Alana Haim on ‘Licorice Pizza’ Oscar Buzz and the Time She Babysat Co-Star Cooper Hoffman

Variety's Awards Circuit Podcast: Also on this episode, the Roundtable on how COVID impacted this year's Oscar campaigning.

Alana Haim arrives at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday, March 14, 2021. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Though Alana Haim has been working with Paul Thomas Anderson for years as he directed music videos for her band Haim, their connection actually goes back further than either of them knew: Her mother, Donna, was Anderson’s art teacher in grade school.

“Every time Paul’s movies would be on TV, she’d be like, ‘You know, I taught him.’ And we’d be like, ‘Mom, what are you talking about? Like, there’s no way!’” Haim says with a laugh. “I mean, my mom’s not a liar, but it’s kind of outrageous.” Even when Anderson began directing Haim videos, with Alana and her sisters Este and Danielle, they didn’t bring it up, not sure how he might feel about his former teacher. Then one day, one of the Haim sisters (Alana believes it was Este) blurted it out. Anderson has said that though he hadn’t figured out the connection, but he wasn’t surprised – on some level he felt they were connected.

It’s just one of the many coincidences and connections that Haim feels she’s been blessed with. She discusses it all in the latest episode of Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast. Listen below:

At the risk of sounding (in her word) “woo-woo,” Haim can’t help but feel like starring as Alana Kane in Anderson’s new 1970s-set film, “Licorice Pizza,” was destiny. “The universe works in weird ways,” she says. “I really feel like we were just orbiting around each other my whole life, even before we met.”

For example, there’s also a coincidental history between Haim and her “Licorice Pizza” costar Cooper Hoffman, who plays Gary Valentine, the teenager smitten with Alana. Neither Haim nor Hoffman had ever acted professionally before (though Haim did play the Witched Witch of the West in school – twice) but Haim had already known Hoffman – she and her sisters once babysat him.

“He hates when I say ‘babysat’ because he was 13 and didn’t need a babysitter,” Haim reveals. Hoffman was visiting Anderson, who was editing “Phantom Thread” at the time when Haim and her sisters dropped by. When Anderson got pulled away, he asked if they could look after Hoffman. “He was just so engaging for a 13-year-old, he really was,” Haim recalls. In fact, that meeting echoes a moment in the film when Alana and Gary say they’ll always remember each other. “I talk about it like [that line in the movie] – ‘I’m never going to forget you and you’re never going to forget me.’”

Haim also discusses being shocked to learn Anderson had written the role for her after he sent her a script asking for feedback. It was the first screenplay Haim had ever read and though she was tickled to see a character named Alana, it never occurred to her that the filmmaker wanted her to star in the movie. (Side note: the script was written as a Word document and Haim, having never read one before, doesn’t see why that amuses people but recognizes that it does.) “I was just so honored to have my name in the script!” she recalls, only learning later that Anderson wanted her to star. “And Paul always gets mad because he’s like, ‘What are you talking about? How did you not put two and two together when you read it?’ I was just so oblivious.”

Haim also talks about how she and her sisters first met Anderson, when he told a mutual friend to give them his email. The sisters then spent three days trying to compose the perfect introduction. (While she won’t reveal the email address, she does say it’s not “fallingfrogs@aol.com.”) She also discusses the process of making the film, including sharing scenes with stars like Cooper and Penn. And she addresses how she’s handling the Oscar buzz and attention for her performance – which includes seeing her face on billboards and pinball machines.

Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast is hosted by Clayton Davis, Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Jenelle Riley and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in movies. Michael Schneider is the producer and Drew Griffith edits. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.