At this point, it’s almost unfathomable to think of Paul Thomas Anderson not getting his way when it comes to his films, but one has to remember there was a time in his career when he was still an unproven, unknown director. As the director’s breakout film “Boogie Nights” was gearing up for release, it seems that the man behind studio and company backing the picture, New Line Cinema, wasn’t feeling so confident about what would eventually become a contemporary classic.
During the recent THR producers roundtable, Michael De Luca (who was also a producer on “Boogie Nights”) reveals that PTA’s movie almost had an entirely different fate. It seems the film wasn’t scoring well, and even more, Bob Shaye, the head of New Line, had even fashioned his own version of the movie. But luckily, positive word from early audiences seeing “Boogie Nights” changed what could’ve been a very different outcome. Here’s the full exchange:
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.)
Damn. And as generally seems to be the case, test audiences usually have the worst taste. So there’s some interesting PTA trivia for the day, and here’s a bonus bit for you: the “Siskel & Ebert” review of the movie which Gene calls “not all that significant,” though beautifully made.