Paul Thomas Anderson is at that level of filmmaker where people are curious whenever he makes a movie, but his box office never really reflects that, mainly because he makes movies that do not deliver an experience the audience expects.
PTA is now back at work, expected to start shooting a new film in California this month. Leonardo DiCaprio, Sean Penn, and Regina Hall are starring in what is described as a “contemporary ensemble” piece. You know the last time PTA made a contemporary film? Punch Drunk Love in 2002. The last time he did an ensemble was Magnolia in 1999—still his best movie. So a contemporary ensemble film from PTA? Starring Regina Hall? YES, PLEASE. (Consider this your semi-annual reminder to watch Support The Girls.)
And yes, of course, Leo D, who was supposed to star in Boogie Nights but dropped out to make Titanic instead. And Sean Penn had a glorified cameo in Licorice Pizza, so in a way their casting is potential fulfilled. But Regina Hall is the main interest for me, she is so good in everything and while I feel like everyone acknowledges that, I also feel like we don’t give Regina her flowers often enough. She is so good! In EVERYTHING!
Apparently, the budget for PTA’s new film is inching toward $100 million, which is sort of shocking given that his usual budget range is $20-40 million. You know what he can do with that? Make Phantom Thread and There Will Be Blood, that’s what. Those movies fall into the $25-35 million range, and they both look like films that cost three times as much. On the one hand, curious to see what PTA can do with, say $90 million, but on the other hand, why even give him that much? How many movies this year shot themselves in the foot, box office-wise, because of bloated budgets? Leo’s latest, Killers of the Flower Moon, is one such, only making $156 million against a $200 million budget.
Warner Bros. Discovery is producing PTA’s new film, and they’re supposedly hoping Leo will help boost the box office, which isn’t unreasonable. The Revenant made over $530 million, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood made over $370 million (against a $95 million budget), Leo is a draw…usually. He didn’t really help Killers, in the same way Joaquin Phoenix didn’t help Napoleon, so it feels like even the “sure thing” box office draws we’ve taken for granted for decades might not be as reliable in the 2020s as they have been previously. Which is my way of saying—there’s no guarantee a $100 million PTA gamble pays off, even with Leonardo DiCaprio’s help.