Alana Haim Discusses Her Breakout Role in Licorice Pizza
Alana Haim on the "Epic Adventure" of "Licorice Pizza," Now Oscar Nominated
We've seen over the last decade that Alana Haim can light up the stage as the youngest of the sister pop-rock trio HAIM. But did you know she can also light up the screen? Since the Valley-proud chick band burst onto the music scene in 2013, they have impressed everyone from Dave Grohl to Stevie Nicks and become close friends with Taylor Swift. It was only a matter of time before fellow Valley kid and eight-time Oscar-nominated director Paul Thomas Anderson also took notice and, out of pure fandom, directed several of HAIM's music videos, including "Night So Long" and "Right Now."
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that someone as talented as Anderson would see something in Alana Haim that she didn't see in herself and write an entire movie about her. This was news to Haim — and so began the wild ride she's been on since "Licorice Pizza" hit theaters in November 2021. So how does it feel for a local Valley-girl-musician-turned-actress?
"I've always loved the Valley, even though everyone thought that the Valley was uncool. I always thought the Valley was cool."
"A little bit like I'm in the twilight zone," Haim tells POPSUGAR. But what brought her back down to Earth is the fact that the film was literally filmed in the San Fernando Valley, aka her childhood neighborhood. "I've always loved the Valley, even though everyone thought that the Valley was uncool. I always thought the Valley was cool," she explains.
The Valley is a section of Los Angeles that is accessed by driving through a couple of canyons for a few miles. But if you live in LA and deal with traffic, it can be a hassle. And, in the 1970s, it was considered an "undesirable area" to reside in despite its great economic value, above-average public schools, and the iconic Ventura Boulevard. So for those who grew up in the Valley, it's a sacred place. Those few knew it was cool when it was uncool to think so. But the connection to "Licorice Pizza" goes deeper than LA geography. It goes back to grade school for Anderson because Mama Haim, formerly known as Miss Rose, was Anderson's art teacher.
Haim explains, "My mom was Paul's teacher before she had met my dad, so she was not Mrs. Haim, she was Miss Rose — my mom's maiden name is Rose, which is also so perfect for an art-teacher name. So growing up, my mom would always talk about how one of her favorite students was Paul Thomas Anderson . . . She would always say, 'I used to teach Paul.' And we would always be like, 'OK, sure, mom.'"
Haim continues, "Then, years later, our friend, who is in this band called Electric Gas, called us and was like, 'Hey, Paul Thomas Anderson is trying to get a hold of you' . . . And we wrote him an email saying, 'Oh my gosh, we're such big fans,' not mentioning my mom."
"I was just so surprised that I was even in this movie, and I loved being a part of it, so I had butterflies every day because I just wanted to do a good job."
Later, when first meeting Anderson, the Haim sisters arrived at Anderson's house with the plan to not mention their mother's connection. But the eldest Haim sister, Este, blurted it out, and Anderson's reaction is what Alana had feared for years. He replied, "Who is your mom?" And when they responded, "Miss Rose," Haim says "his eyes lit up . . . he went up into his son's room and he had this canvas, he has this painting that he had painted with my mom of this mountain in his son's room . . . And he was like, 'I loved your mom, your mom was one of my favorite teachers.' Then that started our friendship. He loved my mom, he loved us, he loved that we were Valley girls and that we loved the Valley as much as he did, and now years later, I'm in a movie of his."
Haim was not prepared for what he would ask of her next: to star in his next feature film, "Licorice Pizza." "I was nervous every single day, I had butterflies every single day on set," Haim says. "I was just so surprised that I was even in this movie, and I loved being a part of it, so I had butterflies every day because I just wanted to do a good job. That was really it. I just thought, 'I want to soak this experience up and just do a good job.'"
The Oscar-nominated film operates like a time capsule of 1970s Los Angeles and what it was like to be a young kid figuring it out, whatever that may be. However, to call this film a coming-of-age story is a bit too easy. It's more than that. It's a love letter to an era, a place, a family, and figuring out who you are no matter how much you try to avoid it. For Haim, that was perhaps the best part. In many ways, she got to go back in time to her childhood in the Valley.
Haim recalls, "On Balboa Boulevard, there's a gas station, and I would go to that gas station. Growing up, my best friend lived basically at that exit on the 101, so I'd go to that gas station every other day to get gas, and [Paul] shut it down and I remember showing up and there was all these '70s cars and they switched the billboard to be a Caymet billboard, and everyone was in '70s clothing and there were so many people." She continues, "I think we were all stoked to be in 1973 for the whole summer. It was wild. And I've been dressing in '70s clothing since basically birth, it's my era."
If you're a fan of Haim's band, you know the '70s really is their era. HAIM's style often incorporates the effortless chic of the '70s: long natural hair and high-waisted pants. So you would assume she would snag a wardrobe item or two from the set, right? But Haim, admittedly so nervous to be on her first film set, resisted. "I didn't get to take anything, which is so sad because I loved so much of my wardrobe during this movie," Haim says. "I was hoping that maybe by the end of it they'd be like, 'Pick at least one item,' and I didn't get to do it. But it was basically like everything I wore in high school."
Transporting back from '70s LA to modern day, Alana is now a bonafide multihyphenate, though the word makes her cringe. With multiple Grammy nominations, she's certainly earned the right to be called as much. But she'll be the last one to say so. "Oh no, I don't think I've earned the right to be a hyphenate. I still consider myself very much a musician, but I loved the experience and I loved acting and the fact that I have this; I mean, I have a little bit of 'the bug,'" she says. "I'm excited to go on tour because after this, we start the 'One More HAIM' tour . . . and then who knows what the future holds? But I really do think that Paul saw something in me, and I'm so happy that he did, because I'm a Sagittarius, so I love taking on new adventures, and this is the most epic adventure I've ever been a part of."