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Romance with a twist

Mills College Weekly

After making a name for himself in Hollywood chronicling dysfunctional families in films like “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights,” director Paul Thomas Anderson is taking off in a new direction.

He is taking a slight detour from dysfunction in the family to dysfunction in love.

“I wanted to make a left turn from death and disease” said Anderson.

His new film “Punch-Drunk Love” won Anderson the Best Director honor at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and will appear in theaters Oct. 18.

It is a twisted romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler as Barry Egen, the obsessed ‘Pudding Guy’ who has anger management problems, yet finds himself in love when he meets Lena Leonard played by Emily Watson.

This is not a typical Sandler movie. In the film, an explicit phone sex conversation warrants a mature audience, indicating a new direction for Sandler.

The screenplay characters were developed and written for Sandler and Watson. Anderson said he was a big fan of Sandler since his early work in Saturday Night Live and already had him in mind to play Barry.

Anderson took the same approach with Watson in developing her character.

“Good is good,” he said. “She has got balls the size of Manhattan.”

Sandler’s character is based on the real-life story of David Phillips, the so-called ‘Pudding Guy,’ who accumulated 1.25 million frequent flier miles by buying12,150 cups of Healthy Choice pudding during a flawed airline promotion.

Music plays a big part in setting the tone of “Punch-Drunk Love,” and could almost classify the film as a musical.

Composer Jon Brion, Anderson’s friend and frequent collaborator, was asked to create a temporary score to be played on the set during production of the film.

“Paul suggested different tempos,” said Brion, “then my engineer and I recorded a series of 10-minute ensemble percussion pieces that the actors listened to between takes to give them an idea of the scene’s rhythms.”

The temporary tacks were created using different drums, rare instruments and treated pianos; John Cage, former Mills professor, developed this process.

Anderson’s approach in making this film was nontraditional.

By using a smaller production crew with smaller sets, he allowed room for exploration on the set.

Anderson and the crew broke the rules and essentially made the film as they went along.

“The film is completely different from what I originally designed,” said Anderson.

Anderson said he loves the work of making movies and that he has always wanted to do this.

“I love the process, the work is the fun part-learning how to get what you want,” said Anderson.

Although his father did voice-overs and introduced late night horror films on TV as Ghoulardi, which is were the name of his production company “Ghoulardi Film Company” came from, Anderson said he learned a lot from watching both smut and epics.

“Porno was a big deal for me,” he said.

In his quirky, fast speech, he describes his life before filmmaking as a mad rush to make his first film and get his ‘life in order.’

Having reached celebrity status, he still is on a search for order.

“That never stops,” he said. “I have just learned how to manage it a little better.”