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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

About the Other Weekend: Paul Thomas Anderson at BAM

BAMcinématek was honored to host director Paul Thomas Anderson for the beginning of the Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold film series. He was joined by producer Edward Saxon, actor Paul Lazar, and Demme biographer Louis Black. We had four packed screenings of Something Wild, Melvin and Howard, Married to the Mob, and Citizen’s Band.

In in-depth Q&As, guest speakers shared personal and professional anecdotes about the late filmmaker, including some eclectic and hilarious behind-the-scenes knowledge. Some of the highlights involved the casting of Demme’s features.

Edward Saxon on casting Ray Liotta in Something Wild
“He comes in, and he had been most famously been Joey on Another World, the soap opera. And he scared the hell out of both [Demme and me]. It was just one of those things where he came in and looked at me, and my heart gave out. When he left, Jonathan and I looked at each other, picked up the phone, and we had our principal cast.”
Louis Black: 
“I don’t know if this is true or not, but Jonathan said his mom recommended Ray Liotta to him from the soap opera she was watching [Another World].”
Saxon also recalled Tom Cruise auditioning for the role of FBI Agent Mike Downey in Married to the Mob:
“I guess Tom was interested in Jonathan because of his body of work, including Something Wild, and Tom had an apartment here in New York. John went and met with him, and I remember him saying, ‘Tom Cruise gave me cookies and milk, and all his pencils were sharpened so nicely.’” 
(Tom eventually passed on the role which went to Matthew Modine.)

Of course, the iconic casting of Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs was mentioned. Her performance won her a second Academy Award as the ingenue FBI agent-in-training.

Paul Thomas Anderson asked, “Was there ever a moment when Michelle Pfeiffer was going to be Clarice Starling?”

Edward Saxon: 
“Yes! Big time! They were so eager to work together again. They were going to do [it], and we sent her the script. But it was too raw and rough for her, and the subject matter was way too disturbing, so she passed. Then we went to Meg Ryan, and she passed. Jodie had put her nickel down early, and she was coming off an Academy Award for The Accused. When she wasn’t immediately cast, I thought, ‘What’s wrong with Jodie Foster, she’s too perfect for the part?’”
Louis Black: 
“Jodie had flown in on her own nickel to New York to pitch it to [Demme], and they had this long meeting. Finally, Jonathan said to her, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ Jodie said, ‘Well, I always play the victim in my movies and I always need to be rescued. This movie is about a woman saving another woman.’”
Edward Saxon: 
“Yes, Jodie’s insight into the story became thematic.”

One of the most poignant moments during the weekend came from Paul Thomas Anderson, who has mentioned many times throughout his career that Demme is his favorite director. “Last night, this afternoon, and today have been very emotional because I step into the hall and I see his face in that picture. It makes me very sad, but also happy to be here and know him, and see this. Everyone in this theater does know Jonathan because we just watched that movie. That’s what he’s like. That’s what sort of struck me. There’s a direct line between him and his films. It’s also interesting to see just how much I’ve learned—or I’ve stolen—from him. Just shot after shot I think, ‘I tried to do that shot, or I tried to do this shot.’”

Some lucky fans and filmgoers also got the chance to meet and speak with Paul Thomas Anderson afterwards:

A post shared by Joshua McQuilkin (@joshuamcquilkin) on

This is Paul Thomas Anderson, my all-time favorite filmmaker, with my drawing of his film The Master. A few weeks ago, I posted this drawing to celebrate his birthday. Fast forward to this past weekend, and I got to meet my hero in person for the first time. I wanted him to sign something, so I had an idea to print out my drawing and have him sign that. But when I went over to him and took it out of my bag, before I could ask him anything he said "Oh wow! Did you draw this? That's amazing..." and he kept staring at it for a while, not saying anything, and then said "Can I keep this?" Pretty sure I said yes, but I was honestly just so surprised by how much he seemed to genuinely love it and REALLY want to keep it. It was totally surreal to have a massive hero of mine react so strongly to a piece of my own work. So not only did I get to meet one of my favorite artists ever, but I also got to experience firsthand how extremely nice, down to earth, and generous he is. Who said don't meet your heroes? Of course, being the idiot that I am, I didn't sign my name or write anything on the when he shows it off to all his friends and family and Joaquin, and they ask who did it, he'll go, "I have no idea." But hey, at least this happened at all. So Paul, if you're reading this, thanks again for your kind words, and for all you've created, which has inspired and influenced me so intensely, and... and you're just the fucking man! What a great day and weekend this was! (PS more to come on the rest of my weekend watching 3 fantastic old Jonathan Demme films and listening to PTA talk about HIS favorite director) #paulthomasanderson #pta #illustration #film #cinema #favorite #director #themaster #joaquinphoenix #surreal #bam
A post shared by devin dulany (@devindulany) on

The Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold film series continues through Aug 24, and tickets are still available.

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