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Boogie Nights is a Americanmarker drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Set in Southern California in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during the Golden Age of Porn, the screenplay focuses on a young nightclub dishwasher who becomes the popular star of pornographic films and finds himself slowly descending into a nightmare of drug abuse when his fame draws him into a crowd of users and abusers.

Although fictional, the film is based on a number of real porn actors and films from porn's "golden age" of the 1970s and early 1980s, and it features several cameos by real porn stars of the era. The character of Dirk Diggler is based on John Holmes.


Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) is a handsome high school dropout and male prostitute that lives with his father and alcoholic mother in Torrance, Californiamarker. He works at a suburban nightclub owned by Maurice Rodriguez (Luis Guzman) where he is discovered by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). He then gives himself the screen name of Dirk Diggler and becomes an instant star because of his extraordinary endowment and youthful charisma. His success allows him to purchase a new house, an extensive wardrobe, and his most prized possession: an orange Chevrolet Corvette. Dirk and his best friend/fellow porn star Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), who aspires to be a magician, star in a series of very successful porn/action films.

Assistant director Little Bill (William H. Macy) is married to a blonde porn star (Nina Hartley) who frequently engages in sexual behavior with other men. At a New Year's Eve party at Jack's house marking the year 1980, he shoots and kills her and her lover and then turns the gun on himself in front of the guests.

The film moves from one character to another, showing their attempts to make lives for themselves in the adult film industry and their failures when they leave it. Jack's porn empire flounders after his main source of funding, Colonel James (Robert Ridgely), is imprisoned for possession of child pornography. His new financier, Floyd Gondoli (Philip Baker Hall), insists on cutting costs by shooting on videotape, a format that Jack detests. He is also unhappy with the lack of scripts and character development in the projects Gondoli expects him to churn out as quickly as possible. He tries to revitalize his career by having Rollergirl (Heather Graham) ride with him in a limousine while they search for random strangers for her to have sex with in the back seat while a crew tapes it. When a man they choose insults Rollergirl and rudely tells Jack his movies aren't good anymore, Jack and Rollergirl attack him and leave him bleeding and half-conscious on the street.

Leading lady Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), who took Eddie under her wing when he joined Jack's stable of actors, finds herself in a nasty custody battle with her former husband (John Doe). The court determines she is an unfit mother due to her involvement in the porn industry, her prior criminal record and her addiction to cocaine. Buck Swope (Don Cheadle) marries fellow porn star Jessie St. Vincent (Melora Walters), who shortly thereafter becomes pregnant. After being denied a bank loan to open a store specializing in stereo equipment because of his porn past, Buck stops at a donut shop and finds himself in the middle of a holdup. The clerk, thief and a gun-wielding customer who tries to stop the robbery kill each other and Buck escapes with the money the thief had stuffed into a paper bag. He uses it to finance his store and becomes a successful businessman.

Now addicted to cocaine and methamphetamines, Dirk finds it increasingly difficult to achieve an erection and frequently falls into violent mood swings. He has a falling out with Jack during a film shoot, so he and Reed decide to pursue their dream of rock and roll stardom, a move supported by Scotty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a gay boom operator who, like Amber Waves, is in love with Dirk. However, they squander the money, leaving them unable to pay the recording studio for the demo tapes. Desperate for money, Dirk returns to prostitution, but he is assaulted and robbed by a gang of thugs in a homophobic assault. Dirk, Reed and their friend Todd (Thomas Jane) attempt to scam drug dealer Rahad Jackson (Alfred Molina) by selling him a half-kilo of baking soda disguised as cocaine for $5,000; the deal goes wrong, however, and Todd is killed in the ensuing gunfight. Frightened by his brush with death and weary of his wasteful existence, Dirk reconciles with Jack. The film ends with several characters living in Jack's house as their own version of a family.



Originally, the movie was to be titled Pushing 13, but Anderson eventually titled it after the Heatwave song "Boogie Nights".

The role of Maurice was initially considered by John Travolta and Matt Dillon. However, during pre-production, Anderson decided that the character should be played by a Hispanic, and Luis Guzmán was eventually cast.

Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Al Pacino were approached to play Jack Horner before Reynolds signed on to the project.

Patricia Arquette, Ellen Barkin, Bridget Fonda, Melanie Griffith, Heather Locklear, Virginia Madsen, Rene Russo, Meg Ryan, Brooke Shields, and Marisa Tomei were considered for the role of Amber Waves. Jennifer Jason Leigh was also considered for the role, but she didn't want to be typecast in roles as drug addicts or prostitutes. Moore eventually took the part. Graham was also considered for the role, but was ultimately offered the part of Roller Girl. Kate Beckinsale, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Uma Thurman and Renée Zellweger were also considered for the role of Roller Girl.

Before Wahlberg was cast as Dirk Diggler, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jason Lee were also considered.

Release and reception

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker 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.

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."

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."

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."

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 '80s 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."

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."


Two Boogie Nights soundtracks were released, the first at the time of the film's initial release and the second the following year. Although the two albums encompass nearly every major song featured in the film, they did not include "99 Luftballons" by Nena, "Lonely Boy" by Andrew Gold, "Fat Man" by Jethro Tull, "Sunny" by Boney M., and "The Sage," a cello piece by Chico Hamilton.

Awards and nominations


  1. Nina Hartley plays "Little Bill's" wife and Sarah Jane Hamilton plays the custody hearing judge
  3. New York Times review
  4. Chicago Sun-Times review
  5. San Francisco Chronicle review
  6. Los Angeles Times review
  7. Rolling Stone review

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