The Will Smith movie that made Paul Thomas Anderson cry his “eyes out”


Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson has produced many moments that have brought cinephiles to tears. Whilst he is celebrated for his breathtaking visuals, each of his films are complete with emotional substance, instilling the sensory delights of his movies with a tangible essence. Whether this be Magnolia, There Will Be Blood or Inherent Vice, it is not difficult to find profound excellence within his filmography.

Given that Anderson’s films are so imbued with emotional intelligence, there should be no surprise that the director himself has a tender side. In addition to this, Anderson also enjoys movies outside of the finest quality that cinema has to give. He revealed this when speaking to The Washington Post in 2012 to promote his new movie The Master. Notably, the psychological drama stars Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. It follows the story of Phoenix’s World War II veteran Freddie Quell, who struggles to adjust to post-war society. He meets Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a cult-like religious movement, The Cause. Dodd is gradually accepted into the movement and travels with the Dodd family to spread his teachings.

In The Washington Post discussion, it is recorded that one aspect of the fictional movement The Cause that Anderson was particularly fascinated with was the idea of past lives and time travel. He considers this a poignant trope for the bittersweet impulses that animated the inner workings of Americans in the post-war period.

“Investigating another time when you might have lived is just inherently so hopeful and so optimistic and so sweet to me,” he said. “You see it in all the things coming out of that time, whether it was music and the songs of that period — everything was about ‘seeing you again’ or ‘I’ll find you someday’. You’re talking about finding ways to go back in time and to pick up some lost piece — and that stuff is just food and drink to me.”

Then, he revealed the name of a time-travel movie that brought him to tears. It wasn’t Back to the Future or Time Bandits, but that year’s Men in Black 3. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by Etan Cohen – not Ethan Coen – in the movie, Will Smith’s James Darrell Edwards II/Agent J has to travel back in time to prevent the assassination of his partner Kevin Brown/Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones. As is standard for the series, the fallout of the murder would threaten Earth’s safety.

It transpires that the third Men in Black made such an impact on Anderson that it made him cry his “eyes out” in a somewhat surprising twist. “Did you see ‘Men In Black III’?” he said. “It was [expletive] great. . . . The time-travel stuff [made me] cry my eyes out. I’m a sucker for that stuff.”

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