Paul Thomas Anderson meeting Stanley Kubrick in the late ‘90s is some fanfic shit. Two titans of serious cinema crossing paths: one working on the anticipated follow-up to his breakout film, Boogie Nights, the other laboring over what would be his final fully completed picture, Eyes Wide Shut. What insights would be shared? What admiration would express? What torch would be passed? Nothing so lofty, apparently, as Anderson left the set of Eyes Wide Shut feeling like “a Hollywood asshole.”
This story, via Vulture, comes from an excerpt of Brian Raferty’s upcoming book, BEST. MOVIE. YEAR. EVER.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen. In the excerpt, Raferty tells how Eyes Wide Shut star Tom Cruise ushered Anderson onto that movie’s famously secretive set for a visit, which led to the Magnolia director meeting Kubrick himself:
Kidman and Cruise, along with their two young children, relocated to England in late 1996, living in a small house not far from London’s Pinewood Studios, where filming would begin on Eyes Wide Shut that November. The set was heavily secured yet sparsely populated. “Kubrick had a really small crew,” said Magnolia writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the few visitors to the set. (Cruise, one of his Magnolia stars, had ushered him past security.) “I asked him, ‘Do you always work with so few people?’ He gave me a look and said, ‘Why? How many people do you need?’ I felt like such a Hollywood asshole.”
One imagines it must have been humbling for a young Anderson to meet one of the greatest, most accomplished directors to ever live, only for the man to infer that his productions are too opulent. Still, maybe it’s a lesson Anderson needed to learn, as his Boogie Nights star Burt Reynolds famously described the filmmaker as “young and full of himself.” Thankfully, he’s a lot more chill these days.
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