Movie vs. Script: “Magnolia” – Strange things happen all the time

Time for another edition of Movie vs. Script! Now we will discuss another Paul Thomas Anderson film, his 1999 ensemble drama Magnolia. Magnolia has been a controversial work for the director since its release.  Although mostly acclaimed (If Rotten Tomatoes is anything to go by), it still was a polarizing film, particularly due to its legendary climax. The overall perception now seems to be that although it may be a great film in its own right, it seems to be one of Anderson’s least beloved “great” works. People don’t seem to pay it much attention in comparison to There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and Punch-Drunk Love.  Regardless, this is a very interesting film that only loses in comparison to Anderson’s other movies.  If you haven’t watched it, go ahead and check it out, especially as there are spoilers in this piece.

Magnolia Marcie

Now, the overall script sticks quite closely to the final film. But one of the most interesting parts of the script that Anderson got rid of in the final film is the subplot of “The Worm”, the man suspected of killing the man in Marcie’s closet. In the script, after Stanley runs away from the What Do Kids Now? studio, he goes to a café called The Lamplighter, and ends up with “The Worm” sitting a few feet away from him. They get to talking about their personal lives, and both realize they have abusive fathers. Worm tells him that at least his father doesn’t hit him, and seems to care for him despite his behavior. Later, Dixon, the little boy who raps to Officer Jim Kurring to give him clues about the case turns up, attempting to steal money from Stanley and reveals he’s Worm’s son. Worm reprimands him and the three of them get away just as the rain of frogs rages outside. The movie also reveals that the dead man in Marcie’s closet was no other than Worm’s father, and Marcie confesses to the crime, saying she did it to defend her son and grandson. In the end, Dixon himself throws the gun out the window after cleaning the fingerprints, implying that it was Worm himself who stole Jim Kurring’s gun.


magnolia dixon

It wouldn’t have been a huge addition to the film, and some people would accuse it of making what they could consider an overlong film of being longer, but it does help tie up a few loose ends in regards to the murder subplot, as well as the return of Jim Kurring’s gun at the end of the picture. The DVD and Blu-Ray have a great Making-of documentary entitled Magnolia Video Diary in which Anderson seems to be having a hard time figuring out how to direct the scene between Stanley, Dixon and Worm. He apologizes to his actors for not having worked it out earlier. Although no more explanation is given, Anderson probably cut these scenes from the movie because he wasn’t satisfied with his own direction. It’s unclear if they were actually shot.

Another deleted scene that’s in the script and can be found in Home Video releases is a part where T.J. Mackey tells an anecdote of his Seduce and Destroy technique and how he worked it out on a girl. It’s a good sequence in its own right, showing Mackey’s douchebaggery, but it does feel slightly gratuitous as it has no bearing on the rest of the story, and Mackey’s magnolia mackeycharacter is already more than crystal clear.

One fun tidbit is that as the rain of frogs is reaching it’s end, the action calls for an Aimee Mann cover of Kermit the Frog’s It’s not easy being green. Sadly, it seems like it was never recorded, and although Anderson probably (and wisely, maybe) decided against it in the final film due to tone or pacing, it would’ve been fun to watch that sequence as it had been written.


Sixteen years later, Magnolia remains a fascinating piece of work. Maybe it’s that the Newmarket book has the Shooting Screenplay, but it reads as a more carefully written script than a lot of Anderson’t other scripts. His descriptions are more detailed than usual, with a lot of camera and editing directions thrown in. It’s a good read, but Anderson’s sometimes writes dialogue that is either too naturalistic or too stylized. Yet in the movie, it sounds mostly spot-on. Anderson chose great actors and directed them perfectly. Regardless of how you may feel about the movie, there’s little doubt that it’s one of the most unforgettable movies ever made. Even if it doesn’t hold up in comparison to Anderson’s other films, it is at least, a minor classic.

You can get Magnolia on Blu-Ray or DVD here.

And you can get the Newmarket Shooting Script right here.

Oscar Moreno
Oscar Moreno
Mexican. Writer. Filmmaker. Lover of good laughs and good food.