Boogie Nights

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This article is about the 1997 film. For the Heatwave song, see Boogie Nights (song). For the UK stage musical, see Boogie Nights (musical).
Boogie Nights
Boogie nights ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by
Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
Music by Michael Penn
Cinematography Robert Elswit
Edited by Dylan Tichenor
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • October 10, 1997 (1997-10-10)
Running time
155 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[2]
Box office $43.1 million[2]

Boogie Nights is a 1997 American drama film written, produced and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It is set in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley and focuses on a young nightclub dishwasher, who becomes a popular star of pornographic films, chronicling his rise in the Golden Age of Porn of the 1970s through to his fall during the excesses of the '80s. The film is an expansion of Anderson's mockumentary short film The Dirk Diggler Story (1988).[3][4][5][6]

It stars Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy and Heather Graham. Robert Elswit served as cinematographer, Michael Penn composed the score and Dylan Tichenor edited the film. Leonardo DiCaprio was originally considered for the role of Eddie Adams, but was replaced by Wahlberg.

The film was released on October 10, 1997 and garnered critical acclaim. Many critics compared the film's style to the work of Robert Altman. It was also nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay for Anderson, Best Supporting Actress for Moore and Best Supporting Actor for Reynolds. The film's soundtrack also received acclaim.


In 1977, Eddie Adams is a high school dropout who lives with his stepfather and emotionally abusive alcoholic mother in Torrance, California. He works at the Reseda nightclub owned by Maurice Rodriguez, where he meets porn filmmaker Jack Horner, who auditions him by watching him have sex with Rollergirl, a porn starlet who always wears skates. After a heated argument with his mother about his girlfriend and sex life, Adams moves in with Horner at his San Fernando Valley home. Adams gives himself the screen name "Dirk Diggler", and becomes a star because of his good looks, youthful charisma and unusually large penis. His success allows him to buy a new house, an extensive wardrobe and a "competition orange" 1977 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. He and his friend, porn star Reed Rothchild, pitch and star in a series of successful action-themed porn films. Ostensibly, Dirk works and socializes with the others from the porn industry, and live carefree lifestyles in the late 70s disco era. However, that changes at a New Year's Eve party at Horner's house marking the year 1980, when assistant director Little Bill Thompson discovers his porn star wife having sex with another man, shoots them with a gun and kills himself.

Shortly afterward, Dirk and Reed begin using cocaine. Due to Dirk's habit, he finds it increasingly difficult to achieve an erection, falls into violent mood swings and becomes upset with Johnny Doe, as a new leading man that Jack recruited. In 1983, after having an argument with Jack who refuses to shoot the film's scene, Dirk is fired, and he and Reed leave to start their rock and roll career along with Scotty, a boom operator who is in love with Dirk. Jack previously rejected business overtures from Floyd Gondolli, a "theater" magnate in San Diego and San Francisco, who insists on cutting costs by shooting on videotape, because Jack believes that the videotapes will diminish the quality of his films. However, after his friend and financier Colonel James is imprisoned for child pornography, Jack begins working with Floyd, and subsequently becomes disillusioned with the lack of scripts and character development in the projects Gondolli expects him to churn out. One of these projects involves him and Rollergirl riding in a limousine, searching for random men for her to have sex with while a crew tapes it. When a man recognizes Rollergirl as a former high school student, he insults both her and Jack, who both respond furiously, beat up the young man and leaves him injured on the sidewalk as the video crew drive away, while the camera pans down the street to Dirk, who is working as a gay hustler.

Leading lady Amber Waves, who took Dirk under her wing when he joined Jack's stable of actors, finds herself in a custody battle with her former husband. The court determines that she is an unfit mother, due to her involvement in the porn industry, prior criminal record and cocaine addiction. Buck Swope marries fellow porn star Jessie St. Vincent, who shortly thereafter becomes pregnant. Because of his past, Buck is disqualified from the bank loan and cannot open his own stereo equipment store. That night after arriving at the donut shop, he finds himself in the middle of a holdup that the clerk, the robber and an armed customer are killed in the resulting shootout. Buck escapes with the money that the robber demanded. Having cocaine addiction, Dirk and Reed squandered their money on drugs, and are unable to pay a recording studio for demo tapes that they believe will enable them to become music stars. Desperate for money, Dirk resorts to prostitution, but he is assaulted and robbed by three men. Dirk, Reed and their friend Todd attempt to scam drug dealer Rahad Jackson by selling him a half-kilo of baking soda as fake cocaine. Dirk and Reed decide to leave before Rahad's bodyguard inspects the product, but Todd fails to steal money from Rahad who kills him in the ensuing gunfight. Mourning for Todd, Dirk reconciles with Jack.

In 1984, Buck and Jessie gives birth to their son, Amber shoots the television commercial for Buck's store opening, Reed practices a successful magic act at a topless bar, Colonel James remains in prison and Rollergirl returns to study high school. Dirk and Amber prepare to start filming again.



Boogie Nights is based on a mockumentary short film that Anderson made, while he was still in high school called The Dirk Diggler Story.[3] He originally wanted the role of Eddie to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio, after seeing him in The Basketball Diaries. DiCaprio enjoyed the screenplay, but had to turn it down because he signed on to star in Titanic. DiCaprio recommended Mark Wahlberg for the role.[7] Joaquin Phoenix was also offered the role of Eddie, but turned it down due to concerns about playing a porn star. Phoenix would later collaborate with Anderson in the films, The Master and Inherent Vice.[8] Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Warren Beatty, Albert Brooks and Sydney Pollack declined or were passed up on the role of Jack Horner, which went to Burt Reynolds.[9] After starring in Hard Eight, Samuel L. Jackson declined the role of Buck Swope, which went to Don Cheadle. Anderson initially did not consider Heather Graham for the role of Rollergirl, because he had never seen her do nudity in a film. However, Graham's agent called Anderson asking if she could read for the part, which she won. Drew Barrymore and Tatum O'Neal were also up for the role.[7][9]

After having a very difficult time getting his previous film, Hard Eight released, Anderson laid down a hard law when getting Boogie Nights made. He initially wanted the film to be over three hours long and be rated NC-17. The film's producers, particularly Michael De Luca, said that the film had to be either under three hours or rated R. Anderson fought with them, saying that the film would not have a mainstream appeal no matter what. They did not change their minds, and Anderson chose the R rating as a challenge. Despite this, the film was still twenty minutes shorter than promised.[7]

Boogie Nights helped establish Wahlberg as a film actor; he was previously only known as the frontman of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch

Real life pornographic actresses Nina Hartley and Veronica Hart made cameos in the film. Hartley plays Little Bill's promiscuous wife and Hart plays the judge for Amber Waves' child custody case. Amber's custodial problems in the film were inspired by Hart's real-life custodial problems over her son.[10]

Reynolds did not get along with Anderson while filming. Later, Anderson considered Reynolds to star in his next film, Magnolia, but Reynolds turned it down.[11] After seeing a rough cut of the film, Reynolds fired his agent for recommending it. Despite this, Reynolds won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.[12]

In his audio commentary on the New Line DVD release of the film, Anderson cites reporter Mike Sager’s article from Rolling Stone, “The Devil and John Holmes”, as a major influence.[13]


Reynolds received over ten accolades, including nominations for an Academy Award and Screen Actors Guild Award. In addition, he won the Golden Globe Award for his performance

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was shown at the New York Film Festival, before opening on two screens in the U.S. on October 10, 1997. It grossed $50,168 on its opening weekend. Three weeks later, it expanded to 907 theaters and grossed $4,681,934, ranking #4 for the week. It eventually earned $26,400,640 in the U.S. and $16,700,954 in foreign markets for a worldwide box office total of $43,101,594.[14]

The film currently has 92% positive reviews on film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with 60 of 65 counted reviews giving it a "fresh" rating and an average rating of 8.1 out of 10. The site's consensus states: "Grounded in strong characters, bold themes, and subtle storytelling, Boogie Nights is a groundbreaking film both for director P.T. Anderson and star Mark Wahlberg."[15] On Metacritic, the film holds an average score of 85 out of 100, based on 28 reviews.[16]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times said, "Everything about Boogie Nights is interestingly unexpected," although "the film's extravagant 2-hour 32-minute length amounts to a slight tactical mistake ... [it] has no trouble holding interest ... but the length promises larger ideas than the film finally delivers." She praised Burt Reynolds for "his best and most suavely funny performance in many years" and added, "The movie's special gift happens to be Mark Wahlberg, who gives a terrifically appealing performance."[17]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed, "Few films have been more matter-of-fact, even disenchanted, about sexuality. Adult films are a business here, not a dalliance or a pastime, and one of the charms of Boogie Nights is the way it shows the everyday backstage humdrum life of porno filmmaking ... The sweep and variety of the characters have brought the movie comparisons to Robert Altman's Nashville and The Player. There is also some of the same appeal as Pulp Fiction in scenes that balance precariously between comedy and violence ... Through all the characters and all the action, Anderson's screenplay centers on the human qualities of the players ... Boogie Nights has the quality of many great films, in that it always seems alive."[18]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle stated, "Boogie Nights is the first great film about the 1970s to come out since the '70s ... It gets all the details right, nailing down the styles and the music. More impressive, it captures the decade's distinct, decadent glamour ... [It] also succeeds at something very difficult: re-creating the ethos and mentality of an era ... Paul Thomas Anderson ... has pulled off a wonderful, sprawling, sophisticated film ... With Boogie Nights, we know we're not just watching episodes from disparate lives but a panorama of recent social history, rendered in bold, exuberant colors."[19]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called it "a startling film, but not for the obvious reasons. Yes, its decision to focus on the pornography business in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s and 1980s is nerviness itself, but more impressive is the film's sureness of touch, its ability to be empathetic, nonjudgmental and gently satirical, to understand what is going on beneath the surface of this raunchy Nashville-esque universe and to deftly relate it to our own ... Perhaps the most exciting thing about Boogie Nights is the ease with which writer-director Anderson ... spins out this complex web. A true storyteller, able to easily mix and match moods in a playful and audacious manner, he is a filmmaker definitely worth watching, both now and in the future."[dead link][20]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "[T]his chunk of movie dynamite is detonated by Mark Wahlberg ... who grabs a breakout role and runs with it ... Even when Boogie Nights flies off course as it tracks its bizarrely idealistic characters into the '80s ... you can sense the passionate commitment at the core of this hilarious and harrowing spectacle. For this, credit Paul Thomas Anderson ... who ... scores a personal triumph by finding glints of rude life in the ashes that remained after Watergate. For all the unbridled sex, what is significant, timely and, finally, hopeful about Boogie Nights is the way Anderson proves that a movie can be mercilessly honest and mercifully humane at the same time."[21]


Two Boogie Nights soundtracks were released, the first at the time of the film's initial release and the second the following year.

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film received box success with Reynolds' depiction of Jack Horner garnered him twelve awards and three nominations, and Moore's depiction of Amber Waves garnered her six awards and nominations.

Moore received nominations for an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance
Organization Category Nominee(s) Result
70th Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Burt Reynolds Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Julianne Moore Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated
55th Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Burt Reynolds Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Julianne Moore Nominated
51st British Academy Film Awards Best Actor in a Supporting Role Burt Reynolds Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated
4th Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, Luis Guzmán, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Thomas Jane, Ricky Jay, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore, Nicole Ari Parker, John C. Reilly, Burt Reynolds, Robert Ridgely, Mark Wahlberg and Melora Walters Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Burt Reynolds Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Julianne Moore Nominated
2nd Golden Satellite Awards Outstanding Motion Picture Ensemble Won
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Drama Burt Reynolds Won
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Drama Julianne Moore Won
Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Director of a Motion Picture Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated
Best Motion Picture Screenplay – Original Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Mark Wahlberg Nominated
Outstanding Film Editing Dylan Tichenor Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best New Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson Won
British Independent Film Awards Best Foreign Independent Film – English Language Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor Burt Reynolds Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards Best Cast Won
Best Supporting Actress Julianne Moore Won
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Supporting Actor Burt Reynolds Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor Won
Best Supporting Actress Julianne Moore Won
New Generation Award Paul Thomas Anderson Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actor Burt Reynolds Won
Best Supporting Actress Julianne Moore Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor Burt Reynolds Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BOOGIE NIGHTS (18)". British Board of Film Classification. October 28, 1997. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Box Office Mojo: Boogie Nights
  3. ^ a b McKenna, Kristine (October 12, 1997). "Knows It When He Sees It". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  4. ^ Waxman, Sharon R. (2005). Rebels on the backlot: six maverick directors and how they conquered the Hollywood studio system. HarperCollins. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-06-054017-3. 
  5. ^ Hirshberg, Lynn (December 19, 1999). "His Way". (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  6. ^ Mottram, James (2006). The Sundance Kids : how the mavericks took back Hollywood. NY: Faber & Faber, Inc. p. 129. ISBN 9780865479678. 
  7. ^ a b c Kirk, Jeremy. "37 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE ‘BOOGIE NIGHTS’ COMMENTARY". Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  8. ^ Brooks, Xan. "Joaquin Phoenix set to star in Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Zakarin, Jordan. "5 Things We Just Learned About 'Boogie Nights'". Retrieved 31 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "Boogie Nights Trivia". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  11. ^ Rowles, Dustin. "Paul Thomas Anderson Just Told the Most Amazing 'Boogie Nights' Story About Burt Reynolds". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Brew, Simon. "10 actors who turned against their own films". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  13. ^ Steven Lemons. "Return to Wonderland". Salon. Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  14. ^ "Box Office Mojo". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  15. ^ "Boogie Nights". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  16. ^ "Boogie Nights". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  17. ^ "''New York Times'' review". 1997-10-08. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  18. ^ "''Chicago Sun-Times'' review". October 17, 1997. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  19. ^ LaSalle, Mick (1997-10-17). "''San Francisco Chronicle'' review". Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  20. ^ Boucher, Geoff. "Los Angeles Times review". Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved 2011-06-25. 
  21. ^ "Rolling Stone review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 6, 2014.

External links[edit]