There are movie few careers as uniquely compelling as that of Paul Thomas Anderson. Since bursting onto the scene with the subdued but prescient character drama “Hard Eight” in 1996 and then leaping into the limelight with “Boogie Nights” (a narrative re-imagining of his first film ever from 1988) in 1997, P.T.A. has established himself as a necessary pillar of American Cinema. While he is usually considered within the same Hollywood orbit as indie-house auteurs like David O. Russell or opaque arthouse provocateurs like Lars Von Trier, Anderson’s movies have come to define a new school of American Cinema, certifying him as a contemporary master of the form and making his films essential education for anyone looking to become a filmmaker in this day & age. Since dropping out of N.Y.U. Film School after only two days and using the reimbursed tuition money to finance his first (official) short film, “Cigarettes & Coffee,” up to 2012’s “The Master,” P.T.A. has lead a career that can only be defined as undefinable, making him one of the most particular, illusive, inspiring and essential artists working in his milieu. Here’s a few more facts you may not have known about the man.
In 2006, facing declining health, Robert Altman hired Anderson as 2nd Director on what would be his last feature, “A Prairie Home Companion.” Anderson, who had on many occasions hailed Altman as one of his greatest inspirations, worked with him as an apprentice would a master, ultimately granting him what he called, “one of the greatest working experiences I’ve ever had on a movie.”
After turning in a paper using uncited and plagiarized work of David Mamet to one of his professors at N.Y.U. and having the egregious conduct go unnoticed and ignored in lieu of an average grade – a C to be exact – an incensed Anderson made the decision to drop out of the prestigious film school and pursue his ambitions without the formal education.
One of the hallmarks of all Anderson’s films is the use of steadicam, not only as a camera technique, but as the definitive “way of seeing” and telling the story in his films. This in-depth video from the British Film Institute covers five separate steadicam shots and how they come to define the very soul of P.T.A.’s work.
Before every one of his productions, save for “Magnolia,” Anderson has shaved his head.