Paul Thomas Anderson has only directed five films over the past 15 years; as our Kofi Outlaw observed during the SR Underground Fall 2012 preview, the idiosyncratic auteur is very much the Stanley Kubrick of the 21st century, in terms of his taste for eclectic subject matter – the porn industry in Boogie Nights, the rise of American Capitalism in There Will Be Blood – and how he plays according to his own rules (occasionally getting in trouble along the way).
Anderson’s The Master is touring the festival circuit, ahead of a theater release later this month. Thematically and stylistically, the 1950s drama is a companion piece to There Will Be Blood, as well as a metaphor for the post-WWII American experience. It’s fitting, then, that the psychedelic 1960s/70s should get the Anderson treatment next – with an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.
Hollywood trade reports that Anderson had his eye on adapting Pynchon’s novel began circulating a couple months after pre-production on The Master was halted in mid-2010; for a while, there were even rumors that Anderson was going to start filming Inherent Vice with Robert Downey Jr. starring. That was before Annapurna Pictures head Megan Ellison rescued The Master from development oblivion – since then, Inherent Vice has been sitting on the backburner.
Empire caught up with Anderson at the Venice Film Festival (where The Master is showing), and the filmmaker confirmed he’s still working on a screen adaptation of Pynchon’s stoner detective-mystery – describing it “like a Cheech and Chong movie. [It's] just gonna be great and, hopefully, fun.”
Pynchon’s book revolves around the misadventures of private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello, who occasionally emerges from a marijuana-induced stupor to assist an ex-girlfriend on a complicated (and bizarre) case involving blood-thirsty loan sharks, Thai hookers, a surfer-rocker saxophone player, and an assortment of other “colorful” personalities. Anderson admits “There’s so much [material to adapt]. But it’s fun too, because they’re his words, and… it’s like taking your dad’s car for a ride, y’know?”
Inherent Vice is the sort of rollicking yarn about the 1960s drug culture and American society that would’ve done Hunter S. Thompson proud; in other words, it’s an intriguing match for Anderson’s unusual storytelling sensibilities. The filmmaker further expressed his own enthusiasm about the venture to Screen Daily, saying “It’s taking my mind off this, actually. It’s a lot of fun. It’s such a different piece, though. It’s nice to have a collaborator, as it were, through working on the book.”
The dreamy styling of Punch-Drunk Love and sheer exuberance of Boogie Nights offer a decent primer for what to expect from Anderson’s Inherent Vice; then again, as history has demonstrated, you can never be too sure what his approach is going to be. For example: while Anderson has yet to specify whether or not he plans to shoot Inherent Vice in 70 mm - as he did with The Master – he does seem open to the idea:
“It would depend on the story. It would be tempting to do it again. It’s a lovely format. The camera is as big as a table. It’s loud, too. You can hear it in ['The Master']. It’s like a fan at times.”
More on Inherent Vice as the story develops. In the meantime, you can check out The Master when it begins a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on September 21st, 2012.