Boogie Nights Reynolds Wahlberg

These days, it’s easy to look back on Paul Thomas Anderson‘s 1997 masterpiece Boogie Nights with reverence. Personally, it’s my second or third favorite movie of all time; it was nominated for all kinds of Oscars; and launched (or re-launched) the careers of numerous actors we’re all familiar with today. Since its release, Anderson has continued the same level of excellence and some of his seventies-influenced, but modern filmmaking techniques have become the fodder of film discussion across the world. Boogie Nights is a modern American classic, period.

However, before the film was released, New Line wasn’t quite sure what they had besides a two and a half hour movie about porn starring Marky Mark, from the director of Hard Eight, featuring a flamboyant Burt Reynolds and a massive ending. According to a new interview, producer Michael De Luca looks back on that uncertainty with fondness but admits, if it wasn’t for the positive reviews that came out of the New York Film Festival, the movie might have gone straight to video.

De Luca (who produced this year’s Captain Phillips) and Wahlberg (who produced this year’s Prisoners and Lone Survivor), spoke to the Hollywood Reporter as part of their producers roundtable. We’ve embedded the full thing below. Thanks to The Playlist for the heads up on this particular piece of trivia.

Here’s the transcription of the Boogie Nights section:

DE LUCA: Yeah, ‘Boogie Nights’ scored horribly. They recruit for these [test screenings] off a paragraph [synopsis] in the mall, and the paragraph for ‘Boogie Nights’ made it look like a sitcom, and then they come for this three-hour exegesis on existential crises in porn. It got to a point where Bob Shaye, my old boss, chased good scores on that movie, and that movie was never going to score high.

WAHLBERG: I remember [he did] his own cut.

DE LUCA: Yeah, it was horrible. It was tough. That movie was going straight to video, and then the reviews started to come in at the New York Film Festival. If it wasn’t for early reviews …

WAHLBERG: I was starting to think, “F—, I should have done ’Starship Troopers.’ ” (Laughter.)

With that scope and those stars, I don’t think the movie was actually going “straight to video.” A theatrical dump – one or two theaters with no marketing – seems more likely. There’s no doubt, though, New Line made the right decision and eventually marketed the film beautifully. At age 17, I travelled 60 miles roundtrip to see the film the second it opened. I don’t remember why, just that I was dying to see it. (Also of note: Wahlberg was up for Starship Troopers? Rico’s Roughnecks!)

Still, when people question why studios show critics movies early or if reviews matter, this is a great, big, shining example that sometimes buzz and positivity can do important things.

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