William H. Macy: Burt Reynolds Was ‘Clueless’ Making Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Boogie Nights’

"He trashed the film after we wrapped — up until the time he got an Academy Award nomination," Macy said of his late co-star.
Boogie Nights
Burt Reynolds and William H. Macy in "Boogie Nights"

William H. Macy revealed Burt Reynolds really didn’t know how to get down with “Boogie Nights.”

The Academy Award-nominated Paul Thomas Anderson film about the 1970s porn industry starred Mark Wahlberg, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, and Macy, with Reynolds appearing in a supporting role.

Former co-star Macy told Vulture in an oral history of the film that Reynolds “wasn’t happy” on set and didn’t seem to comprehend the magnitude and tone of the film.

“I think Burt was sort of clueless as to what we were doing,” Macy said. “I think all of us very early in the film thought, ‘Holy crap, this is extraordinary,’ and I think Burt was clueless. And he trashed the film after we wrapped — up until the time he got an Academy Award nomination. I’m probably now Burt’s age then, and I’m trying to make sure I don’t fall into that, not really listening and not being abreast of what’s going on and staying humble.”

Reynolds previously told late-night host Conan O’Brien that “Boogie Nights” just “wasn’t my kind of film” and the story “made me very uncomfortable.” He also claimed writer/director Anderson was “young and full of himself” so much so that Reynolds “wanted to hit him.” Reynolds also said he fired his agent after the experience.

“Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done],” Reynolds said. “I remember the first shot we did in ‘Boogie Nights,’ where I drive the car to Grauman’s Theater. After he said, ‘Isn’t that amazing?’ And I named five pictures that had that same kind of shot.”

Anderson, who was age 27 when the film was released, recalled multiple “heated” days on set with Reynolds.

Meanwhile, Macy recalled the research required to prepare for the portrayal of the adult film industry: a visit to a “bizarre” porn set, that was admittedly “boring” at times, as he said to Vulture.

“I went to a porn shoot — Paul set it up for us. What an amazing world,” Macy said. “I mean, when I got there, I realized they’re making a movie. They may be shooting people having sex, but they’re just making a movie. And the director had the same look on her face that every other director does, which is, ‘I’ve got three more pages and the sun’s going down in two hours, I don’t know how I’m going to get this.’ It was bizarre. It was three women in a hot tub — and they were stunningly beautiful. And just like regular porn, it was, at first, highly erotic, and then sort of curious, and then, ultimately, kind of boring. And there’s no fast-forward in real life!”

Anderson’s original script was “absolutely X-rated,” according to Macy. While the film ultimately received an R-rating, Macy called the MPAA rules “idiotic.”

“The MPAA board would allow these ultra-violent graphic things to be seen by kids, and then they would make a big deal out of a woman’s breasts. And I thought, ‘Oh, you poor babies, get into therapy, you’ve got problems,'” Macy said. “‘Boogie Nights’ was the perfect example of it. We had to reshoot a scene with [adult film actress] Nina Hartley because they said she can screw, or she can talk, but she can’t do them both at once. So we had to reshoot a close-up of Nina so that you didn’t see what she was doing, and you could cut back and forth. Jiminy Christmas.”

Macy added of the multiple sex scenes, “That was before the days of intimacy coordinators, but Paul’s a gentleman, Mark [Wahlberg]’s a gentleman, and Julianne [Moore] is very sophisticated, so they talked it out, what was in, what was out, what they didn’t want to have. But mostly they were brave. They read the script, they knew what it was about, and they knew what was required was that they’re completely comfortable with being naked in front of people.”

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