Paul Thomas Anderson Discusses His Comedy Ambitions, And Admiration For Action

Paul Thomas Anderson has made movies with comic aspects, most notably the strange love story Punch Drunk Love. And his next film after The Master could end up being an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice, which, like most of Pynchon's work, is a narrative informed by a strong sense of comic absurdity.

But does Anderson have ideas of going even further into comedy territory? There's an audience that might want him to make something that dives head-first into the absurd, rather than simply flirting with it, and it seems like Anderson could be game.

Moviehole interviewed Anderson, and asked about the chance that he might ever make a comedy.

You mean like full blown comedy? Soon hopefully. I have to write it. It sounds daunting. [laughter] I'd like to make a film like Airplane. That never gets old. Or Ted. It was a big hit. Why? Because It's great. Movies that are that big a hit are never f*cking bad. I mean, there's no such... You know, people aren't that stupid, that movie's a hit because it's hilarious. I hope [Seth MacFarlane] makes another film.

Now, Anderson has arguably made full-blown comedy. His early shorts were often built around parody, and the short The Dirk Diggler Story, which is like an early draft of Boogie Nights, is far more like a comedy than the film it inspired. Then there's FANatic, an SNL short from Anderson, and The Couch, his short team-up with Adam Sandler circa Punch-Drunk Love.

Perhaps The Couch can be taken as an indicator of Anderson's reluctance to go into full comedy, as it just isn't very good. I don't recall FANatic being very impressive, either. Granted, both are quite short, and Anderson's strength is based in the accumulation of detail, and the complexities that arise from complimentary and contrasting elements in his Altman-esque stories and casts. Features are where the guy shines. So could he craft a comedy feature that combines his obvious affection for parody and excessively goofy elements, with the characters and complexities that are his trademark? I'd love to see it.

There's another good comment in the same interview. (Actually, there are several — check out the full transcript linked above.) Like the many of the rest of us, Anderson likes a good action flick — think Die Hard, if not so much the sequels.

Well, I would never want to do something like [Die Hard 6] but if I had had a chance to direct the first Die Hard? Yes. I don't know that I could have done it that well, like John McTiernan did. But that's one of my favourite films. I must have seen it 10 to 15 times in the movie theatre. And I would love to do something like that. Action films take a lot of time and they're really fun to watch and to edit together, but they're not that much fun to make. I mean, and I only say that from the experience that I've had doing anything that is remotely kinda action oriented, like the frog scene in Magnolia or some of the bits in There Will be Blood, that it's so time consuming, waiting for somebody to blow up a window. I don't know, it doesn't float my boat as much as the of the other stuff.

None of which really suggests that Anderson is going to break out of his mold; he doesn't seem like a director who could deny his own tendencies and impulses, and be satisfied with the final result. But perhaps we'll see more outright comedy in Inherent Vice than in anything else he's done to date.