Alana Haim Would Relive Filming Licorice Pizza Every Day If She Could

Alana Haim Would Relive Filming Licorice Pizza Every Day If She Could

By Zack Witzel

Alana Haim hails from the San Fernando Valley. It’s her residence. So, sweating in the streets of 1973 California as twentysomething Alana Kane in Licorice Pizza, Paul Thomas Anderson’s naturalistic new film about the frenetic, ephemeral magic of youth? Completely normal.

“It’s fucking hot,” she tells MTV News. “And that’s how I grew up. You never wore makeup because it melted off your face. Each day you were running around attempting to find a pool.”

However she’s a musician, not an actor.

Haim, her musical group with her two older sisters, Danielle and Este, has been her full-time gig since at least 2012. They’ve released three albums, the latest of which, 2020’s Women in Music Pt. III, snagged two Grammy bids, including Album of the Year. They’ve toured the globe, and next year, their just-announced run will hit world-famous venues Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl.

Haim and Anderson had collaborated before, fashioning a visual language among corners of their own Los Angeles. “Valley kids habitually find Valley kids,” she says. And he noticed something arresting in the guitarist, so he did what anyone would do. He wrote a movie for her to lead.

And in that leading role, her first, her magnetism blazes — beguiling enough to secure major nominations, including a Golden Globe nod, as awards season gains steam.

She’s an actor now.

Licorice Pizza follows Alana Kane’s sprinting friendship with Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman, another onscreen rookie), two charismatic wanderers embracing each other’s wide-eyed chaos through sun-stained, Nixon-era California. It includes appearances from Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, Maya Rudolph, Tom Waits, and Benny Safdie — and even small turns from Haim’s sisters and parents.

On the eve of her 30th birthday, which she’d been feeling “kind of emo” about — “I don’t know anyone that doesn’t get emotional around their birthday,” she says — Haim discussed with MTV News about finding her new residence on a film set.

MTV News: First of all, congratulations on your Golden Globes and Critics Choice nominations.

Alana Haim: Thank you! Wild.

MTV News: With your musical group Haim, you’ve had some experience with major awards, even playing the Grammys last year. Where were any time whenever you noticed out you were nominated?

Haim: You know, I keep my phone on silent Whenever I sleep, and I woke up to maybe like 75 calls from my mother, and I thought someone had died. As soon as my siblings and I got nominated for a Grammy, the same thing happened. I got so several calls from my mom, thinking that somebody had died. However I woke up and I called her, and she was crying about Critics Choice, and it also was just — it hasn’t really hit me however. I don’t really know, although it’s mind-blowing.

MTV News: Paul Thomas Anderson allowed you a bit of creative freedom in your efficiency as Alana Kane. Can you touch on what sort of input you had in the development of the role?

Haim: I love making people laugh. While in some of the filming, I would have an idea, and Paul would get really excited and be like, “Don’t tell me, just do it.” It’s just so crazy because Paul is Paul, and for someone like Paul to be like, “Do what you’re thinking” — I didn’t expect him to be that way. Also, I’ve never acted before, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. Yet I would have those elements, plus a lot of the ideas got into the film. Each day I would wait for Paul to — if he put his hands up and cried with laughter, then I did my job for the day.

Courtesy of MGM Studios
MTV News: Licorice Pizza, as a name, is a callback to both an old Southern California record store from the 1970s and 80s and just the general vibe of the time period. Were there specific songs or artists who helped you capture Alana’s essence in the movie? What would she have been listening to soon after a long day taking high school kids’ photos or selling waterbeds?

Haim: Probably “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne. That was a big one. I listened to that each and daily on the set. I mean, not because I thought it was anything for Alana Kane. I just love that song. My parents were in their twenties in the early ’70s, and if I could have a magic resemble to be able to see something from the past, it could be my parents dancing. It’s a little more Boogie Nights than Licorice Pizza, although they would go to dance clubs. They would go to the disco. That was their thing. They knew all of the dances. They knew all of the songs. And I really lived that while in my whole life, so stepping into 1973 wasn’t so out of my depth. I had known so much about the ’70s, however certainly day-to-day I woke up listening to “Band of Gold.”

MTV News: There’s this key moment in the movie as soon as you’re acting face to face with Sean Penn, and later in the sequence Tom Waits enters. You’ve worked with legends before, from Taylor Swift to Charli XCX to Tame Impala to Rostam, although I’d imagine them more your contemporaries — what’s it like to sit across from people whose work you’ve been aware of most of your life and just be working as peers?

Haim: Um, crazy?! Insane. There was a lot of pinch-me moments while in this whole process. I still can’t believe it. Thank god there’s video evidence of everything that I did because I feel like if there wasn’t, I would probably in several years not even believe it myself. Imagine being at a table with Sean Penn along with Tom Waits, who isn't only a magnificent actor, yet the perfect musician of all time and best songwriter and just all-around astonishing guy. Although I was just, you know, riding the wave. That’s as weird California jargon as I can explain it. I was just really riding the wave of being like, “If I freak out and picture it also much, I probably will cry or pee my pants.”

MTV News: It’s evident what sort of joy you find in live performance; you’re often bouncing around onstage, feeding off and amping up the crowd’s energy. The energy on a film set is different, so I’m wondering how you got yourself into a headspace where you can deliver your efficiency, especially on what I’d think is a little set, made even smaller by COVID restrictions.

Haim: My mom says I came out of the womb with a smile on my face. And that’s just me. We were all sort of going through this with each other. Me and my siblings get to talk about this for the rest of our lives, and that’s so, so special to me. Really I think the efficiency that I gave was just because I was happy. Although Alana Kane screams and stomps her feet and tries to create her presence known with her family member, although she feels like she’s never being heard, and she’s the one individual in her family member that can’t get it with each other — which is so not me, I don’t think I’ve ever screamed at my father before filming that scene soon following the Shabbat. I don’t really scream at people because I love everybody around me. I just want everybody to be happy. I was happy each day, and wish I may do it a million times. I wish that was my Groundhog Day, filming this movie. Wish I might just relive it every day.

JMEnternational/JMEnternational for BRIT Awards/Getty Images
MTV News: It’s a film categorize kind of about family member, both blood-related and self-created, if you’ll pardon the rhyme. What would you mention are a few of the advantages of working with your family? 

Haim: I’ve habitually worked with my family member, so I’m very lucky that it wasn’t so out of my comfort zone. Having my dad act was a different experience. He’s never acted before. Although having him on set, I think the thing that felt wonderful was once we actually did sit down to do the Shabbat dinner scene, it really did feel like there were no cameras there. It just felt like we were actually having Shabbat. However it was fantastic having all of Paul’s kids in the movie, and Maya [Rudolph, Anderson’s partner]. And Cooper [Hoffman]’s mom was in the movie. So were his siblings. It really did feel like we were on a weird family member vacation back in time. I’m so lucky that I got to look around on set, and I pretty much knew 90 percent of the people there. Daily I was sad to leave set. I was like, “OK, if I go house, I’m gonna sleep, yet then I get to come residence — I get to go actually home the next morning.” I mean, it was fucking great.

MTV News: Haim just announced the One More Haim Tour for 2022, where you’ll be back on the road for the opening time since early 2020. What are you looking forward to about playing in front of thousands of people again?

Haim: When we made Women in Music Pt. III, we really did have the live show in mind. And this is our biggest tour that we’ve ever done. We’re playing shows that I never in my wildest dreams would ever think we would play. We’re playing Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl, which are venues once growing up you’re like, “There’s no way. Come on. There’s no way! You’re not gonna play those venues.” And we are! I feel like I mentioned “pinch-me moments” already, nevertheless talk about a pinch-me moment, being able to play MSG and play a record that we’re so incredibly delighted of. Just get me on the road!

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