While on the set of her first-ever feature film, Alana Haim (of the Grammy-nominated band Haim) quickly learned a key difference between music and making a movie: the luxury of getting to do another take. 

“[W]hen you play live, you get one shot. And if you f–k up, it’s on you. [laughs] You gotta move on, you gotta keep it going, keep it moving. And there’s always another show to fix what you did wrong,” explained Haim during our recent interview in San Francisco. “With a movie, you get many takes. [laughs] You have many chances.”

Haim is making her acting debut in Oscar-nominated writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s ninth feature film,  Licorice Pizza. She appears onscreen alongside another newcomer, Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film also features Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper, Tom Waits, and Benny Safdie. 

Image courtesy of MGM.

During a recent conference call, Anderson touched on what it meant to be the director behind the two debut performances from his lead actors.

“There’s something [laughs] really exciting about it. Listen, I know what it’s like as an audience member, and you see somebody on the screen that you’ve never seen before, or maybe they did one thing and they come on and they do something really glorious and larger. It’s a thrilling feeling,” shared Anderson. “So, imagine that as the director of the movie. I kind of had built the whole thing on this premise that they could do it and, and they did it. It gives you proud papa feelings, you know?”

Licorice Pizza tells the coming-of-age story of two people who suddenly find their lives platonically intertwined; one copes with the ups and downs of first love, and the other hesitates with crossing the threshold to adulthood. 

Set in the San Fernando Valley in 1973, Gary Valentine (Hoffman), a confident high schooler with an entrepreneurial streak, crosses paths with a meandering young woman, Alana Kane (Haim), during his school picture day. Immediately struck, Gary wastes no time trying to woo Alana, but ultimately, the two strike up an unlikely friendship. 

“This is an interesting dynamic and actually creates a lot of good dramatic and comedic possibilities,” said Anderson about his characters. “It’s a nice relationship. The idea that two people can’t be together instantly creates a dilemma. This is a very traditional formula for 1930s romantic comedies, which really stand the test of time to me, and it allows you to do sort of endless comedic situations for them to be in.”  

After opening in limited release last month, Licorice Pizza—lauded by the National Board of Review as the best film of 2021—is running into theaters nationwide this weekend. 

Read the full feature on ArtUNews.com.

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