Julianne Moore and Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights
With this weekend’s (limited) release of Inherent Vice, director Paul Thomas Anderson will deliver his second movie set in the 1970s. The first, of course, was Boogie Nights, the sprawling tale of the rise and fall of a porn superstar named Dirk Diggler.
The film was hardly a box-office success, but it has become a cult hit over the 17 years since its release. Anderson has developed a reputation as a modern auteur, while Mark Wahlberg, the young rapper–turned–underwear model who played the preternaturally endowed Diggler, has become preternaturally successful Hollywood superstar.
As part of its weeklong celebration of Anderson’s entire catalog, Grantland has published a very (ahem) long oral history of Boogie Nights, chock full of scintillating tidbits and juicy nuggets.
Here are a few (mostly) safe-for-work highlights:
Anderson and casting director Christine Sheaks considered an illustrious group of actors to play porno-king Jack Horner, including Bill Murray, Sydney Pollack, Warren Beatty, Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel.
“We offered it to Harvey Keitel,” Sheaks said. “He could not understand why.”
Ultimately, Burt Reynolds got the part, but he wasn’t always easy on set.
“Burt got so frustrated he pulled Paul outside into the backyard and started yelling at him, like a father, you know?,” John Wildermuth, the first assistant director, said. “‘You f—-in’ little punk kid, don’t tell me what to do. You let all the other actors do free takes and you’re not letting me do any.” He read him the riot act. Paul stood there and took it in and then argued back with him. And then when they walked back into the house, Paul had his sly little smirk on his face.“
Added John Lyons, the film’s producer: “I had to pull Burt’s arm back when it was cocked. I was in the middle of it. Burt was getting ready to slug him and I was like, ‘Burt, Burt, no, no, don’t, don’t do it.’ And then I had to take Burt back to the trailer. And I spent a lot of time in Burt’s trailer. A lot. I love Burt. I thought he was incredible. He was old Hollywood; there were a lot of people on that set that just didn’t really have the time or the interest in it.”
Much time and effort went into creating Dirk Diggler’s monster penis.
"We started creating the prosthetic by building a wire-frame armature and then sculpting the penis in clay,” Howard Berger, the special makeup effects supervisor, explained. “And then we took a three-piece plaster mold and split it right down the center so it was one side, one side, and then there was a back plug that had the core that created the receptacle in the testicles… We sculpted a version that was 12 inches long, and we tested it and it was just way too big. It looked just like a weird monster penis. The next one was seven inches; that was the penis we went with. One of our artists, Garrett Immel, sculpted this penis to be slightly erect and with the testicles and everything. We made a core that created a void that Mark could put his own anatomy into.”
Drew Barrymore and Tatum O’Neal auditioned for the role of Roller Girl, which ultimately went to Heather Graham.
"We put Tatum O’Neal on tape for Roller Girl,” Sheaks said. “She gave a terrific audition and I think that she may have done something really brave with Paul. That tape was top secret, you know what I mean?”
The MPAA has weird hang-ups about sex.
“Our main battles about violence were with the MPAA. They were particularly hung up on a few sex things, too: humping, clenching butt cheeks,” Dylan Tichenor, the editor, said. “They would say, ‘Dirk’s butt, while he’s having sex with Amber, too much.’ And so we would cut whatever, 20 frames off it, and send it back and they would say, ‘Dirk’s butt, while he’s having sex with Amber, too much.’ And we’d cut another six frames.”
Watch the Boogie Nights trailer below:
Photo: New Line