Boogie Nights, 20 Years Later
Paul Thomas Anderson declared himself a major presence in cinema with his second feature film, Boogie Nights, a seedy tale of the golden age of the porn industry in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Anderson earned an Oscar nomination for his work on the screenplay, which established many of the hallmarks of his work – use of the Los Angeles Valley as a setting; an exploration of greed and the corruption lurking in the souls of men; and an unflinching look at the influence of pornography, drugs, and money on the Hollywood and Los Angeles industry. He has a knack for writing and directing roles for actors that earn them accolades and a bigger platform. His Boogie Nights cast included a mix of established stars and up-and-coming actors. 20 years later, where are they now?
Luis Guzmán (Maurice TT Rodriguez)
Guzmán has worked steadily in film and television since the early 1980s. In Boogie Nights, he portrays Maurice Rodriguez, the owner of the seedy nightclub where Dirk Diggler, then Eddie Adams, is discovered as a bus boy. Guzmán has featured in films like the remake of The Taking of Pelham 123, Anger Management, and Keanu. However, his biggest impact has come on television, portraying Raoul “El Cid” Hernandez on Oz, Jose Rodriguez Gacha on the first season of Netflix’s Narcos, and currently portraying senior nurse Jesse Sallander on Code Black.
Burt Reynolds (Jack Horner)
Few actors are as associated with a single decade as Burt Reynolds is with the 1970s thanks to memorable turns in films like The Longest Yard and Smokey and the Bandit that captured the sensitive virility of the ideal 1970s man. Reynolds was reluctant to take on the role of Jack Horner, a porn magnate and director who discovers the young Dirk Diggler – the risk paid off though, earning him his only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He hasn’t slowed down at all in the years since, continuing a steady spate of film roles and returning to his television roots. He capitalized on nostalgia with roles in remakes of The Dukes of Hazzard and The Longest Yard. He’s guest starred on TV shows as varied as The X-Files, The King of Queens, and My Name is Earl, even playing himself in a voice cameo on FX’s Archer. He’s currently starring in an independent romantic comedy titled Miami Love Affair.
Julianne Moore (Amber Waves)
Moore had yet to earn her iconic status as one of this era’s greatest actresses when she portrayed Amber Waves, a leading lady porn star who is locked in a custody battle for her son and channels her maternal energy into Jack Horner’s new charges. Boogie Nights earned Moore her first Oscar nomination. Since then, she has gone on to become an awards darling in films like Far From Heaven, The Hours, The Kids are All Right, and her Oscar-winning turn as a woman dealing with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease in Still Alice. She’s taken on more comedic and offbeat roles in projects like Crazy, Stupid, Love and a recurring role on 30 Rock as Bostonian Nancy Donovan. Moore has also taken on blockbusters, portraying President Alma Coin in The Hunger Games franchise and appearing in the recent Kingsman sequel. She could be back in Oscar contention with her latest role in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, and she also has an untitled David O. Russell television series in the pipeline.
John C. Reilly (Reed Rothchild)
Reilly has long made a career towing the line between outrageous comedy and subtle dramatic work, but he began squarely in dramatic roles. He had already partnered with Paul Thomas Anderson on his directorial debut Hard Eight when he took on the role of porn star and best friend of Dirk Diggler, Reed Rothchild. He earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Roxie Hart’s hapless husband Amos in Chicago. His dramatic work has continued in films like The Lobster, The Aviator, and Gangs of New York. However, nowadays, he is largely more known for his work in over-the-top comedies alongside Will Ferrell in projects like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers. He also earned a younger generation of fans voicing the title character in Disney’s animated Wreck-it Ralph. Reilly has many projects coming up, including a sequel to Wreck-it Ralph, portraying Dr. Watson in another Sherlock Holmes adaptation alongside Will Ferrell’s Holmes, and possible Oscar bait as comedian Oliver Hardy in a Laurel and Hardy biopic.
Nicole Ari Parker (Becky Barnett)
Boogie Nights was only Nicole Ari Parker’s third feature film, in which she portrayed Becky Barnett – a porn star whose career ends when she gets happily married. Parker has continued to work steadily, portraying Denzel Washington’s wife Carol Boone in Remember the Titans and earning series regular roles on numerous television shows. In 2016, she appeared in the ensemble comedy Almost Christmas. In recent years, Parker has had regular roles on Revolution, Murder in the First, Rosewood, and Time fter Time.
Don Cheadle (Buck Swope)
Cheadle had begun to make a name for himself in a string of television roles when he portrayed Buck Swope, a porn actor who gets married and tries to change career paths and open a stereo equipment store. The actor earned a strong fan following when he played surgical resident Paul Nathan on the ninth season of ER. Since then, he has continued to alternate between prestigious Oscar bait and blockbuster franchises. He played Cockney munitions expert Basher Tarr in the Ocean’s films and continues to hold a place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, beginning with 2010’s Iron Man 2. In 2005, he earned an Oscar nomination for Hotel Rwanda and his portrayal of real-life figure Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed Tutsi refugees during the Rwandan genocide. He recently wrapped five seasons headlining Showtime’s House of Lies and will reprise his role as James Rhodes in Avengers: Infinity War.
Heather Graham (Rollergirl)
Heather Graham had already had a memorable run on Twin Peaks and in several films when Anderson cast her as “Rollergirl,” a high school age porn starlet who always wears rollerskates. Graham has often revisited variations of the sensitive, beautiful girl – for example, as Felicity Shagwell in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Jade the stripper in The Hangover. She’s also done a sizeable amount of television, portraying Dr. Molly Clock on Scrubs, doing a one season arc on Californication, and heading the sitcom Emily’s Reasons Why Not. Most recently, she’s been seen on Angie Tribeca and Flaked. She’s currently portraying Judalon Smyth, an unstable mistress who has a key role in the Menendez murder case on Law & Order True Crime.
Mark Wahlberg (Dirk Diggler/Eddie Adams)
Mark Wahlberg was struggling to transition into a career as a serious actor and away from his reputation as a singer headlining Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Portraying the rise and fall of porn star Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights put the young actor on the map as a force to be reckoned with. He’s continued to excel as an actor, earning praise for his turns in awards fodder like The Departed and The Fighter. He’s appeared in everything from comedies like Ted and Date Night to franchises like Planet of the Apes and Transformers. He even sent up his own image portraying an exaggerated version of himself on Entourage. While Wahlberg continues to act, he’s also become a major force as a producer, helping to ensure some of his acting work in films like Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day, and Lone Survivor made it to theaters and producing television shows like Boardwalk Empire and Ballers.
William H. Macy (Little Bill)
Macy was fresh off an Oscar nomination for Fargo when he was seen as assistant director and jealous husband “Little Bill” Thompson. He recurred as Dr. David Morgenstern for all 15 seasons of ER, as well as featuring on Aaron Sorkin’s shortlived Sports Night which also showcased his wife, Felicity Huffman. He paired with Anderson again on Magnolia and has appeared in a wide array of films from Jurassic Park III to Thank you for Smoking to The Lincoln Lawyer and Cake. He’s currently starring as alcoholic patriarch Frank Gallagher on Shameless, which will soon premiere its 8th season.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Scotty J.)
Hoffman scored a major breakout role as Scotty J., a boom operator who nurses an ill-concealed crush for Dirk Diggler. He went on to become one of the most celebrated actors of his generation, first with a series of unforgettable supporting roles in films like The Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous, and The Big Lebowski. In 2006, he won an Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote in Capote, the first of four career nominations (others were for Charlie Wilson’s War, Doubt, and The Master). He dedicated much of his career to intriguing and complex roles in lower budget films and awards bait, as well as spending a lot of time onstage in productions like an acclaimed revival of Death of a Salesman. He also portrayed secret rebel Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games franchise. Hoffman tragically died from a drug overdose in 2014.