It’s easy for cinephiles to get worked up when Paul Thomas Anderson announces he’s making a new movie. When that movie is the first attempt at adapting cult novelist/eccentric recluse Thomas Pynchon’s writing for the screen, it’s hard to keep from frothing at the mouth. Over his six films, Anderson has gradually built a reputation as one of American cinema’s new masters, with no low points in his small filmography. As such, hungry film lovers have snapped up production details on the director’s upcoming Inherent Vice like rabid dogs do scraps, our ravenous appetites only teased and inflamed by the tidbits that have leaked prior to the film’s December 12 release. Mercifully, today’s Anderson profile in the New York Times provided the masses with a handful of new details for us to savor until the film hits theaters.
Inherent Vice follows constantly stoned detective Doc Sportello as he collects clues around the wilds of Southern California to get to the bottom of the disappearance of his ex’s new squeeze. The Dissolve’s constantly stoned news writers did some sleuthing of our own around the wilds of the Internet, and we’ve assembled the dossier below on all that is known about Anderson’s Inherent Vice, which appears to be the most hotly anticipated release remaining on the docket this year.
- The film tracks Doc Sportello’s movements around the fictitious town of Gordita Beach, CA. When Doc’s flower-child ex-girlfriend Fay Hepworth comes a-calling after her boyfriend vanishes, the “gum-sandal” detective takes the case. His hunt for clues sends him on a digressive odyssey through the seedier parts of a sunny, smoky SoCal. Doc will run afoul of a number of oddball characters, such as surf-rock saxman Coy Harlingen, meathead cop Bigfoot Bjornsen, unsavory land tycoon Mickey Wolfmann, and a host of other weirdos (many of them, like Doc, proponents of recreational drug use). Also figuring prominently into the plot is the Golden Fang, the significance of which remains shrouded in mystery throughout the novel.
- Anderson has assembled a formidable cast to undertake Pynchon’s cast of colorful characters. He reunites with The Master star Joaquin Phoenix for the robustly mutton-chopped Doc. This marks the first collaboration between Anderson and his domestic partner Maya Rudolph, who will play Petunia Leeway, Doc’s receptionist, who’s described in the novel as “a stunner in a starched cap.” Katherine Waterston (daughter of Sam) plays Fay, Josh Brolin rocks a flat-top of “Flintstone proportions” as Bigfoot, Owen Wilson takes up Coy’s sax, and the great Eric Roberts plays Mickey. Rumors have circulated that the notoriously camera-shy Pynchon will make a cameo, though Anderson remains tight-lipped. Indie-folk songstress Joanna Newsom will appear as Doc’s hippie acquaintance Sortilège. Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, and Martin Short will round out the cast.
- The film goes into limited release December 12 (presumably so that it may slip into awards-season eligibility territory) and enters wide release January 9.
- Anderson drafted the Inherent Vice script while simultaneously finalizing his The Master script. He tried a rather unorthodox strategy in preparing Pynchon’s inscrutable prose for the silver screen, going sentence by sentence and transcribing the whole novel into a raw script form, from which he sculpted it into a manageable shape. This isn’t his first whack at adapting Pynchon, either; PTA planned a big-screen adaptation of Pynchon’s Vineland in 2009, but it never came to fruition.
- Anderson has written an entirely new ending for the film that deviates from its source material. Pynchon has given it his blessing.
- At 148 minutes, Inherent Vice confirms that the director’s penchant for hefty run times has not diminished in the years since The Master.
- Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood will compose the score for Inherent Vice, having worked with Anderson in 2007 on the haunting, tribal There Will Be Blood score.
- After shooting 2012’s The Master on 70mm film stock with the aid of cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., Inherent Vice will see Anderson returning to longtime partner Robert Elswit and using 35mm.
- God knows what he’ll do with it, but Anderson laid 470 feet of dolly track for what we can only assume will be the latest and greatest in the director’s tradition of lengthy, elaborate tracking shots.
- Which is somewhat surprising, considering that Anderson intended on emulating the novel’s laidback slacker feel by conducting his production process in as chill a manner as possible. In an Entertainment Weekly interview, Brolin and Waterston have noted that PTA maintained a spontaneous and experimental vibe throughout production, often resorting to improvisation or pancake breaks to work through a difficult scene.
- Inherent Vice will premiere to the world as the centerpiece of the upcoming New York Film Festival. NYFF’s Director of Programming Kent Jones spoke encouragingly after his screened it, saying “It really catches the antic nature of [Pynchon]: the crazy names of characters, the nutty behavior, and then also the emotional undertone.”
- PTA’s professed list of influences for Inherent Vice is as strange as it is long. He’s cited everything from Cheech and Chong to Raymond Chandler, from Zucker-Abrams-Zucker to underground comix staple The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. In the New York Times piece, Brolin quotes PTA as frequently stating his intention to “go Tom and Jerry on this” during production. Lebowski-based comparison from critics have not been uncommon.
- By all accounts, the film will pair well with cannabis.
- Here’s a production still of a very pregnant Maya Rudolph in her stunning starched cap.
- Here’s Doc chatting up an impeccably coiffed Reese Witherspoon as Penny Kimball.
- Here’s Doc sharing a cold one with Benicio Del Toro’s Sauncho Smilax.
- Here’s Doc sitting with a none-too-pleased Bigfoot.
- Sharp-eyed viewers can see three images from the film in this trailer for NYFF.
Hopefully this meager case file will be enough to momentarily fill the yawning void at the center of our collective being until Warner Bros. throws us a proper trailer.