New York Film Festival: Paul Thomas Anderson is an Actor’s Director with ‘Inherent Vice’

“Clean. Soft. Mellow.”

That’s how Jena Malone describes the set of “Inherent Vice,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s film version of the Thomas Pynchon novel. At the New York Film Festival’s Oct. 4 world premiere of the starry film — with a cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin and Reese Witherspoon, among many others — the cast made it clear why so many actors love working with Anderson.

“Paul runs a set that’s very subtle,” said Malone, who plays one of the women who points Phoenix’s character toward the mysteries that he solves — sort of? — in the shaggy-dog tale set in 1970s California. “It’s very quiet. People all know what they’re doing and they don’t make too much of a fuss about it. It really lets the actors feel comfortable to raise their voice or whisper.”

Martin Short, who portrays “a dentist who really likes cocaine,” agrees. “Whenever you work with a director who’s already made the film in their head and you’re just going through the motions, that’s not as creative as working with someone like Paul, who says, ‘Okay, scream that line out. Now don’t scream it this time,’ ” he said. “Paul’s just printing as many variations as what life can be.”

For Sasha Pieterse, best known to fans as one of the stars of “Pretty Little Liars,” the experience proved revelatory. “I’m used to TV, where we always stick to a schedule,” she said. “With this, one of my scenes took two days! No one really likes that on production side, but the fact that we can do that is amazing.”

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