Licorice Pizza: is the film inspired by a true story?

Paul Thomas Anderson takes the viewer on a journey to the San Fernando Valley of the 70s with “Licorice Pizza”. A romance that the filmmaker has built with many real elements, whether memories or anecdotes that have been reported to him.

Licorice Pizza : love and water bed in the valley

After the destructive relationship between Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom ThreadPaul Thomas Anderson opts for peace and Californian sunsets with Licorice Pizza. Released in January 2022, the film begins in 1973 in the San Fernando Valley, where the filmmaker grew up and where he still lives today.

On class picture day in high school, Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) notices Alana Kane (Alana Haim), an assistant assigned to guide the students. Charmed, the 15-year-old strikes up a conversation with the 25-year-old employee. She rejects his advances but their obvious complicity marks the birth of a friendship.

Licorice Pizza ©Universal Pictures

A rookie comedian supposed to appear on a TV show in New York, Gary asks Alana to chaperone him during his trip, which she accepts. Many adventures ensue after their return to the valley. Between two encounters with egocentric and crazy actors or producers, a fuel shortage and the opening of a water bedAlana and Gary will get lost, only to find each other again.

Benny Safdie, Sean Penn, Tom Waits and Bradley Cooper complete the cast of this romance which, as Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood three years earlier, mixes memories, true anecdotes and fantasies of an idolized period.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s starting point

Asked by variety on what “inspired” Licorice PizzaPaul Thomas Anderson recalls:

A long time ago, I was walking in my neighborhood and I passed by the college of Portola. It was picture day, and I saw this very energetic teenager flirting with the girl who was taking pictures. It was immediately a good starting point.

What would happen if a teenager invited an older woman to dinner? What if this girl goes against his judgment and says “yes”? It was conducive to humor.

Licorice Pizza
Licorice Pizza ©Universal Pictures

The filmmaker has linked this anecdote to the journey of his friend Gary Goetzmanproducer (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) and close to Tom Hanks with whom he notably founded the company Playtone. The director adds on this subject:

I have a friend who grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He was a child actor who ended up in the business of water bed. He told me many stories, and each one was even more wonderful than the last.

other real items

For the character of Jack Holden, actor played by Sean Penn, Paul Thomas Anderson was also inspired by William Holden, famous for Dusk Boulevard, The Bridge over the River Kwai or The Wild Horde.

Bradley Cooper lends his features to producer Jon Peters, who really had a relationship with Barbra Streisand (and not Barbra Streizand). Finally, as pointed out The Wrappolitician Joel Wachs, a former Los Angeles City Councilman played by Benny Safdie, actually ran for mayor in 1973.

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