As part of Paul Thomas Anderson Week over at Grantland, the website has posted an exhaustively detailed oral history of Boogie Nights. It’s a long, dense read full of interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits and choice quotes from people involved in the production. For example, it reveals that Warren Beatty was once deep in talks to play the role that eventually went to Burt Reynolds, and that Anderson treated the scene where audiences finally see Dirk Diggler’s prodigious penis as “exactly like seeing the dinosaur in Jurassic Park or seeing the shark in Jaws or seeing E.T. for the first time.”
The piece draws from interviews with much of the cast and crew, including Mark Wahlberg, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and William H. Macy. Grantland didn’t get to do any new interviews with Anderson, but he’s still prominently featured in the form of quotes pulled from other articles written over the years. Reynolds also declined to comment, although that might be just as well, given that there are lengthy sections condemning his attitude throughout the production. Overall, it’s an absorbing read that traces the history of Boogie Nights from its inception as a short film called The Dirk Diggler Story (below) through its troubled post-production, and is a fine tribute to a movie that’s sure to stand the test of time.