This morning, I was among the lucky few able to participate in a Sirius XM Town Hall with Paul Thomas Anderson, who was on hand to discuss both The Master and his career, as well as answer questions from fans — such as yours truly. I’ll save you all the notes about how it was a great event and worth a listen — even though it most certainly was and most definitely is — to get right down to business.
One attendee had a question regarding Inherent Vice, his oft-rumored, recently-confirmed adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel. For some time, it’s been expected that Robert Downey Jr. will star as Larry “Doc” Sportello, a stoner detective living in 1969- and 1970-era Los Angeles who takes on a case with ties to his own past. If that sounds wildly different from a stark drama about someone trying to overcome severe trauma — The Master is actually kind of about everything, to be fair — fear not; it’s exactly the effect Anderson is aiming for. To him, this is really “a Cheech and Chong movie.”
Here to provide a transcription of his answer are fansite CigsandRedVines — which is, trust me, the one place that’s 100% essential for any Anderson fan — and the first portion, this one regarding the whittling down of material, can be read below:
The hardest thing is just trying to find how to take 400 great pages and turn it into ideally 110, maybe 120 script pages. And it’s just difficult to do. There’s no shortage of great things on every paragraph and every page. So, it’s a very uptown problem to have. It’s not like, ‘Oh God, what am I going to do with this turd?’ It’s just not that at all. It’s like somebody dumped bags of gold in front of me and I can only take so much with me. What do I do?
That’s not exactly mining for coal — or, pardon me, drilling for oil — but you can probably get a sense of where he’s coming from. It sounds all the more difficult when Anderson speaks further on the previously-stated affection for Pynchon‘s writing:
I’ve always loved his work, his books are just dynamite to me. [He] was always a big influence, [his books are] filled with so much humor and so much craziness and thoughtfulness. Somewhere between fart jokes and kinky sex and just such humanity and delicateness. That was just stuff that I gobbled up, his books. So this is one that, I dunno, we’ll try. We’ll see.
Regarding actors, a topic the filmmaker touched upon earlier:
Yeah but I can’t quite put my finger on it and I wouldn’t want to name names out loud or anything to jinx it or something like that. But they’re such well-drawn characters it’s going to be really fun to go and try to do that. Hopefully soon.
Oddly enough, Downey Jr. was not mentioned or even hinted at. (I can attest that what you’re getting above is, brackets excluded, a full, word-for-word transcription.) Seeing as there’s some desire not to “jinx it” by naming names, I’ll only take it as an assumption, on his part, that people just weren’t aware of the actor’s (very likely) involvement. After all, he’s publicly stated the intention to make room for Anderson and Inherent Vice; there’s no reason to think this has changed.
Whatever else you’re getting up there is only a small morsel of the conversation, which I’d highly recommend Sirius or XM subscribers give a listen to. You can do so by tuning in, as their site informs us, on “[Ch. 104] 10/13 at 9 am and 7 pm ET; 10/14 at 8 am ET and 12 pm ET. On SiriusXM Stars, Ch. 107 on 10/13 at 6 pm ET; 10/14 at 7 am ET.”
Do you have any thoughts on what Anderson is going through to make Inherent Vice? Despite The Master still being in most theaters, have you kept this film in mind?