With his 1997 film Boogie Nights, then-27-year-old director Paul Thomas Anderson took his place on the list of Hollywood wunderkinds. A brash, ensemble-driven epic made as a tribute to the Los Angeles porn industry of the 1970s, the film was both an exploration of the industry and the '70s version of the American dream. Combining sharp humor, indelible poignancy, and painstaking detail, Boogie Nights was hailed by one critic as the first great film about the '70s to come out since the '70s. The wide acclaim surrounding it -- as well as Anderson's Best Screenplay Oscar nomination -- put Anderson at the forefront of young American filmmakers, establishing him as one of the most exciting talents to come along in years.
The son of voice actor Ernie Anderson, he was born in Studio City, California, on January 1, 1970. Growing up in the Valley, where the porn industry thrived during the '70s, Anderson became obsessed with porn movies at a young age. He had a greater fascination with the medium than he did with school; by all accounts a poor student, he was kicked out of the sixth grade for bad behavior. Always interested in becoming a filmmaker, Anderson made his first movie in high school, a 30-minute mockumentary entitled Dirk Diggler. Inspired by an article he had read on porn star John Holmes, Anderson's short -- about a porn star and his 13-inch penis -- would later become the inspiration for Boogie Nights.