It's hardly surprising that after two epic, ensemble-led movies ("Boogie Nights" "Magnolia"), LA-born director Paul Thomas Anderson felt like something frothier.
Hence "Punch-Drunk Love", a 90-minute romantic comedy (of sorts) which stars Adam Sandler as a lonely, pudding-collecting salesman who suddenly finds himself falling in love...
At what point did Adam Sandler's name come into your mind while you were writing the script? His character, Barry Egan, is similar to a lot of his previous roles, being a goofy character prone to bursts of aggression...
Well, I loved it when he did that in his movies, and I wanted him to do that in mine. So I wasn't writing the script and then thought of Adam. I actually wanted to write a movie for Adam. Something I thought he would have fun doing.
"Punch-Drunk Love" reveals that Sandler really can act. How did you notice he had that potential when few others did?
I think I was just paying attention. It's weird, because part of me wants to be mad that there are those kind of questions, but I can see that other people refer to his movies a different way than I do. I really love them, and they shouldn't be so easily dismissed.
Did you always have Emily Watson in mind to play the love interest, Lena?
Yeah, I did. I put her picture up together with Adam's, and I thought they looked so handsome together. She was nervous to meet him, though, and he was nervous to meet her. But when they met each other, it was all fine.
After "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia", you've been praised on both sides of the Atlantic as a wunderkind. Does that put pressure on you, especially when making an undeniably lighter movie like this?
That's all just silliness, you can't pay too much attention to it. It's not that you disrespect it or anything, but if somebody writes something about you in the paper, they say this, they say that, and if it affects the work, that's no good. You just gotta keep doing your job, and you just gotta keep your head down. Otherwise it'll head**** you so fast, you won't know where you are.
"Punch-Drunk Love" opens in UK cinemas on Friday 7th February 2003.