Boogie Nights might be considered a classic now, but when the script first hit Hollywood, no one knew what to make of it. Paul Thomas Anderson had one film under his belt (the gambling drama Hard Eight), which, while critically acclaimed, wasn’t exactly a hit. When this magnum opus full of porn, sex and drugs made the rounds, it left more than a few execs and actors scratching their heads. So how did Boogie Nights go from a risky script to one of the great films of its time? Here are ten facts that might help explain how it all went down. Can you dig it?
10. Being Good At Acting Bad Isn’t Easy.
Before shooting on the film began, director Paul Thomas Anderson gathered the entire cast, and warned them that acting badly during the porno scenes would be hard for such a talented group. He made it a challenge, pitting them against each other to see who could act the worst, and eventually declared Julianne Moore the winner of the unofficial contest. But really, doesn’t Julianne Moore win every acting contest?
9. Leo Decided He’d Rather Go Down With The Ship, Than Go Down On, Well, Y’Know…
Leonardo DiCaprio was Paul Thomas Anderson’s first choice to play Dirk Diggler, but turned the part down to star in a little movie called Titanic. Fortunately, he was coming off of The Basketball Diaries with Mark Wahlberg, and suggested his friend for the part. While things seemed to work out for the both of them, Leo did admit in 2010 that “my biggest regret is Boogie Nights. I’m a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, but the first time I met him for that role I hadn’t really seen much of his previous work. Now I love that movie.”
8. Even P.T. Anderson’s Spelling Errors Are Genius.
T.T. Rodriguez, played by Luis Guzman, gets a happy ending of sorts in the movie, opening up a nightclub with his brothers. Unfortunately, they appear to have misspelled their own name on the club’s sign, which reads “Rodriquz.” This error, it turns out, was because Anderson misspelled the word in the screenplay, and everyone just went along with it. The director found the mess up funny, and decided to just roll with it.
7. Sam Jackson Didn’t Want No Mother F’in Part In No Mother F’in Movie About Porn.
Samuel L. Jackson, who had just worked with Anderson in Hard Eight, was offered the part of Buck Swope, but didn’t get it, according to the director. In fact, his exact quote upon reading the script was,”what the hell is this?” He promptly passed, and the role went to Don Cheadle who delivered a career-making performance.
6. Burt Reynolds and P.T. Anderson Hated Each Other More Than Smokey And The Bandit.
Burt Reynolds and P.T. Anderson didn’t see eye to eye very often. In fact, Burt used an Irish accent on the first day of shooting for no clear reason, and once threw a punch at the director. Reynolds actually told GQ, “Personality-wise, we didn’t fit…I think mostly because he was young and full of himself. Every shot we did, it was like the first time. 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 the same kind of shot. It wasn’t original. But if you have to steal, steal from the best.” After he saw a cut of the film, Reynolds tried to fire his agent for talking him into doing it. He would go on to receive an Oscar nomination for his work in the film, and then never star in anything worthwhile again.
5. P.T. Anderson Loves A Good Star Wars Reference.
The character of Buck Swope, played by Don Cheadle in the film, had a dream, and that was to sell stereo equipment. But what most fans didn’t notice was that he also dreamed of Star Wars, at least when it came to audio equipment. At one point in the film, he requests “the TK-421 special modification.” TK-421 is the name of the Stormtrooper ambushed by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in the 1977 classic.
4. Even “The Touch” Composer Was Shocked When Dirk and Reed Performed His Song.
Count Vince DiCola, the composer of “The Touch,” among those who were shocked to see his anthem, first recorded for 1986’s Transformers: The Movie, turn up in an R-rated movie about the world of porn. In a DVD extra for the kid’s cartoon, he talks about the surprise, saying the first thing he did was call Stan Bush, who sang the original version, to have a laugh.
3. Julianne Moore Doesn’t Need Direction.
Anderson says he only gave Julianne Moore one piece of direction throughout the entire shoot. During an intense scene Moore shares with Heather Graham, acting as a surrogate mother while snorting copious amounts of cocaine, she repeats the line, “too many things,” over and over again. He wanted her to say it one more time. That’s it. Otherwise, he was so impressed with her performance, he left her alone.
2. Alfred Molina Is Unflappable, Even When You Set Off Fireworks.
Alfred Molina wore an earpiece blasting “Sister Christian” during his climatic scene in the film. As a result, unlike the other actors in the scene, he never flinches as fireworks are being set off just behind him.
1. Boogie Nights Originated Because P.T. Anderson Watched A Lot Of Porn.
Boogie Nights began as a short film called “The Dirk Diggler Story” that Paul Thomas Anderson made when he was just 17 as a spoof of the porn films he was admittedly watching a lot of at the time. He later adapted it into a mockumentary style feature script, in the vein of Spinal Tap, before completely reworking it into the classic film we can’t stop watching today.
Want more Boogie Nights? See what it would look like as a kung-fu flick below.