11 Things You Never Knew About Boogie Nights

Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece is a film with a thousand stories behind it.

Jack Horner's house from Boogie Nights
Jack Horner's house Dirk Diggler Image New Line Cinema

Paul Thomas Anderson might rightly ranks among Hollywood’s biggest and best directors but that wasn’t always the case.

Back in 1997 he was just another filmmaker out to make an impression after earning rave reviews for his feature debut Hard Eight. All that would change with the arrival of Boogie Nights though, a movie that not only put Anderson on the map but showcased the dramatic talents of Mark Wahlberg, who had yet to truly convince as a star up until then.

Throw in the likes of Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Thomas Jane, Alfred Molina and Burt Reynolds and you have all the makings of a classic movie and one with more fascinating facts, stories and anecdotes than you can shake a 12-inch prosthetic penis at. Here are 11 of the best.


Paul Thomas Anderson Loved Porn

Director Paul Thomas Anderson grew up in the Valley and, as a teen, became familiar with the porn industry that was flourishing all around him. The result was his first short movie, made while he was in high school, entitled “The Dirk Diggler Story.” A mockumentary about the rise and fall of an adult film star, it would eventually be fleshed out further to become the movie we know as Boogie Nights.


Leonardo DiCaprio Could Have Been Dirk Diggler

Kate Winslet, James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Kate Winslet, James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio. The Titanic trio. Image Getty

DiCaprio was  Anderson’s first choice to play the role of Diggler but turned down the part to star in another major movie, James Cameron’s Titanic. He did do Anderson a solid though: recommending Basketball Diaries co-star Mark Wahlberg for the part. He still regrets not being able to do though. “My biggest regret is Boogie Nights,” he said in 2010. “I’m a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, but the first time I met him for that role I hadn’t really seen much of his previous work. Now I love that movie.”


Samuel L. Jackson Was Also Offered A Role

Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction
Image Picture Miramax Films

Anderson had just worked with Jackson on Hard Eight, the movie that helped him land the Boogie Nights gig in the first place and was eager to have the Pulp Fiction star on board for his adult movie odyssey. The part of Buck Swope, the porn star who dreams of leaving the industry and selling stereos for a living, was written with Jackson in mind. According to Anderson, Jackson’s immediate response to the script was “What the hell is this?” Followed by a polite refusal. Don Cheadle was brought in in his place in a role that provided the actor with a huge career boost.


Ron Jeremy Was A Consultant On The Movie

Ron Jeremy Image YouTube/Engadget

Ron Jeremy starred in well over 2,000 adult movies during his glittering career, so was the ideal person to consult on the movie. Anderson spent close to a year hanging out with Jeremy, who went on to appear in the movie, albeit briefly. “Nobody knew who Paul was or anything and Ronnie just, on good faith, immersed him in our business,” adult film actress Veronica Hart recalled. Ronnie even invited the cast onto the set of several movies. Burt Reynolds was the only one to refuse the invite.


Julianne Moore Was The Best Worst Actor

Boogie Night movies about porn
Boogie Nights Julianne Moore and Mark Wahlberg in the Paul Thomas Anderson classic. Image Picture New Line Cinema

Before filming on Boogie Nights began, Anderson brought the cast together to warn them that the challenge was to act badly during the film’s many porn scenes. To motivate some truly scene-chewing turns, he decided to create a contest where he would decide who was the best at acting badly. In the end Julianne Moore won the official contest though she arguably also won the award for best actor on set – Anderson only had to give her one bit of guidance during filming on the movie.


Dirk Diggler Was Clearly Based On John Holmes

John Homes attends Erotica Awards – Loaded
A-lister John Holmes’ life has become the subject of a number of Hollywood films. Image Photo Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though not a direct biopic, the story of Dirk Diggler does have lots of parallels with the real-life exploits of troubled adult star John Holmes. Holmes rose to fame through a series of Johnny Wadd movies, much like Dirk’s Brock Landers films. Holmes also had his own biographical documentary called Exhausted, which was the inspiration for the film Julianne Moore’s Amber makes about Dirk. The real-life Wonderland drug murder case also bears similarities to the situation Dirk finds himself in at the end of the film. Holmes passed away in 1988, aged 43, from complications caused by AIDS.


Burt Reynolds Hates The Movie And The Director

Reynolds, who played porn filmmaker Jack Horner, clashed with Anderson throughout the project and, to this day, has never watched Boogie Nights all the way through. “I think mostly because he [Anderson] was young and full of himself. Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done].” He went on to turn down a role in Magnolia stating “I’d done my picture with Paul Thomas Anderson, that was enough for me.” The pair used to engage in serious rows on set, with Reynolds of the opinion Anderson didn’t treat him with enough respect. They even allegedly came close to blows.


Paul Thomas Anderson Has A Porn Star Name Formula

Anderson once told NPR that he believes there is a magic formula to the perfect adult movie star name. “I think a good porn name has to have two Gs in it. It just—it just looks good and it sounds good for a good porn name. And you know, a K is pretty important, too.”


Alfred Molina Spent Three Days Listening To Jessie’s Girl And Sister Christian On Repeat


British actor Alfred Molina played crazed drug dealer Rahad Jackson in the film’s frenzied drug dealer heist finale, a role that required him to learn two songs off by heart – Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” – despite never having previously heard them before. Neither were particularly big hits in the UK either. “So I had to sit down for like three days on my own, playing those songs over and over and over so that I knew them backwards because they became so emblematic for the character,” he later revealed to Grantland. It worked.


Mark Wahlberg Still Has His Giant Prosthetic Penis

Max Payne
Max Payne Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis. Image Picture 20th Century Fox

As many as 12 versions of Diggler’s infamous enlarged appendage were created for the film’s final scene before Wahlberg settled on one version. He’s still got it, to this day too. “It’s actually the only prop that I’ve ever kept from a movie,” he revealed years later. “I didn’t think there would be that much interest in it. But maybe at some point I can sell it at auction for charity.”


All The Characters From Boogie Night Are Dead

Jack Horner's house from Boogie Nights
Jack Horner's house Dirk Diggler Image New Line Cinema

Once asked whether he would ever consider a sequel Anderson said no, adding “I wonder how many of these characters would even still be alive?” he pondered. “Probably a few of them, but I fear that most of them might be dead. I doubt Dirk Diggler’s still alive. He’d be probably gone. I couldn’t see him making it. I can see Burt Reynolds’ character Jack Horner still going on, though.”

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