2007:
Helmed "There Will Be Blood," an adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel <i>Oil!</i>, starring Daniel Day-Lewis; earned a DGA nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film; also received Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture
1988:
Made first amateur short film "The Dirk Diggler Story" about a male porn star
2012:
Wrote and directed "The Master," starring frequent ensemble player Philip Seymour Hoffman
2014:
Directed the comedy-drama "Inherent Vice," the first screen adaptation of a novel by Thomas Pynchon.
2017:
Directed "The Phantom Thread," featuring the final performance of Daniel Day-Lewis
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Montclair College Prep: North Hollywood, California -
Emerson College: Boston, Massachusetts -
New York University: New York, New York -

Notes

Not to be confused with either the British director Paul Anderson ("Shopping", "Mortal Kombat") or the porno director Paul Thomas who works for Vivid Video.

There's a web site devoted to him at www.ptanderson.com

"As a kid, I became obsessed by pornos. I searched them out, obsessing over the humor and camp--how bad the acting was, how odd it all was. By the time I was sixteen, I had seen so much that it was no longer funny--it actually became quite sad. [Laughs] That's what 'Boogie Nights' should be doing: It's funny for the first part, but then it transforms." --Paul Thomas Anderson quoted in Details, September 1997.

"He's so in love with everything you do. . . . Paul is obsessed with you while you're working with him. And it makes you free, totally confident." --Gwyneth Paltrow to The New York Times, October 12, 1997.

"One thing that impressed me about him [Anderson] was how specific he was. I've worked with much older directors who were floundering." --Don Cheadle in Premiere, September 1997.

"I count Paul among the great directors that I've worked with--Spielberg, Todd Haynes, the Coen Brothers, Louis Malle. He has a very strong sense of what he wants to accomplish as a person and there's a gravity that you don't often find in people his age." --Julianne Moore quoted in Us, February 1999.

"When Paul Thomas Anderson was 7, growing up in the San Fernando Valley, he wrote in a notebook: 'My name is Paul Anderson. I want to be a writer, producer, director, special effects man. I know how to do everything and I know everything. Please hire me.' Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, like the other members of the Anderson repertory company, is a close friend, says: 'You get the sense that Paul was always a director. He was born to the job.'" -- From "His Way" by Lynn Hirschberg, The New York Times Magazine, December 19, 1999.

"When I watch 'Magnolia' or 'Boogie Nights', I see Paul in all the characters - the selfish Paul, the caretaking Paul, the little-kid Paul, the mature Paul - he is all those things at a given time, and I see him telling a story about all aspects of himself." --actor Philip Seymour Hoffman quoted in Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000.

"I do feel an obligation to not be a jackass in my life only because that will infringe on the view of the movie. I remember when 'Husbands and Wives' came out and Woody Allen was going through that whole thing and it was so terrible because that was one of his best movies. But everybody would look at it and see all the mistakes he was making--it polluted the movie. I guess my goal is to do everything I can to not pollute my movie. It is a hard thing because you want to promote them. You want to have attention. You want to be interviewed and be liked. But at the same time you want to balance out, step back, and have the movie . . . I just want the film to survive." --Anderson quoted in IFP/West Calendar, December 1999.

"Most people don't share my moral sense, which is, I'll masturbate, but I have to clean it up very quickly afterwards." --Paul Thomas Anderson to The New York Times Magazine, December 12, 1999.

"You get criticized for being self-indulgent, but if I weren't self-indulgent, they'd be p----- off because I'd be making something very slight. Aren't I supposed to try and indulge who I am, to try to put that on the screen? They're mad if you don't put enough heart in your movie, and they're REALLY mad if you put too much heart in it." --Paul Thomas Anderson to USA Today, January 7, 2000.

"In lots of ways, Anderson's life is like one of those foreign-language books that have the original text on one page and the English translation on the facing page. There is his actual life, which remains largely opaque, and there is the cinematic translation that he puts up there on the screen. In some cases, the correspondence is discernible. "Oh, fucking hell, that's the problem with a third movie," says Anderson. "You start to become a big, clear, naked thing. As Dylan Tichenor ["Magnolia"'s editor] pointed out when we were cutting the scene where Donnie [William H Macy] is professing his love for Brad the bartender, 'Here we are with a second time in a movie of yours where the gay character has to get drunk to profess his love.' And I said, 'Well, great, here comes the chapter on my closet homosexuality.' I thought that was a good one. I was sort of excited about that." --From Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000.

"'Magnolia' is a singularity in American movies: a big , self-important, overreaching, but fundamentally sweet picture that fancies itself a major achievement, by a young director who's probably read one too many Don DeLillo novels . . . " --From "Kent Jones Tours P.T. Anderson's Magnolia" in Film Comment, January-February 2000.

"Directing a movie doesn't mean anything. It's only 50 percent of the job. The other 50 percent is this gene of protectiveness and parenting and evil that safeguards your movie. It's not a gene I love having, but I have to use it." --Paul Thomas Anderson quoted in The New York Times Magazine, December 19, 1999.

"What I've come to realize is that if the script is good, the actors will just show up. I think I'm an OK director, but I think I'm a good writer. My job as a director is just to write really well, because that makes it all so much easier. They get it when they read it, so you don't have to talk about it too much." --Anderson to The Dallas Morning News, January 9, 2000.

"I think when the movie gets bigger and costs more and more, it becomes harder to be a control freak. But I'm doing a pretty good job of maintaining all the proper paranoia and control that I should. That's why movie directors wither go crazy or start making crap, because you could lose your mind if you realize that you can make it rain and you can change that sign from red to green. It's a scary thing when you finish shooting a movie and you're still driving a little too fast because you used to be able to drive that fast because you had to get on the set and 'Goddamnit, cars, get out of my way.' You kind of go to a maniacal, egotistical place in your own little mind. ... " --Anderson quoted in Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Fiona Apple. Singer. Dating as of 1998.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Ernie Anderson. TV host, voice actor. Born on November 12, 1923; died on February 6, 1997 at age 73; former partner of Tim Conway.
mother:
Bonnie Anderson. Anderson is estranged from his mother.

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