About The Production
Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia presents a microcosm of American society through nine intertwined stories that each take place on one clement day in Southern California, during which all kinds of torrents are unleashed. Parents and children, anger and forgiveness, television and real life, longing and loss, chance and volition, sunshine and storms find themselves in collision on this day that builds through a series of accidents to an unexpected phenomenon.
Anderson originally wanted to write "something small and intimate" — something he could shoot in 30 days -- on the heels of his acclaimed second film, Boogie
Nights, but his plans went somewhat askew as characters beget other characters and the story blossomed into a complex tapestry of human frailty and universal chaos. "I still think that Magnolia is small and intimate," says Anderson. "It just took 200 pages and 90 days to get the right amount of small and intimate."
Anderson's script -- in which coincidence, chance and the past operate just beneath the surface on the present -- touched a very large nerve in those who read it first. The script amused, moved and disturbed. "I thought it was astounding," comments producer JoAnne Sellar. "It's a very emotional and sophisticated film. The people that you meet and get to know in this movie are people from all walks of life, yet they are all looking for the same thing, for some kind of love."
A group of characters struggling against an insufficiency of love and a preponderance of inexplicable events calls for a cast willing to push the envelope, and Paul Thomas Anderson wrote the film for the ensemble of actors he respects and trusts, with a few new additions.
At the center of the Magnolia maze of interconnections is Earl Partridge, a dying man who is coming to terms with the failures of his life in his final moments. Partridge is played by Jason Robards, who had never worked with Anderson before. Robards was struck by the material's veracity. "I was taken aback by the script because it is so honest about the human condition, about estrangement and relationships with parents and even death," he says. "It had a novelistic approach that I found fascinating. There were no star parts. Every character was equal. It was just a slice of the life we live nowadays."
Playing a dying man was an intriguing challenge for Robards who had just recovered from a near-fatal illness himself. "It was sort of prophetic that I be asked to play a guy going out in life," he comments. "It was just so right for me to do this and bring what I know to it."
The one thing that Earl Partridge wants before he dies is to see his estranged son, Frank T. J. Mackey, who has followed his father's footsteps into the television world, albeit in a very different way. Frank T. J. Mackey is the Tony Robbins of seduction, a sort of Bad Boy Wonder, a grin-flashing charmer who sells popular, high-priced seminars that teach men how to get their way with the ladies. Playing Mackey is Tom
Cruise, who had approached Paul Thomas Anderson about doing a project together after viewing Boo gie Nights. Anderson wrote the part of Mackey with Cruise in mind. Summarizes producer JoAnne Sellar: "Tom responded really well to the script After several meetings with Paul, he said he would do it. I thought it was really amazing that he would take this leap of faith, because Frank Mackey is a very risky role."
Trying to broker a meeting between Earl Par
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