Who are the two inexperienced kids who shine in one of the best films of the year?

There was an inexplicable harmonic relationship between Paul Thomas Anderson and the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. In a way that the latter almost had a certain presence in most of the director’s films. It happened in “Boogie Nights” and in “Magnolia”, also in “Punch Drunk Love” and in “The Master”. A magical union that ended with Hoffman’s tragic death in 2014, but never broke the bond.

Seven years later Anderson returns with “Licorice Pizza”, exactly with Hoffman’s son Cooper in the lead role. The film, which opens in Portugal this Thursday, December 30th, appears to be heading for the title of one of the best of the year. At least to judge by the critics who have already seen the feature film and whom it was praised and reversed.

Not only has it received multiple award nominations – and is starting to wink at the Oscars – its two protagonists have also received Golden Globes nominations. Important note: Neither actor had any kind of film experience.

The quality of the interpretations of the youngsters on their absolute debut is also one of the strengths. But if we go beyond the Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim names, it’s not hard to see that the talent is more than justified.

“Licorice Pizza” travels to the simplest years of youth in 1973 when 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) dares to ask an older 25-year-old named Alana Kane (Alana Haim) out on a date. The narrative follows them as their relationship grows, pushes, dissolves, and rebuilds in a classic “growing up.”

Anderson had known Cooper for many years. He was a regular visitor to the recording sets, but that didn’t stop the director from demanding all the formalities of a casting. Hoffman’s son should win the role – and he did. “I knew Cooper had the heart and the soul. We weren’t sure if he could do that – you’re never sure if someone has that talent until you see it with your own eyes, ”Anderson reveals to the“ New Yorker ”.

The casting was progressing and none of the candidates worked on paper. “Maybe there was an ideal boy out there and I could find him,” the director thought before a name lit up like a lightbulb in a cartoon. Interestingly enough, the director used the opinion of Alana Haim and her sisters – we come to this story now – who pondered the suggestion and concluded, “Maybe [o Cooper] be a good idea. “

“You knew him because I knew him. I’m very close to him, even though I live in Los Angeles and he lives in New York, ”he says. “He came here, the sisters went with him and they were fascinated by him, like everyone else who knows him. He is an amazing personality, charming, sensitive, a unique person. “

Despite his apparent cinematic inexperience, Anderson had a different opinion. “Cooper has years of experience making home videos with me and my family. Usually it was action films in which he was the villain, beaten up by my son who heroically threw him off a cliff or shot him in the head, “he tells” Variety “.

“It is true that I have never acted professionally. I didn’t even write the role for him, but for a 15 or 16 year old kid. While I was writing, I never imagined it would be delivered to Cooper. I always thought he was going a more traditional route, ”he explains. “I’ve cast a lot of actors, but at that age they all seemed to be trained, with mannerism and super ambitious, which wasn’t that interesting to me.”

At 17, Cooper becomes an actor in his own right, despite carrying the legacy of Seymour Hoffman, the father who was one of the best of his generation, until he was found dead in a deadly cocktail of alcohol, medication, and drugs. Now it is the son who has the chance in his debut to surpass even established actors like Sean Penn or Bradley Cooper as a protagonist.

Much like his relationship with Cooper, Anderson has known Alana for many years. Alana, the youngest of three sisters, is a successful music artist, one third of the Haim band, consisting of her and her two sisters, Danielle and Este.

Like Cooper, he comes from a family of artists. The parents were also musicians and ran a cover band called Rockinhaim. The two oldest formed their first band, the Valli Girls, in 2005. In 2007 the youngest joined them and founded Haim, which has already released three albums.

The life of the sisters crossed in a strange way with that of the director. “A friend of ours was at a party and overheard Paul talking about these three girls from the Valley (from San Fernando). And Paul loves the area as much as we do. This friend of ours said to him: “Are you talking about the Haim? Take action my girls. ‘ Paul replied, “Yes, as Haim. Give them my email, ”Alana told Vanity Fair.

When they learned that Paul had emailed Thomas Thomas Anderson to contact them, they were surprised. “It took us five days to take heart, and halfway through we thought it might be for the prisoners. But we sent it and started talking. He invited us to dinner, we got to know the family. “

The bond solidified and, surprisingly, the eight-time Oscar-nominated director decided to help them direct not one, not two, but seven music videos, including short films and short documentaries about the band. The fascination for the sisters was great, but she exceeded the one he had for Alana. The figure from “Licorice Pizza” that was given to her was specially designed and written for her.

“I swear if you were in my place you would ask, how could you not choose her? I know her well, I knew Alana well and knew that she was competent because of her experience as an actress, “explains the director, emphasizing that, unlike Cooper, he didn’t need a casting for the other protagonists.

“I liked the music [das Haim], I contacted them and offered my services. We have a collaboration that goes beyond music, I love it as a family, ”he says. “The experience of making music videos with them helped me understand what kind of film I wanted to imagine ‘Licorice Pizza’. We ran through the streets of the valley with no money, no time, we had a team of five to ten people. It was the happiest days of filming, everything was so immediate. And they help a lot, feed me with their energy. And that was the energy I wanted to put into the script of the film. “

Alana was the ideal person. “This is a story that is specific to the San Fernando Valley and that matters in choosing. If you’ve got a story to tell in New York, hire Marisa Tomei. Alana looks like a girl from the valley, she talks like one, she is a girl from there. It has a ferocity, it is ambitious, it learns very quickly. I don’t know how many more requirements you can meet. “

Despite his 30 years of age, he plays a much younger character. Nothing can stop the success, according to the critics, who praised the performance of the two newcomers who are making the best possible debut. Not only do they steal airtime from stars like Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper, but they get their lead roles into the hands of one of the best, Paul Thomas Anderson. And to top it off, “Licorice Pizza” could even count as one of the films of the year. And who knows, you might come across a statuette or two along the way.

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