Is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Mysterious, Big-Budget New Leonardo DiCaprio Film an IMAX Thomas Pynchon Movie?

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Few filmmakers are able to balance Academy Award-contending projects with irreverent, esoteric comedy like Paul Thomas Anderson, and the 53-year-old director’s next project looks like it’ll perfectly toe the line between the two. Anderson’s new film is characteristically shrouded in secrecy, but the drips of confirmed details and the intriguing rumors make it easily one of the most fascinating movies on the horizon. Anderson is working with Hollywood veterans Leonardo DiCaprio, Regina Hall, and Sean Penn, alongside several gifted musicians-turned-actors (Teyana Taylor and Junglepussy), and a prominent newcomer in Chase Infiniti.

Though we haven’t had official confirmation, signs point to the movie being Anderson’s second dip into the Thoms Pynchon bibliography after Inherent Vice, this time tackling his sprawling 1990 novel Vineland. As with any Pynchon work it’s a vast, rich, occasionally befuddling book that explores a wide-range of ideas around 20th century America and hippie culture, topics that seem tailor-made for PTA. Anderson has said the film will shoot in California, Texas, and Mexico. In February, filming in Sacramento created controversy when the production had a homeless encampment moved in order to film in a park.

Below is everything GQ knows about the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson project, though much of the information out there is still rumors. One thing we know for sure, PTA’s next project won’t be his rumored 1970s jazz odyssey with Denzel Washington.

Who is starring in PTA’s next film?

Anderson has brought together eclectic ensembles to great effect in films like Magnolia and Inherent Vice, and the reported cast for his new project is diverse and fascinating. At the top of the marquee are newcomer Chase Ifiniti and Leonardo DiCaprio, the kind of box office powerhouse the director hasn’t really worked with since Tom Cruise. (Back in 2022, PTA put out a casting call for a “mixed ethnicity female American Junior high/freshman student who is physically athletic and excels at Martial Arts,” which is presumably Infiniti.) The always fantastic Regina Hall plays a key role, too, and seems like the perfect performer for the director’s blend of earnestness and askew humor. Other supporting roles will be played by Alana Haim, who made her film debut in Licorice Pizza, Academy Award winner Sean Penn, musical powerhouse and star of A Thousand and One Teyana Taylor, and critically acclaimed rapper Junglepussy.

The script was written by Anderson himself, and sees him reteaming with Licorice Pizza cinematographer Michael Bauman. (Those hoping for a reunion of Anderson and his longtime DP Robert Elswit, the man behind the look of Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, and Magnolia, should have stopped holding their breath long ago.) On the production side, Anderson is working with Licorice Pizza collaborators Adam Somner and Sara Murphy.

So…what’s it about?

We don’t know—but the prevailing rumor is that Anderson’s project will be based on Vineland, Thomas Pynchon’s fourth novel, published in 1990. The book is set in California during the Ronald Reagan administration, focusing on the fallout and continued exploits of a group of ‘60s hippies, led by Zoyd Wheeler, who The Guardian once said was “equal parts Homer Simpson and the Dude in The Big Lebowski.” The novel heavily utilizes flashbacks to show the lives of Zoyd, his former partner Frenesi, their teenage daughter Prairie, and a government agent named Brock Vond.

As World of Reel pointed out last month, Anderson has raved about the book on more than one occasion. “There’s a stack of books I haven’t read yet,” he told Indiewire's Eric Kohn in a 2014 Inherent Vice interview, “and yet I find myself constantly re-reading Vineland. It’s borderline pathological.” (Then again, he told Rolling Stone's David Fear around the same time that rumors he'd considered adapting Vineland before deciding to make Vice were exaggerated: “It’s just too intimidating. My brain’s not big enough.”)

Based on images of the shoot that have surfaced online, Vineland-theory partisans have inferred that DiCaprio is playing Zoyd, which would be a smart subversion of his usual clean-cut image, and would probably mean that Penn would portray Vond. Anderson is obviously an avid fan of Pynchon, having already adapted Inherent Vice, and employed shades of his novel V. in The Master. Vineland is another novel of his that’s widely considered to be “unfilmable.” (At this point, it feels like only a matter of time until we get Anderson’s Gravity’s Rainbow miniseries on Max.)

If the new film does turn out to be based on Pynchon’s novel, it may be a transformative adaptation—although Anderson’s Inherent Vice is about as faithful to the original text as a Pynchon movie could be, there’s only a cursory resemblance between There Will Be Blood and Oil!, the Upton Sinclair novel on which it’s supposedly based. The images we’ve seen from the shoot so far suggest a contemporary setting, news which led to some initial skepticism about whether the film actually was going to be Vineland. But the ideas of civil disobedience, aging radicals, and intergenerational tension in America are ones that can be pretty smoothly grafted onto any time period in the 20th or 21st century. Anderson hasn’t made a non-period movie since 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love, so it’s likely the movie will still be dated in some way, but it’d be fascinating to see the framework of Vineland applied to, say, the George W. Bush era.

Of course, all this is highly if not wildly speculative at this point. But there’s also this: On page 8 of Pynchon’s novel, Zoyd Wheeler says “You just called me, remember?” during a phone conversation, and in this fan video from the set, one of the few things we can clearly hear DiCaprio saying into the phone is “You called me.” It is in the humble opinion of this narrator that this is not just a matter of chance…

When will the movie be released?

Per IndieWire, the still-untitled film will be released in August 2025 by Warner Bros., and is even slated to screen in IMAX. Anderson has achieved mainstream commercial success before with There Will Be Blood and The Master, but this prime late summer premiere date and the employment of IMAX technology certainly points to it being a project on a different scale than his previous work. (Warner has dubbed the movie an “event film,” though that term has been so overused in the last decade it’s hard to put too much stock into it.) According to Variety, the movie has a $115 million budget, almost certainly the largest of Anderson’s career by a significant margin, and it’ll be fascinating to see how the director puts those resources to use.

Obviously, much of the knowledge we have around this PTA film, which has been cryptically referred to as BC Project, is unconfirmed, but all the drips and drops of information point to this being quintessential Anderson.

Originally Appeared on GQ