Speculation surrounding what Paul Thomas Anderson’s next project is going to be like is usually intense enough in the film geek community, but when the guy starts making claims in interviews that his next film is going to be like a Cheech and Chong movie, well then people really start scratching their heads.
The project in question is called Inherent Vice, and it’s an adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel that the director has been said to have been working on for about as long as we’ve known he was going to make The Master. Pynchon’s book is set in ’60s-era Los Angeles and features a drug-soaked private investigator named Larry “Doc” Sportello as its protagonist. It’s a story that’s awash with music and cultural references from the era, and in a profile that The New York Times did on Anderson, he gave the publication a little bit of insight into what the process of adapting this rich tapestry of experience from the page to the screen has been like.
What’s most notable is that, unlike how we heard There Will Be Blood was an adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s book “Oil!” and then the two proved to only have loose connections, this time around Anderson is looking to do a fairly faithful adaptation of Pynchon’s work, so much so that he seems to have been working with the author, who is famously reclusive and not prone to accepting visitors. When asked to elaborate on the cooperation that’s gone on between the two parties, Anderson refused to go on record, saying, “I would get dangerously close to betraying trust.” Nevertheless, when describing his role as screenwriter, he goes on to explain that his duties are “more secretarial” and that, “the credit should be like ‘secretary to the author.’”
Don’t think this means we’ve got a handle on what exactly Anderson’s film is going to look like though. Despite the fact that he’ll be sticking closer to a source material this time around, he also explains that the process is, “…no less fun. In some ways it’s just what the doctor ordered right now for me: being more selfless.” And, in addition to just being a secretary who’s gathering Pynchon’s thoughts together, in usual Anderson fashion he’s also been pulling together other sources to help him get a better feel for the cultural milieu that the story is set in. According to Anderson, Gilbert Shelton’s underground comic strip ‘The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers’ has proven to be something of a “research bible.”
Whatever that means, it sounds like Inherent Vice is going to be a movie that’s no less packed with ideas and period-specific zeitgeist as There Will Be Blood and The Master were. It seems we can all look forward to another spirited round of debates regarding what, exactly, a Paul Thomas Anderson movie means, or if it even means anything at all. That should be fun. Those debates are always the best kind.