By now, Burt Reynolds’ dislike for Boogie Nights is well documented. It’s no secret that the screen legend felt filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s second picture was “beneath him,” delving into subject matter that made him feel uncomfortable. And yet, one would think that in hindsight, someone of Reynolds’ stature would be able to admit that Anderson’s masterpiece is at least a pretty OK film. One would, in fact, be wrong.
Speaking with The Guardian to promote his upcoming book, Reynolds said he “hates” the film and “hated” working with Anderson, despite the fact that he admits he’s still never watched the whole movie. Indeed, while Reynolds’ displeasure during production has been well covered, Anderson was ready to let bygones be bygones, offering the actor a part in his epic drama follow-up Magnolia, which Reynolds declined by saying:
“I’d done my picture with Paul Thomas Anderson, that was enough for me.”
While there’s been plenty of documentation (especially in Grantland’s Oral History) about on-set tension between Reynolds and, well, everyone, the actor himself is now offering his side of the story. In a separate interview with GQ, Reynolds reiterates that he “doesn’t think” he’d work with Anderson again, adding “Personality-wise, we didn’t fit.” He then went on to elaborate on the young filmmaker’s pretention during the filming of Boogie Nights:
“I think mostly because he was young and full of himself. Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done]. 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.”
Anderson himself has admitted that he was rather hard-headed on his first couple of pictures (mostly to due with being screwed over on Hard Eight), even saying on the WTF podcast last year that Magnolia is “way too long.” But even if Anderson was impressed with himself on Boogie Nights, can you blame him? The film is a masterpiece, and it was Anderson’s second feature film ever. That’s kind of insane, and for Reynolds to speak ill of the film when he hasn’t even seen it just comes off as glib.
At the end of the day, Boogie Nights holds up as a stone cold classic. No amount of grumpiness on Reynolds’ part can diminish that. And even if Reynolds isn’t crazy about the film or its director, his performance remains tremendous. It’s just a shame he’s unable to see it.