Paul Thomas Anderson Biography

Paul Thomas Anderson photo

Born: January 01, 1970

Born in Studio City, California, Paul Thomas Anderson grew up in the valley. His father Ernie Anderson was a well known voice actor (America's Funniest Home Videos, The Love Boat, etc.) and created the character Ghoulardi (which Anderson named his production company after) who was a B Movie/Horror film host in the early 60's and had a huge cult following in the Cleveland area.

School never appealed to Anderson and he was asked to leave in sixth grade because of fighting and bad grades. After Montclair College Prep High School, he spent two semesters as an English major at Emerson before dropping out, and then enrolled at New York University Film School but only attended for two days. He always wanted to be a filmmaker and watching movies was the only education he needed.

At 17, he made The Dirk Diggler Story, a short fictional documentary version of Boogie Nights. Shot on videotape, the film consisted of interviews with people about Dirk Diggler. He then began to work as a production assistant on various television movies, videos and game shows in Los Angeles and New York.

After working in a similar capacity for several small independent films, Anderson wrote the script for a short film entitled Cigarettes & Coffee and borrowed a camera to shoot the short film. Cigarettes & Coffee, starring Philip Baker Hall, premiered at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival in the Shorts Program II. From that short, he was able to develop a feature at the Sundance Institutes Filmmaker's Workshop.

The result was Hard Eight, starring Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson which was screened at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. The film was acclaimed for its complex performances and fascinating human psychology. Film Comment declared Anderson the most promising director of 1997.

Anderson's second film, Boogie Nights, fulfilled on that promise, garnering critical acclaim and three Academy Award nominations. Starring a cast including Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Philip Baker Hall and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the film followed an extended family of filmmakers struggling to revolutionize the adult entertainment industry. The film also received the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best New Filmmaker and Anderson garnered the PEN Center USA West Literary Award for Best Screenplay. Anderson was placed on the map as one of Hollywood's most innovative and talented young filmmakers.

After the success of Boogie Nights, Anderson was looking to do a smaller project that he could shoot in about 30 days. He was not exactly successful in that endeavor. Magnolia, released at the end of 1999, weighed in at slightly more than three hours and featured his usual trademark of using the same ensemble of actors he has used and reused in previous works, such as John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Baker Hall. The film weaved together nine story lines, each connected to the other, with its characters all shedding their secrets and looking for love, acceptance, redemption and forgiveness in their various lives. Tom Cruise and Jason Robards also appeared as an estranged son and dying father.

Magnolia was released to critical acclaim and garnered several awards, including three Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe for Cruise. Anderson's next big feature, 2007's There Will Be Blood, also earned three more Oscar nominations, including Best Achievement in Directing. He then took some time away from directing before coming out with his next project, The Master (2012) about a war vet who returns home and is lured in by a captivating cult leader.

For his work on the drama Phantom Thread (2018), Anderson received two 2018 Academy Award nominations: for Best Director and Best Motion Picture.

After taking a break from film to direct music videos, he wrote and directed the teen romance, Licorice Pizza (2021). Anderson was nominated for three Academy Awards for the film — in the Best Directing, Best Original Screenplay and Best Motion Picture categories.

Anderson married actress/comedian Maya Rudolph in 2001. They have three daughters and a son.


Licorice Pizza (2021)
Phantom Thread (2018)
Junun (2015)
Inherent Vice (2014)
The Master (2012)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Magnolia (1999)
Boogie Nights (1997)
Hard Eight (1997)
Coffee & Cigarettes (1993)
The Dirk Diggler Story (1988)

  Change Location