Alana Haim: How the 'Licorice Pizza' actress took on her first role How the first-time actress took on her role in the Academy Award nominee for Best Picture.

Alana Haim: 'Licorice Pizza' star and proud Valley girl

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"Licorice Pizza" was nominated for Best Picture Oscar this week. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson set his story in 1973 in California's San Fernando Valley. The coming-of-age romance stars Cooper Hoffman as a confident teen and Alana Haim as his older love interest.


COOPER HOFFMAN: (As Gary Valentine) I don't need you to tell me whether I'm cool or not, old lady.

ALANA HAIM: (As Alana Kane) What was that?

HOFFMAN: (As Gary Valentine) I said, m'lady.

A HAIM: (As Alana Kane) What was that then?

HOFFMAN: (As Gary Valentine) I said, m'lady - my lady. I don't need you to tell me whether I'm cool or not.

A HAIM: (As Alana Kane) You're not cool, and your breath smells.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Mandalit del Barco caught up with Alana Haim, who sings with her sisters in the rock band HAIM, about her first acting role.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: At the Valley Relics Museum located inside a hangar at the Van Nuys Airport, Alana Haim tests out some old pinball machines.


DEL BARCO: We're surrounded by vintage lit-up neon signs from diners, taco stands, bowling alleys, classic San Fernando Valley spots Haim remembers from growing up in the LA suburbs.

A HAIM: Oh my god. This place is - this is my childhood.

DEL BARCO: Haim reminisces with Tommy Gelinas, founder of the pop culture museum preserving the Valley's history.

A HAIM: And it needs to be preserved because it's the best place on Earth.


DEL BARCO: The gift shop sells T-shirts with old logos, including the one from the original Licorice Pizza, a well-known record store on Ventura Boulevard.

GELINAS: The Licorice Pizza was that mom-and-pop, super cool buyers. Everyone that worked there was really cool. They played all the vinyl. The turntable was by the cashier. They would have like a stack of Led Zeppelin albums.

DEL BARCO: That was in the 1970s, decades before Haim was born. The 30-year-old remembers going with her sisters, Danielle and Este to listen to CDs at Tower Records, shopping at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, late nights at Du-Pars Diner and special occasions at the Sportsman's Lodge.

A HAIM: Even though everyone told me that it was uncool to be from the valley, I loved it so much because we kind of felt like the misfits of LA. And I still love being from the valley. I love the valley so much, and it was really one of the things that my sisters and I and Paul connected with.

DEL BARCO: That would be director and writer Paul Thomas Anderson, who grew up in nearby Tarzana. He's known Alana Haim and her entire family for years. In fact, Haim's mother was his second-grade art teacher. Later, Anderson became a fan of HAIM, the rock band trio Alana has with her sisters.


HAIM: (Singing) I'm your summer girl. Du-du, du-du-du-du. Du-du-du-du, du-du-du-du-du (ph).

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON: I love, in my spare time, making music videos, particularly for artists that I enjoy. And I loved the way that they played. I loved seeing them play, so I offered my services.

DEL BARCO: Anderson shot nine HAIM music videos on location around LA, and he made "Licorice Pizza," his love letter to the Valley, with the youngest Haim sister in mind.


A HAIM: (As Alana Kane) I'm cooler than you. Don't forget it.

DEL BARCO: Alana Haim plays Alana Kane in the movie.

A HAIM: Alana Kane is a little unhinged. She's very snappy. She will rip your head off at a moment's notice, but she'll also protect the people that she loves.

ANDERSON: Only Alana could play this part. The movie doesn't exist without her. You know, the movie was written for her.

DEL BARCO: Anderson says he's always admired Haim's hardworking enthusiasm.

ANDERSON: She's beautiful. She's funny. She has great instincts as a performer. And she's willing to sort of pursue instincts that maybe could make her fall flat on her face, you know? And that equals fearlessness, right?

A HAIM: It was so mind-blowing that he even wanted to work with me and my siblings to begin with. So I think he kind of saw that like, you know, I'm kind of like this wild beast, that, like, I kind of - I'll take on any new adventures.

DEL BARCO: For the film, Haim learned to drive a big truck with stick shift.

A HAIM: I was like sweating. I was like, oh, my gosh, this is so intense.

DEL BARCO: In one scene, she's in the cab of the truck with co-stars Cooper Hoffman and Bradley Cooper, driving backwards down the hills of Tarzana.

A HAIM: Bradley Cooper definitely didn't know how bad of a driver I was. I mean, he was like shocked when I was driving. He was like, are you really driving this right now? I'm like, dude, I'm fully driving this car. But no, I killed it. I mean, I was so safe. I didn't crash once.

DEL BARCO: She says a stunt driver did pull one maneuver in the truck, but Haim is still shocked Anderson chose her and Cooper Hoffman, son of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, as his leads.

A HAIM: I mean, we both had never done this before, and there would be times where I'm like, are we making a movie? Like, this is crazy. Like, he was just supportive and made us feel like, yeah, no, you can do this.

DEL BARCO: Actually, "Licorice Pizza" was a whole Haim family affair. Alana's sisters, her mother and father play her fictional family in the movie.


MOTI HAIM: (As Moti Kane) Listen, young lady. You don't bring this idiot to Shabbat dinner here.

A HAIM: (As Alana Kane) Listen, Dad. He's an atheist and an actor, and he's famous.

M HAIM: (As Moti Kane) But he's Jewish.

A HAIM: (As Alana Kane) He was going to take me out of here. Este, don't you even look at me. Don't you even look at me. You're always looking at me. What are you doing?

ESTE HAIM: (As Este Kane) I didn't even say anything.

A HAIM: (As Alana Kane) What are you doing? What are you thinking, huh?

E HAIM: It was literally art imitating life, like a copy and paste to a day in the life of the Haim family with '70s garb and '70s hair.

DEL BARCO: Este and Danielle Haim say being in the film was a bit surreal and fun for the whole clan.

E HAIM: The craziest part, I think, was that Dad never got a script. So Paul just kind of let Dad run free, which was really fun to watch as...

DANIELLE HAIM: And funny...

E HAIM: Yeah.

D HAIM: It was really funny.

DEL BARCO: They say it was also a joy watching their fiery, precocious, Sagittarius younger sister acting with Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn, holding her own in her first movie.

E HAIM: Alana is just probably the coolest one out of all three of us.

DEL BARCO: Anderson says on the set for that family scene, the Haims' real-life dynamics came into play.

ANDERSON: We'd probably shot half of the movie, and Alana was really this independent being, separated from her sisters and her family that she's normally so close with. To suddenly step back into her family life I think was actually shocking. It doesn't matter that you're starring in a movie. You're the baby of the family, period. She was put right back in her place.

DEL BARCO: The Haim sisters clearly enjoy spending most of their days with each other. Alana says they began as a family band, Rockinhaim. Dad played drums and mom, guitar. They handed Alana a tambourine and timbales. Everyone sang.

A HAIM: It started when I was 4. It was like our family's weird version of camping, like getting, you know, getting close as a family.

DEL BARCO: Rockinhaim played covers for fun and for charity at the annual Saint Francis de Sales Fair and eventually at the Kibitz Room at Canters Deli. When she was 14, Alana and her sisters began writing and recording their own songs as HAIM. They got their big break in 2012, when a London DJ played their music on the radio.


HAIM: (Singing) I kept seeing it, seeing me, and how good we used to be, used to be, used to be, used to be, used to be.

DEL BARCO: HAIM has become a pop-rock darling, but Alana Haim still seems floored by their success. And now with the spotlight on "Licorice Pizza," she remains a proud Valley girl, an ambassador to the 818 area code.

A HAIM: I'm from the great-18 - the great-18. And now I'm playing the Hollywood Bowl. It's wild.

DEL BARCO: In May, HAIM headlines at the very concert arena the sisters once snuck in to see The Strokes and Tom Petty perform. But first, they'll be cheering for "Licorice Pizza" at the Oscars.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.


HAIM: (Singing) Forgiveness - is that all you want from me? I won't fall into the arms of the one who turned on me. It's getting too dark for me to see. So I'll keep flashing back to when we met. We were better then, better then, better then, better then. I held you. I didn't have to share it then. Better then, better then, better then, better then. Now my mind is...

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