When Paul Thomas Anderson first mentioned to Alana Haim that he wanted to put her in a movie, she assumed it would be as an extra walking through the frame, or something. And she thought that would be pretty great.
They'd gotten to know one another's families over the years. Anderson directed a few music videos for her and her sisters' band HAIM, and their mother also happened to be Anderson's favorite art teacher when he was a young kid. But the ask meant even more than that. As a San Fernando Valley girl, there was no better chronicler of her home turf than PTA. "Boogie Nights" was the movie that made the Valley cool, she said.
Then one night, Haim got an email with no subject and a word document attached. It was an untitled Paul Thomas Anderson script and the main character's name was Alana, a 20-something woman living in the Valley in the 1970s. He'd written it for her and wanted her to star. Her family would also appear.
"I obviously immediately said yes, and then I immediately went to sleep and thought to myself, 'What did I just get myself into?'" Haim laughed.
She had never even been in a film before.
But the 29-year-old needn't have worried: She is a natural movie star and has gotten near universal praise for her performance in "Licorice Pizza," opening in limited release Friday and in theaters everywhere on Christmas.
Haim spoke about the film, her costume and family. Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What was the first day on set like?
HAIM: The first day on set I can explain as pure chaos. The closest I'd ever gotten to a movie set was doing the backlot tour at Universal Studios. It was exactly how I pictured it in my brain. I think the one thing that was missing was just like a camel being taken through like those old timey movie sets. It felt like there were a million people on set and honestly felt like the world was spinning at 100 miles per hour. And then all of a sudden in a snap, it was just still and everyone had just miraculously disappeared. And then we heard "Action!" and Bradley Cooper walked out. That was the first time anyone had seen him as Jon Peters, including me and Cooper (Hoffman, her co-star). We had not had any contact with him before we started shooting. And that was day one. The first second of shooting was Bradley Cooper coming down the hallway and intimidating Cooper. It was insane. We were fully diving into the deep end for that.
Q: It's like a "Shallow" reference!
HAIM: Yeah, exactly, (singing) Sha-la-la-la.
Q: The '70s seem to loom large for a lot of L.A. kids. How did you get yourself in the mindset of the time?
HAIM: I've always been in awe of the '70s. That's when my mom was in her early 20s and I think if I could hold up a magic mirror and ask it for anything it would be "Can you show me my mom dancing in the 70s?" And it's no secret that me and my siblings in our band were heavily influenced by '70s music, so it felt like second nature to me. When you're on set and everything around you is period, it felt it just felt right and I felt like this was my era.
Q: Did you have any input on your costumes? Did you get to keep anything?
HAIM: I wish I kept my whole wardrobe. That's like my dream wardrobe. Alana Kane's wardrobe is just impeccable. I had a lot of say. I did my own hair and makeup for the whole movie, which is why there's a lot of acne everywhere because I don't know how to do my hair and makeup, but that's what it would be if I was a young woman in the early '70s and we wanted it to be very realistic. We wanted to show what real people look like. Even when I was growing up in the Valley, you couldn't wear makeup because you would sweat it off.
Q: What was it like acting with your family? Was your mom thrilled?
HAIM: She was so happy. I mean, what a full circle to teach Paul when he was 7 or 8 years old and then now be in one of his movies. I think she cried the whole day. And also my dad's hilarious. My dad's the funniest person I know and I'm my dad's biggest fan and the fact that now there is a camera to capture how funny he is is the best scenario for me. And all that was improv.
Q: Do you want to keep being in movies now, or, like just Paul's movies?
HAIM: Can you ask Paul this question? That's like my dream. And Paul is the dream and he feels like family. And he made me fall in love with this chapter of my life. It could have gone a completely different way. I was so nervous to do this movie, and he made me feel like I could accomplish anything. And that's how he's made me feel since the day that I met him, even doing music videos with him. I'm incredibly lucky that I have him on my team cheering me on and I'm very lucky to be on his team.