Directors People

Paul Thomas Anderson

paul thomas anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson is a director and was born in Los Angeles, California on June 26th, 1970.  His parents are named Ernie and Edwina Anderson.  He has eight siblings.  Ernie was a television and radio personality.  He hosted late night horror films as Ghoulardi.  The ghoul portion of the moniker could have lurid connotations.  The jury is hung and the verdict suspended.  Time will tell.  Paul grew up in the San Fernando Valley.  Several of his movies are set there.  He was close with his father, but not his mother.  His father fostered his artistic talents and encouraged his career in film. 

Anderson was enrolled in several schools during his youth.  He attended Santa Monica College and finished two semesters at Emerson College where he majored in English.  David Foster Wallace was one of his professors.  DFW, not to be confused with the international airport, wrote Infinite Jest.  Paul Thomas Anderson made the short film Cigarettes & Coffee in 1993.  It was screened during the Sundance Festival in the same year.  The picture expanded into a feature-length movie that showed at the same festival in 1994.  The director Michael Caton-Jones recognized Anderson’s talent and was as an early mentor.  He directed Memphis Belle.

Paul landed a studio deal to direct his first full-length film after Sundance.  The picture was titled Sydney and retitled to Hard Eight.  The studio made edits, but Anderson sent the original version to the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.  It premiered in the Un Certain Regard section and stared John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall and Gwyneth Paltrow.  They provided $200,000 to polish Paul’s version.  The final cut was well-received and propelled Anderson’s career.

paul thomas anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson – Photo Credit: Jürgen Fauth (flickr user muckster)
Magnolia Flower – Photo Credit: shelleys1


Phillip Seymour Hoffman had a part in Hard Eight.  He had one in Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophomore film,  Boogie Nights too.  Anderson completed the script in 1995.  It was released in the fall of 1997 and starred Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds.  It landed three nominations at the 70th Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress).  The picture rejuvenated Reynolds career, but he declined to star in Anderson’s next film (Magnolia).

Several intersecting stories of peculiar individuals in the San Fernando Valley serve as the backdrop of Magnolia.  Aimee Mann’s music was the inspiration.  Her track Save Me was nominated for Best Original Song at the 72nd Academy Awards.  Magnolia earned two additional nominations (Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay).  The cast included Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Phillip Baker Hall and John C. Reilly.  It grossed close to 50 million dollars and the budget was 37 million.

The success hangover arrived and Paul Thomas Anderson decided to do what all great directors do.  He called up Adam Sandler and wrote a script for him.  The result was the ninety-minute dramatic comedy Punch-Drunk Love.  The film thrusted Sandler into a serious role and showcased his acting prowess.  It released in 2002 and Paul won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival that year.  Punch-Drunk Love was nominated for the Palme d’Or.

Anderson was pensive.  What does a director do after directing Sandler?  Do they relax?  Do they retire?  No, they push further and link up with Daniel Day-Lewis and twenty-five million dollars conflated with the content of the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair.  In 2007, this amalgam materialized into There Will Be Blood.  Lewis played a silver miner exploiting the oil boom.  The picture struck oil and was nominated for eight Academy Awards (Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay).  Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor and the film claimed Best Cinematography (Robert Elswit).  Paul Thomas Anderson lost all three of his nominations to the Cohen Brother’s No Country for Old Men, which was adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel. 

Paul was now a master director.  His next project was unveiled in the fall of 2012.  It was titled…The Master and gained international acclaim.  Joaquin Phoenix teamed up with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams inside a World War II-Era backdrop.  Phoenix portrayed a drunken veteran that gets engulfed in Hoffman’s (the master) religious movement “The Cause”.  The movie was nominated for three Oscars at the 85th Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Best Leading Actor).  It did not win any.

oil rig
Oil Rig – Photo Credit: pmarkham

Anderson and Phoenix came together in 2014 for Anderson’s next film.  It was an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice.  Joaquin lead as Larry “Doc” Sportello, a hippie private investigator in 1970’s Los Angeles.  The talented cast contained Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro,  Owen Wilson, Reese Wetherspoon, Martin Short, Jena Malone and Katherine Waterson.  Inherent Vice was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Costume Design and Best Adapted Screenplay).  It lost both, but maintained critical applause.

Phantom Thread followed Inherent Vice in 2017.  Daniel Day-Lewis performed for the first time since 2012 as a fashion designer in 1950’s London.  Richard Graham, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville co-starred.  The budget was thirty-five million and it grossed close to fifty.  At the 90th Academy Awards it landed six nominations (Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor, Best Picture and Best Director).  It won Best Costume Design.

Paul Thomas Anderson was in a five-year relationship with Fiona Apple before settling down with actress Maya Rudolph in late 2001.  They have four children and live in the San Fernando Valley. Paul attend film school for two days before dropping out.  He preferred an autodidactic approach and watched the work of directors he liked.  His influences include Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese and Orson Welles.  His body of work is venerated by his peers and a benchmark for future directors.

inherent vice
Inherent Vice – Photo Credit:


Hard Eight                1996
Boogie Nights1997
Punch-Drunk Love2002
There Will Be Blood2007
The Master2012
Inherent Vice2014
Phantom Thread2017

“Screenwriting is like ironing. You move forward a little bit and go back and smooth things out.”

-Paul Thomas Anderson

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