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    The New York Post, December 1999

    The Stars Come Out in P.T. Anderson’s “Magnolia”
    Moviedom's most adventurous director churns out another cinematic mind-
    tripwith a little help from Hollywood's finest.

    By Bruce Kluger


    In 1963, Stanley Kramer’s screwball comedy
    caper, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
    barreled onto movies screens across the
    country, instantly staking its claim in film
    history as the granddaddy of the all-star
    extravaganza.

    Boasting a cast of nearly two dozen big-name
    luminaries—from Spencer Tracy to the Three
    Stooges—the film set the standard by which
    Hollywood casting directors would measure
    their ability for years to come.

    Throughout the Seventies, the industry
    continued to roll out marquee-heavy fare—
    primarily disaster flicks—but as the new century approaches, all-star casts are
    becoming a thing of the past. With actor salaries skyrocketing, and the low-budget
    independent films becoming the rage, movie makers are learning that name
    recognition is not necessarily the sole ingredient to box office success.

    In fact, today only directors Robert Altman and Woody Allen—both auteurs with
    proven track records and enormous respect within the industry—seem to be able to
    assemble small armies of distinguished thespians to headline their big-screen
    efforts.

    So explain the phenomenon of Paul Thomas Anderson, a rookie writer-director
    who, with just two films to his credit, managed to recruit a handsome lineup of
    above-the-title talent for his latest film, Magnolia, which opens this Friday.

    Anderson, whose abbreviated appellation now reads “P.T. Anderson” (does he
    envision himself Barnum, or the next coming of D.W. Griffith?), exploded onto the
    scene in 1997 with his frantic spin through the Seventies porn industry, Boogie
    Nights. Critical acclaim, a hefty box office haul and a handful of Oscar nominations
    for the film instantly catapulted Anderson to the top-shelf, displacing former
    Hollywood wunderkind Quentin Tarantino.

    For winners in the movie business, the payoff is the sudden clout that comes with
    being in demand. For a director in particular, that translates into the luxury of being
    able to cherry-pick a cast of screen notables for subsequent projects—which
    Anderson has done with aplomb.

    Appearing in Magnolia are an ensemble of critically and commercially celebrated
    artists including, among others, Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore,
    William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Melinda Dillon.

    “I have my dream cast and crew and couldn’t be happier,” Anderson gushed to
    reporters after signing and sealing the casting deals for Magnolia in 1998. And he
    had good reason. At the time, the most recent star to join to movie’s hit parade was
    also the industry’s biggestTom Cruise, who had been wowed by Boogie Nights
    and met with Anderson while filming Eyes Wide Shut in London. The two men hit it
    off, and Anderson walked away with a deal: he would write a role specifically for
    Cruise (the character is a greasy TV sex-advice peddler), and the actor would
    happily bring it to life for the camera.

    How much did Cruise trust Anderson to deliver the goods? The answer is in the
    numbers. Magnolia was budgeted at $30 million; Cruise gets around $20 million per
    film. Clearly taking a pay cut, the superstar was sending a signal to Anderson—and
    to Hollywood in general—that sometimes an actor takes on a project based on the
    art, and not just the economics (though Cruise is reported to be participating in the
    film’s back-end revenues).

    Like Boogie Nights, Anderson’s Magnolia script is heavy on character-
    development, weaving together nine personal tales—of loss, forgiveness, hope and
    renewal—through a series of events that occur over 24 hours in Southern
    California. Reminiscent of Altman’s Short Cuts, the screenplay relies heavily on
    emotional intimacy, which is precisely what appealed most to Magnolia's
    distinguished cast.

    “I was taken aback by the script because it is so honest about the human
    condition,” says Oscar-winner Jason Robards, who plays a cancer patient coming
    to grips with his disappointing legacy in the final moments of his life. “It had a
    novelistic approach that I found fascinating. There were no star parts. Every
    character was equal.”

    For Julianne Moore, Magnolia was an opportunity to play a woman “who is
    hysterical throughout half the movie.” An Oscar-nominee for her portrayal of a coke-
    snorting porn goddess in Boogie Nights, Moore appears in Magnolia as Robards’
    young wife, Linda, who married for money and now finds herself enslaved to
    Robards’ illness. “The challenge was to be really truthful and very emotional, with
    big gestures,” Moore explains, “yet somehow stayed rooted in reality. I wanted to
    make the character human.”

    Another Boogie Nights alum returning to Anderson’s antic make-believe world is
    William H. Macy, whose career took off in 1996, with his Oscar-nominated turn in
    the Coen Brothers’ black comedy Fargo. Although his character in Magnolia—a
    former child quiz game whiz who now runs a failing electronics store—promised
    Macy the kind of eccentric character study for which he’s best known, it was clearly
    the prospect of working with Anderson again that drew Macy to the project.

    “I think Paul came out of the womb a great director,” says Macy. “The guy thinks
    cinematically. He has an indefatigable knowledge of the mechanics of it all, and his
    sets are vibrant and fun.”

    If P.T. Anderson has become the flavor-of-the-month among Hollywood directors,
    Philip Seymour Hoffman currently boasts that honor in the industry’s acting flanks.
    Also a Boogie Nights veteran (he was the porn set gofer with the crush on
    superstud Dirk Diggler), Hoffman went on to appear in Happiness and opposite
    Robin Williams in Patch Adams, and earlier this month stole the show—and
    reviews—from co-star Robert DeNiro as the singing drag queen in Joel Schumacher’
    s Flawless.

    With his nuanced and tempered performance in Magnolia—as an at-home nurse
    trying to reunite Robards with his estranged son (Cruise)—Hoffman is grateful for
    another opportunity to take on a meaty role, and another chance to work with
    Anderson.

    “I appreciated that Paul was asking for something completely different from me,” he
    says, “and that this film is also completely different. In the end, that’s the stuff you
    really want to be a part of.”