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Joanna Newsom joins Paul Thomas Anderson’s Pynchon adaptation

In adaptation news I really thought we’d covered already, Paul Thomas Anderson – writer/director of The Master, There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights and, to this writer at least, the best American filmmaker of his generation – is currently at work on a big-screen version of Thomas Pynchon’s most recent novel, 2009’s Inherent Vice. (Strictly speaking, it’s Anderson’s second time adapting someone else’s work, although he kept so little of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! for There Will Be Blood that it almost seems misleading to call that film an adaptation.)

As if the prospect of Anderson adapting Pynchon weren’t exciting enough – the first time any work of Pynchon’s has been adapted for the cinema, incidentally – the director has been assembling a fairly jaw-dropping cast for the project: Joining Anderson’s Master lead Joaquin Phoenix as Pynchon’s protagonist, stoner detective Larry “Doc” Sportello, are Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Martin Short, Maya Rudolph, Jeannie Berlin, fellow Anderson regular Kevin J. O’Connor and, if persistent rumours are to be believed, Sean Penn. Now that cast has had another intriguing addition revealed: Widely adored singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom, making her own cinematic debut following cameo appearances in TV sketch show Portlandia and the video for MGMT’s “Kids”.

Anderson, of course, has a long, rewarding history of working with rock and pop musicians of various stripes: His epic third feature, Magnolia, was both inspired and soundtracked by the songs of Aimee Mann; Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood composed the scores of both There Will Be Blood and The Master; he has directed several music videos for ex-girlfriend Fiona Apple, most recently the staggering “Hot Knife”, which debuted last month; and his breakthrough, Boogie Nights, made a credible actor out of the leader of the Funky Bunch. Beyond all of that though, he is a man firmly in control of what he’s doing, and who undoubtedly sees something in Newsom beyond mere stunt-casting that is worth his while putting on screen. So yeah, get excited.

The film is currently shooting and will most likely be released at some point in 2014. All being well, we should also have a new Pynchon novel by then, The Bleeding Edge, which Penguin Press have promised for publication some time this year. Everything’s coming up Pynchon!

Inherent Vice, Joanna Newsom, Joaquin Phoenix, Paul Thomas Anderson, Thomas Pynchon

Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

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