The website ViceUK has a feature called The Book That Made Me — where famoso types weigh in on literature that changed them, for better or worse.
Here's Paul Thomas Anderson on Inherent Vice as told to Amelia Abraham (@MillyAbraham). It's such a great film, more like an acid trip down memory lane than a serious Oscar-bait movie, but an awful lot of fun, something of a love song to the city I both love and hate. The book by Thomas Pynchon? Like PTA I dug the book too. and like PTA, I couldn't make it through Gravity's Rainbow either. '
Inherent Vice starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspon, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Joanna Newsom, Benicio del Toro, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Michael K. Williams, Eric Roberts and Paul Thomas Anderson's wife, Maya Rudolph and is playing in theaters around the country now. If you were wondering why Paul Thomas Anderson made the movie, your answer lies below.
I was in Gloucester, Massachusetts, when I first read Inherent Vice. It was July of 2009. I was there for the summer and I got an advance copy off the publisher. Any time a new book of Pynchon's has come out—at least since I've been around—it's like I hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door and don't come out until it's done. It took me a couple days to do it.
I remember it quite well, sitting there, reading it and thinking, I'm never going to make this into a movie. I felt the same about Vineland. I thought about making that into a movie before, but I just couldn't figure it out. It's like Gravity's Rainbow—I've never got through it.
I also remember thinking, when I read the book, This is like The Big Lebowski. And that was a reason not to make the movie. That was a reason to say, like, "Why would I have to do something like The Big Lebowski? Why would I even come close?" But the more I looked at it, the more I loved the book, and I had to kind of ignore that and pretend like it didn't exist, because, you know, The Big Lebowski is the best movie in history. So I just ignored it and thought about it a different way.
I think part of the fun of Inherent Vice is to get just completely tangled up in the many loose ends and overwhelming information, which is meant to be part of the joke in the book. You're either going to think, My head's going to explode and I give up, or, My head's going to explode and it feels kind of fuzzy. I wanted the same for the film.
I didn't change a great deal from the book. The main thing I did change was this character that Joanna Newsom plays, Sortilège. In the book, she was this great supporting character who floated around and would give Doc acid or give him astrological advice—that kind of stuff. I took that character and made her a bit bigger and gave her narration and made her more of a sidekick. Kind of like Tinkerbell. When I read that character it reminded me of Joanna, so I asked her to do it. Joanna hasn't done acting before, but I know her personally through her husband—our families know each other—and, you know, she's kind of got that hippie spirit. She just has that oozing out of her, the way she looks and the way she talks and the way she sounds, she's just so fucking cool. She was perfect.
Joanna Newsom as Sortilege
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times
I don't know if I'll ever adapt a book again. I know I still have original things to write, but if another book comes along, I'll adapt that. I have no real plan. Magnolia was probably my most personal work, and I learned that, if you write something really personal at a current time in your life, then you feel it flow through you but you sort of know instinctively that you'll never be able to get back there again. That you'll never be able to revisit that moment in time.
In that sense, starting from scratch can be quite dark and lonely work, but it's less lonely adapting a book because you're working with something else.
Source: The Book That Made Me Read more of Amelia Abraham's interview with the master.