PTA discusses Licorice Pizza

Director Paul Thomas Anderson discusses Licorice Pizza

December 19, 2021 A DGA Membership Screening Q&A in Los Angeles

A couple of youngsters attempt to navigate the treacherous waters of first love in Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age comedic-drama, Licorice Pizza.

Set in the early 1970s, Anderson’s film tells the story of Gary Valentine, a 15-year-old charismatic would be entrepreneur, who falls in love with Alana Kane, a 25-year-old yearbook photographer’s assistant, and they embark on a most unlikely romance in California’s San Fernando Valley.

On December 19, after the DGA membership screening in Los Angeles, Anderson discussed the making of Licorice Pizza during a Q&A moderated by Director Jeremy Kagan (Golda’s Balcony).

During the conversation, Anderson revealed how removing dialogue can empower a scene.

“I can remember being a young writer and thinking that everything I wrote was so wonderful and so important but there's a certain point when you realize the most exciting scenes are when people aren't talking. The irony is that most actors love it. There used to be this false idea that actors just want to see how many lines they have. The actors that I've worked with who were excellent – from Joaquin [Phoenix] to Daniel [Day-Lewis] – they always get the most excited when there's nothing to say. There's something so elemental about it. It's not about the words, something's happening in the scene that they can play. There's a scene [in Licorice Pizza] when they're running away after he gets arrested, that used to be about a three-page dialogue scene. As they're running, they had this whole conversation. The writing was okay, and the acting was good, but it was clearly not what you wanted to do, stop and have a conversation. I remember, in the bag of tricks that you accumulate over the years, you say, ‘just do the scene but don't say any of the words.’ In other words, it's making a silent movie. And then you just emerge with this beautiful running shot where they're just enjoying each other’s company. So any time there's a chance to take dialogue out or to be simple or quiet is an opportunity to seize on.”

In addition to Licorice Pizza, Anderson’s credits include the feature films, Phantom Thread, Inherent Vice, The Master, Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia, Boogie Nights and Hard Eight. Anderson was nominated for the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film and the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing for his 2007 feature, There Will Be Blood.

Anderson has been a DGA member since 1996.

You can listen to Anderson's Q&A by clicking the podcast episode embedded below. You can find more DGA podcast episodes here.


Q&A photos by Elisa Haber – Print courtesy of United Artists Releasing

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