AT LACMA Fri 10.11.2013

Big, Bright, Shining Stars at Boogie Nights Live Read

Although set in 1977, Film Independent at LACMA’s one-and-only artist-in-residence Jason Reitman gave Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 Boogie Nights an added bit of relevance by noting to the Live Read’s film-loving, and filmmaking, audience that “the movie is about the end of cinema and the rise of digital”. All told through the story of aspiring and uniquely gifted adult actor Eddie Adams, ne Dirk Diggler. With one of the largest casts the Live Read series has featured (10 actors, roles listed below), including three veterans, there was much to keep the audience’s attention, including a piqued interest in the surprise actor cast in the lead role of Diggler, Twilight star Taylor Lautner. Reitman’s choice for Dirk Diggler in many ways mirrors that of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s, who originally cast Mark Wahlberg in the role; a young actor poised to prove that his acting chops were his true attention-grabbing asset.

A quick snapshot of Boogie Nights: seventeen-year old Eddie Adams is discovered by porn film mogul Jack Horner (read on the Bing stage by a perfectly amused Don Johnson) while bussing at a valley nightclub and enters the world of adult film as Dirk Diggler, surrounded by a colorful group of fellow entertainers and misfits. He begins as “a seventeen-year old piece of gold”, one with extreme ambition and a healthy ego among other things, and his rise to fame only gives way to his fall, which in the late 70s porn industry is naturally accessorized by drugs, feathered hair and the rise of videotape. Beneath the layers of action, the script as read opened up the storyline centered around Diggler’s search for parental figures in his life. Scenes read from the original script, missing from the finished cut of the film, developed Diggler’s longing for approval and show just how far he’s gone, regardless of how close you may believe Torrance is from the valley. Judy Greer showed her solid range by reading both the parts of Diggler’s verbally abusive mother and nurturing porn star Amber Waves. Her screaming match with Lautner’s Diggler caused a smattering of nervous giggles throughout the audience but upped the game for the entire cast.

Reitman compares the Live Read to a jazz ensemble performance—as the cast has never read through the script together, the audience gets to witness the actors feeding off each other, changing the momentum together, relying on one another to hit the necessary emotional and comedic beats. While Greer and Lautner’s familial moments created tension, Live Read favorite Nick Kroll gave the audience, and each actor that had a scene with him, an entertaining comfort. Groundlings alums and Oscar winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash each took on a series of characters of all backgrounds, including roles originated by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Don Cheadle, respectively, and equally matched Kroll’s comedic skills. Another Live Read favorite, Mae Whitman, got into the 70s mood by donning a suede fringe jacket for her turn as Rollergirl, bringing emotional depth and humorous bubblegum spirit in equal parts. Whitman was joined by her Parenthood co-star Jurnee Smollett whose turns as Jesse St. Vincent and Becky Barnett were short but memorable.

This first Live Read in season three was a great reminder of what we love about the series. A classic script, this one picked in part for it’s majestic depiction of Los Angeles in all its strikes-and-gutters glory, with a surprising cast—Lautner skeptics were won over with Diggler’s drug-fueled tirades and singing—creating a unique moment in film history. Live Reads are not captured for posterity, for several logistical reasons but, more importantly, because Reitman’s idea for the cinematic experience would be lost in the digital sphere. And despite digital benefits, we’re excited to have unique opportunities to experience filmmaking in the raw at Film Independent at LACMA. Here’s to five more Live Reads to come, and many more big, bright, shining stars on stage.

Live Read Cast of Boogie Nights, written by Paul Thomas Anderson

Taylor Lautner in the role of Dirk Diggler originated by Mark Wahlberg
Don Johnson in the role of Jack Horner originated by Don Johnson
Judy Greer in the role of Amber Waves originated by Julianne Moore
Jim Rash in the role of Buck Swope originated by Don Cheadle
Nat Faxon in the role of Scotty J. originated by Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jurnee Smollett in the role of Jessie St. Vincent originated by Melora Walter
Jarod Einsohn in the role of Todd Parker originated by Thomas Jane
Kevin Pollak in the role of The Colonel originated by Robert Ridgely
Mae Whitman in the role of Rollergirl originated by Heather Graham
Nick Kroll in the role of Maurice originated by Luis Guzman

By Jasmine Teran / Online Community Coordinator