Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, and director Paul Thomas Anderson make no apologies for their epic

By Liane Bonin
December 17, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
Mitchell Gerber/Corbis Images
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If this year’s bevvy of extra-long movies like ”The Insider” and ”The Green Mile” hasn’t permanently numbed your butt, ”Magnolia” may do the trick. Clocking in at 179 minutes, the movie follows a mind-boggling number of plots and characters and even works in a showstopping cameo from Tom Cruise as a motivational speaker from hell. ”It’s astounding that Paul Thomas Anderson’s even alive after doing this film,” says star William H. Macy, who plays a grown-up former child celebrity. ”This film is BIG. Do you have any idea how big this film is? Paul’s quoted as saying it’s a small film, and it is in that it’s about small moments between people, but the magnitude of the whole project boggles the mind.”

It wasn’t always supposed to be that way. After ”Boogie Nights,” Anderson promised Julianne Moore a very different project. ”Paul said, ‘I’m going to write this thing, and I’m going to write it really fast and we’re going to shoot it really fast. We’re all going to get together and shoot it in 12 days, fast, fast fast!”’ says Moore. ”Then seven months later this huge script comes to my doorstep, and this was the quick thing we were working on.”

So how did that quickie project turn into a three-hour opus? Anderson realized that the success of ”Boogie Nights” gave him a unique opportunity to make the movie of his dreams without interference from pesky movie executives. ”Look, if you get a hit movie, and [the film production company] goes, ‘What do you want to do next?’ you go, F— it, I’m making a three-hour movie about everything I want to make a movie about, and it’s going to have Aimee Mann songs in it and here we go,” says the 29-year-old Anderson. ”You only get one opportunity in your life to really go, this is it. So call me greedy.”

And Anderson says he isn’t worried about how audiences may respond to the film. ”Is it presumptuous to make a three-hour movie? Maybe, but I’m not going to apologize for it,” he says. ”I have a feeling even though this movie comes out in December, it won’t truly make any money until January when everyone is sobering up and wondering, ‘Who did I have sex with the night before?’ and thinking, ‘I feel bad about it, so why don’t I see ”Magnolia”’?”

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