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Paul Thomas Anderson Would Prefer If All Movies Were 2 Hours Long: ‘I’ve Missed That Mark’

"That’s when [movies] at their best," Anderson said about a 120-minute runtime.

Paul Thomas Anderson arrives at the 90th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton hotel on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Paul Thomas Anderson

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

“No Time to Die.” “House of Gucci.” “Eternals.” “F9.” “Don’t Look Up.” Many of the year’s buzziest movies have something in common: long running times. All the aforementioned films run well over the two-hour mark, which for Paul Thomas Anderson is not ideal. Speaking to The New York Times to promote his latest acclaimed feature, the coming-of-age movie “Licorice Pizza,” Anderson said the ideal runtime for a motion picture is two hours. “That’s when [movies are] at their best,” the Oscar-nominated director said.

Anderson revealed his ideal runtime when the conversation pivoted to the possibility of the director moving into the television space. Anderson has directed nine feature films since 1996 and has helmed countless music videos, but he has never been behind the camera for a television series.

“[The limited series is a] great format when it works. It’s exciting,” Anderson said. “Then again, so are series. I’ve never dipped a toe in that world, but I can imagine it being very difficult to sustain the life of a story for more than two, three, four seasons.”

Anderson continued, “No one asks [me to do television]. I’m just sort of playing in my own corner of the sandbox. As a writer, I think we have fantasies when you struggle with editing material down: ‘I have so much material, perhaps this is a limited series.’ When in fact, no, it’s not, you just need to edit down your story. I mean, a film should preferably be two hours. That’s when they’re at their best. I’ve missed that mark multiple times, but that’s really the goal.”

If movies are at their best when they run two hours, then Anderson is not taking his advice to heart. Out of Anderson’s nine features, only “Hard Eight” (102 minutes) and “Punch-Drunk Love” (95 minutes) run under the two-hour mark; “Magnolia” is Anderson’s longest movie at 188 minutes. More recently, Anderson has been hewing closer to the two-hour mark with his 130-minute movies “Phantom Thread” and “Licorice Pizza.”

As for his latest, “Licorice Pizza” is earning rave reviews from critics (read IndieWire’s A grade review here). The film has not been without some early criticism, however. The plot centers on the blossoming friendship between 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and 20-something Alana Kane (Alana Haim). The relationship grows into something more, which has given some critics pause. Anderson told The Times there’s nothing creepy at play in his film.

“There’s no line that’s crossed, and there’s nothing but the right intentions,” the director said. “It would surprise me if there was some kind of kerfuffle about it, because there’s not that much there. That’s not the story that we made, in any kind of way. There isn’t a provocative bone in this film’s body.”

“Licorice Pizza” opens in select theaters November 26 before going nationwide December 25.

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