‘Inherent Vice’ Premiere: Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Is Like ‘The First Time I Had Ice Cream’

The TCL Chinese Theatre rolled out a black carpet for Paul Thomas Anderson‘s “Inherent Vice” Wednesday night. Joaquin Phoenix and Benicio Del Toro exchanged a brotherly hug on the carpet, Joanna Newsom and Jena Malone talked arm in arm, and everyone spoke warmly of each other’s involvement in the film. The cast and crew unanimously sang the praises of Anderson’s directing.

Maya Rudolph, who is Anderson’s longtime partner, makes a brief but memorable appearance in her first role in one of his films. “It was so exciting,” Rudolph said of working with Anderson. “Paul’s an incredible director, probably my favorite. I love watching him work. It’s so exciting to see someone who’s so clearly their own and has so much confidence about their own vision. It’s beautiful to watch. I recommend him as a director. I hope they’ll hire me back,” she joked.

Based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name, the film is a sprawling hybrid of whacked-out comedy and film noir set in 1970. Phoenix stars with Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin and Owen Wilson.

JoAnne Sellar, who has produced all of Anderson’s films since she worked with him on 1997’s “Boogie Nights,” said that all of his films have unique qualities. “Each one has its own special thing,” Sellar said. “This one was a challenge because we didn’t have that much money to make it on and we had a lot of locations. And we had to find period locations from 1969 and 1970 … It was exciting and daunting at the same time [to adapt Pynchon], especially because he’s Paul’s idol. He totally reveres him. So for Paul, it was a huge undertaking for him.”

Singer and harpist Newsom makes her bigscreen debut as Sortilège, the film’s narrator. Even the previews of Newsom’s voiceover in the film’s trailer sparked conversations about the rarity of female voiceover work. “It was a really interesting decision that Paul made to have a female narrator of the film, especially because the film is sort of a noir/mystery/detective story, and in many ways that genre tends to portray women as a little two-dimensional,” Newsom said. “So this was an interesting contrast for that. It’s kind of a clue that it’s not that kind of a movie and that it’s multilayered.”

Newcomer Jordan Christian Hearn said he tremendously enjoyed working with Anderson. “It’s like the first time I had ice cream!” Hearn said. Regarding his character’s beach bum appearance, he said, “I didn’t shower for five and a half months on Paul’s recommendation. I was really just very dirty. It felt real. And you have to be real when you’re working with such committed actors.”

Malone said Anderson showed the cast documentaries of the era. “I feel like this is such an era that’s overexposed,” Malone said. “So many films are made about it, so many documentaries, that I feel like it’s something that culturally we’re very aware of. So it was nice to kind of get into more the underbelly of that.”

Katherine Waterston also appreciated Anderson’s method of setting the ’70s mood. “He gave me a mixtape that Jonny Greenwood put together, and I listened to that a lot,” Waterston said. “But the thing he really gave me was confidence. I just dove into the period, which was a fun one to dive into. Fellas look good in bell bottoms.”

The afterparty was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the laughter and embracing continued. Notable attendees included Andy Samberg, who is married to Newsom and starred on “Saturday Night Live” with Rudolph; Bill Hader, another SNL alum; and John C. Reilly.

WB opens “Inherent Vice” in limited release on Dec. 12.

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