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Paul Thomas Anderson, ‘Hard Eight’

Sundance alum

Anderson brought his first film, “Hard Eight” (then titled “Sydney”), to both the Screenwriters and Directors Labs — in January and June 1993, respectively. Admittedly, he was a green filmmaker of only 23 years, so he brought actors John C. Reilly and Philip Baker Hall with him to the lab — an unusual arrangement, since the lab usually casts L.A. and Utah thesps for its workshop scenes.

“The best advice I got was from John Schlesinger,” says Anderson, who also worked with mentors Frank Oz, Joan Darling and Jeremy Kagan at the lab. “Schlesinger was just very kind, sat back and allowed me to make my own mistakes. Maybe it was the way that his body language moved around the room. It gave me ideas of ways to do the scene or to see what I was missing.”

At the Screenwriters Lab, Anderson also connected with mentors Richard LaGravenese, Scott Frank and Walter Bernstein.

It was his downtime in Park City, however, that proved most fruitful. “There was a great guy named Ron, who has since died, who was projectionist up there,” Anderson remembers. “Every night, we’d go into the (film) vault, pull out some old print, and we’d all get drunk and watch movies until, like, two or three in the morning. We found an odd reel of a porno movie. It translated into an idea that I used in ‘Boogie Nights.’ (The film) was just basically this girl on roller skates rolling down the street. She’d go from house to house, look in and watch these people fucking. One of my strongest memories is us just howling with laughter — and probably getting kind of horny — watching this porno movie.” And so Rollergirl was born.

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