Cigarettes & Coffee

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Cigarettes & Coffee
Cigarettes and Coffee.jpg
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by Patrick Hoelck
Wendy Weidman
Kirk Baltz
Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Philip Baker Hall
Kirk Baltz
Miguel Ferrer
Cinematography Vincent J. Baldino
Edited by Barbara Tulliver
Distributed by Hex Films
Release date
  • 1993 (1993)
Running time
24 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20,000

Cigarettes & Coffee is a 1993 short film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson starring Philip Baker Hall. It tells the story of five people's lives all connected through a $20 bill. The film helped launch the career of Anderson and was used as a basis for his first feature film Hard Eight (1996).


An older man (Hall) is sitting at a table with a younger man (Kirk Baltz) at a diner discussing a matter over cigarettes and coffee. A newly wed couple sits at the table next to them discussing how the wife lost all their money gambling on craps. Another man, Bill (Miguel Ferrer), is outside of the diner making a phone call but the matter being discussed is unclear.

The younger man tells his story which the older man asks to hear again for further clarification. The younger man tells how he steps outside when he is losing at gambling and takes a bill out of his pocket and writes his name across the back for a good luck charm and uses on his next bet. However, he never makes it back into the casino as he runs into his friend Steve who he lets borrow the $20 bill.

The husband hands the waitress a $20 bill and talks about how once the money is gone it can't come back and how the world isn't perfect. Bill is still outside on the phone discussing the matter.

The young man continues the story and states that he headed back to the room where he was supposed to be meeting his wife, Steve, and Steve's wife but only his wife was there. He then saw the $20 bill with his name on it and his head started fill up with terrible thoughts. He took the $20 bill and won almost $8,000 gambling with it.

The husband recounts his marriage proposal and lights his last cigarette. Bill gets off the phone, goes inside, and orders coffee and cigarettes which he pays for with a $20 bill.

The younger man then confesses that he wants to kill Steve and his wife and that his friend knows a guy who is in the "business", but that he wants to take back that he paid to have them killed. The older man gets the change back and notices a name--"Douglas Walker"--written on the back of a $20 bill and drops it onto the floor.

Bill goes back outside to his car and opens the trunk which has Steve inside. The couple gets up to leave and the woman grabs the $20 bill off of the floor. The older man says to the younger man that drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette will make everything right. They both notice the couple outside kissing before they get into the car.

Bill drives off down the desert road.



While Anderson was working as a production assistant on a PBS movie, Anderson met Philip Baker Hall and informed him about a short script he had written that he thought had a good part for Hall.[1][2] Hall read the script and was impressed by the writing calling it "dazzling".[1]

The film was made for $20,000[3] financed with money Anderson had won gambling, his girlfriend's credit card, $10,000 his dad set aside for college,[4] and various other donations.[1] Anderson’s friend, Shane Conrad, had connections at Panavision and was able to borrow a Panavision camera for one week-end (which would normally cost $6,000).[1][2] Anderson hired a professional cinematographer, rented a Fisher camera dolly, and used his network to cast professional actors Miguel Ferrer, Scott Coffey, and Kirk Baltz.[1] Producer Wendy Weidman rented a cheap diner in the Gorman Pass for the shoot.[1]

When the film began shooting things were "chaotic" since the crew hadn't worked together before, there wasn't a strong producer or cinematographer, and Anderson still had a lot to learn.[1] The loan of the camera was extended from one week-end to six weeks and the cinematographer was replaced.[1] However, Anderson had a clear vision for his characters and scenes and didn't do a lot of takes.[1]


The film became a sensation on the short film festival circuit[2] and was accepted to the 1993 Sundance Festival Shorts Program.[5] After it was screened at the program, Anderson was invited to the 1994 Sundance film-makers' laboratory to develop a feature film.[3] Anderson expanded the principal idea of the short into his first feature film Hard Eight (1996).[2][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Richardson, John H. (September 22, 2008). "The Secret History of Paul Thomas Anderson". Hearst Communications, Inc. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d Mottram, James (2006). The Sundance Kids : how the mavericks took back Hollywood. NY: Faber & Faber, Inc. p. 129. ISBN 9780865479678. 
  3. ^ a b McKenna, Kristine (October 12, 1997). "Knows It When He Sees It". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 19, 1997). "Director's talent makes 'Boogie' fever infectious". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  5. ^ a b Waxman, Sharon R. (2005). Rebels on the backlot: six maverick directors and how they conquered the Hollywood studio system. HarperCollins. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-06-054017-3. 

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