Actor John C. Reilly reveals what it’s like working with his frequent cinematic collaborator, the acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson.
Much-loved character actor John C. Reilly comments on his frequent roles in director Paul Thomas Anderson‘s films. Reilly’s acting career first began in 1989 with his debut film role in Casualties of War. He gained further exposure with roles in Days of Thunder (1990), and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). Most recently, Reilly turned to television to play Lakers owner Jerry Buss on the HBO series Winning Time.
The start of Anderson and Reilly’s collaborative relationship began with Reilly’s appearance in the film Hard Eight in 1996, which was also Anderson’s debut as a feature film director. Quickly following in Hard Eight‘s footsteps were the hilarious Boogie Nights in 1997 and psychological thriller Magnolia in 1999, all of which featured Reilly and received critical acclaim, with particular praise noted for Reilly’s performances. Both Reilly and Anderson’s careers have grown exponentially since the release of these now-classic films, yet those collaborations remain some of the most beloved of both of their respective works.
In an interview with Vulture, Reilly reveals exactly why he loves being in Anderson’s films so much. He sings Anderson’s praises and notes the emotional connection and enthusiasm the director shares with his actors and their performances. Check out Reilly’s reverent comments on working with Anderson below:
I can tell you what it’s like to work with Paul. He’s someone who’s so excited to see what you’re going to do next. That sounds like an obvious thing, but having one person’s complete attention while you’re acting is important. You would be amazed at the number of film sets where the director is looking at the monitor or worried about what the lighting or camera is doing. Where there’s no one emotionally connected with you to come up after the take and say, like Paul does, all sweating and excited, “Oh yeah, that was so cool. I saw that time you got a little more pissed off when you said that thing. Let’s keep going that way. That’s so great. Yes, yes, yes.” Martin Scorsese is the same way: He hires great people, and he lets them surprise him. I haven’t worked with many mediocre directors, but if I were to describe someone that way, it would be because they weren’t paying attention.
Over the course of his impressive career, Reilly has worked with a number of directors. This means his high praise of Anderson is notable and says a lot about their partnership. Based on Reilly’s comments, it sounds like there is a lot that sets Anderson apart when it comes to other directors. His attention to actors’ performances is commendable, and as seen through movies like There Will be Blood and The Master, Anderson truly knows how to pull excellent work out of actors. Many performances from Anderson’s films have been recognized by critics and awards bodies over the years, further highlighting the director’s ease with actors. It is no wonder, then, that Reilly enjoys working with him so much.
Anderson’s and Reilly’s fame emerged through their work together, and their collaborations are still celebrated as much as their impressive careers outside of them. Even as they grow, though, the two find ways to work together. Recently, Reilly appeared in Anderson’s hugely successful coming-of-age comedy Licorice Pizza in 2021 with an uncredited cameo appearance. The cameo is a quick but notable reference that many cinephiles doubtless clocked instantly in their viewing of the film; Reilly’s small role as Munsters star Fred Gwynne cheekily winks at the audience in reference to the long and celebrated history between the actor and Anderson, and it hopefully also suggests future collaborations. Reilly’s next role, however, will be in Claire Denis’ upcoming romantic thriller film The Stars at Noon, in which he will be co-starring alongside Joe Alwyn and Margaret Qualley.
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