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Where You've See The Cast Of Licorice Pizza Before

Set in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley in 1973, Paul Thomas Anderson's 9th feature film, "Licorice Pizza," is a freewheeling, nostalgic masterpiece that perfectly captures the chaotic joys of growing up and falling in love. The critically-adored comedy unfolds in a series of vignettes chronicling the shenanigans of charismatic teenage actor and burgeoning entrepreneur Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman).

When Gary meets photographer's assistant Alana Kaine (Alana Haim) at his high school's picture day, they share an immediate spark that grows into a complex relationship with boundaries as hazy as the film's dreamy, sun-faded cinematography. Alana becomes Gary's business partner selling waterbeds, and the two cross paths with a motley crew of celebrities, politicians, and a host of other characters from the fringes of Hollywood — some fictional, others based on real-life people, or somewhere in between.

The eclectic cast of "Licorice Pizza" is a curious mix of established actors and rookies delivering their first big screen turns. This stark contrast in experience is central to the best picture Oscar nominee's shaggy charm, imbuing Hoffman and Haim's lead performances with wide-eyed wonder as they go toe-to-toe and hold their own opposite veterans in the supporting cast. Chances are that you've likely seen most of the "Licorice Pizza" cast somewhere before. Here's where.

Alana Haim (Alana Kane)

Alana Kane (Alana Haim) is 25 years old, working a dead-end job as an assistant to a handsy children's photographer. She feels like life is starting to pass her by when she meets Gary at picture day. She is flattered by his obvious affection toward her, but she is more taken by his drive, eventually hitching her wagon to his ambition by joining his waterbed company as a business partner. Throughout their odyssey of adventures, Alana plays many roles to Gary, from chaperone and colleague to closest confidant, occasionally toeing the line between a friendship and something more.

As the restless, acerbic, and short-fused Alana Kaine, Haim is a revelation. Her tour de force performance is made even more impressive by the fact that it marks her first time acting. Haim received wide acclaim for her performance and a slew of regional critics prizes, even being nominated for a BAFTA award. Although this was her first acting foray, Haim is an established performer, having formed the Grammy-nominated rock band Haim with her sisters and "Licorice Pizza" co-stars Este Haim and Danielle Haim in 2007. Like most of the "Licorice Pizza" cast, Anderson has a previous history working with Haim: He directed her and her bandmates in 10 music videos mostly set around the San Fernando Valley, including their most recent collaboration, which, aesthetically, could pass for a deleted scene from "Licorice Pizza."

Cooper Hoffman (Gary Valentine)

The scrappy, self-proclaimed showman Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) is the epitome of a hustler, wise beyond his 15 years. According to IndieWire, the character is loosely based on the early life of another hustler: Anderson's friend since childhood Gary Goetzman, the television film producer and co-founder of Playtone with Tom Hanks. It is apropos, then, that Anderson cast another person close to him to play Valentine — Cooper Hoffman. Although this was Cooper's proper film debut, Anderson told Variety that he made home movies with Cooper and his family.

So where have you seen him before? The unconventional answer is that you certainly have, in a way — or at least, certain aspects of him. Hoffman is the son of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who Anderson worked with more than any other actor to date, collaborating on "Hard Eight," "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia," "Punch-Drunk Love," and "The Master." Cooper shares a strong resemblance to his father, but their shared mannerisms are uncanny. This was made most apparent in a scene where Alana taunts Gary about not being able to smoke a cigarette without puking. He channels his father's coy confidence as he lights a cigarette and silences Alana with a middle finger as he takes a drag, exhaling the smoke in her face. Hoffman will continue to follow in his father's acting footsteps, appearing in Cooper Raiff's next film, "The Trashers."

Skyler Gisondo (Lance Brannigan)

We first meet Gary's "Under One Roof" co-star Lance Brannigan (Skyler Gisondo) on the flight to New York City, when he makes the trek from business class to coach in order to meet Alana. Much to the chagrin of Gary, Lance flirts with her, and the two start dating. The romance sours, however, when Alana invites Lance to Shabbat dinner with her family and he declines Alana's father's invitation to say the Hamotzi blessing, citing his atheism.

With a filmography rich in earnest characters desperately trying — and often failing — to be cool, Skyler Gisondo was born to play Lance. You cannot help but love him, despite his efforts to be suave to the point of smarminess. Gisondo has been acting in television and film since he was seven years old, with breakout performances as Howard Stacy in "The Amazing Spider-Man" and as the cringey but endearing Jared in "Booksmart." On the television front, Gisondo has had dozens of guest spots and worked as a series regular on TBS's "The Bill Engvall Show," Netflix's "Santa Clarita Diet," and, most recently, HBO's "The Righteous Gemstones."

Sean Penn (Jack Holden)

The most seasoned member of the "Licorice Pizza" ensemble is Sean Penn, who plays the reckless, larger-than-life actor Jack Holden. Anderson told Variety that Jack Holden is a proxy for real-life actor William Holden, star of legendary Hollywood classics like "Sunset Boulevard," "Stalag 17," and "Sabrina." In "Licorice Pizza," Alana meets Jack at an audition for a role in one of his films. After they read lines for the director and hit it off, Jack whisks Alana off for a wild night at now-defunct beloved Valley bar and restaurant Tail o' the Cock.

Jack is a thorny role and its success hinges on achieving a balance of charisma and danger, two of Penn's strong suits. He instills Jack with a foreboding, magnetic allure, leaving Alana and viewers alike clinging to every word he says — even if it is just drunken rambling of lines from his old movies. Penn's acting debut was in 1974 on NBC's "Little House on the Prairie," but his big breakthrough arrived eight years later in the role of goofy stoner Jeff Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." His career reached new heights beginning in the mid-1990s, with Oscar-nominated roles in "Dead Man Walking," "Sweet and Lowdown," and "I Am Sam," and Oscar-winning performances in "Mystic River" and "Milk." Penn has stepped behind the camera to direct several of his own films, most notably "Into the Wild." He is internationally known for his activism, having founded the nonprofit organization CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort).

Benny Safdie (Joel Wachs)

When the 1973 oil crisis hits Los Angeles, Alana sees that Gary's vinyl-based waterbed company's days are numbered. She pivots to politics and secures a volunteer position in the campaign offices of LA City Councilman and progressive mayoral candidate Joel Wachs, played by writer, director, producer, actor, and editing wunderkind Benny Safdie.

Safdie first cut his teeth in the New York City independent film world by producing short, ultra-low-budget feature films with his brother and frequent collaborator, Josh. The brothers' breakthrough arrived in the 2017 thriller "Good Time," which featured Safdie pulling double duties behind the camera as co-director and in front as an actor opposite lead Robert Pattinson. Since co-directing 2019's hit Adam Sandler crime thriller "Uncut Gems," Safdie has gravitated more toward acting with small roles in "Pieces of a Woman" and Disney+'s "Obi-Wan Kenobi."

Safdie plays the real politician Joel Wachs with humility and a paranoid fear of being outed. He will next be seen in larger roles in the "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" adaptation and Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated "Oppenheimer."

Bradley Cooper (Jon Peters)

Gary and Alana's final waterbed customer is the terrifying Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper). Anderson confirmed to Variety that the real-life Jon Peters approved of the infamous Hollywood hairstylist turned film producer's depiction in "Licorice Pizza." Jon has zero patience when Gary and Alana arrive late to deliver a waterbed to his mansion, as he is now late to a date with his girlfriend, Barbra Streisand. Cooper plays Jon like a tornado in white linen, grilling Gary in a claustrophobic close-up on how to properly pronounce Streisand's last name.

Equal parts terrifying and ridiculous, Jon is the type of frenzied, raw nerve character Cooper does best. After getting his start on ABC's "Alias," Cooper transitioned to film, perfecting the smug jerk archetype in "Wedding Crashers" and "The Hangover" franchise. He moved on to star in prestige films, delivering dramatic, Oscar-nominated performances in "Silver Linings Playbook," "American Hustle," and "American Sniper." Since then, Cooper has added voice performance to his acting repertoire, playing raccoon Rocket in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Avengers" series. He also cultivated his talent behind the camera, serving as producer, writer, and director of smash-hit "A Star is Born," starring opposite Lady Gaga. Cooper can next be seen as Leonard Bernstein in Netflix's "Maestro," which he also wrote, produced, and directed.

Nate Mann (Brian)

If Brian doesn't seem too familiar, it's because like his co-stars Haim and Hoffman, "Licorice Pizza" is Nate Mann's debut film performance. Mann's acting career began on the New York stage playing the beloved, broody character Theodore "Laurie" Laurence in the 2020 off-Broadway Primary Stages adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women." His next theater role brought him to Broadway to play Lieutenant Byrd in George Fuller's "A Soldier's Play." Shortly thereafter, he landed a recurring role as the young version of Ray Donovan on the Showtime series of the same name. Most recently, he guest-starred on an episode of Paramount+'s "Evil."

In "Licorice Pizza," Mann plays Joel Wachs' political staffer Brian, who appears in the last third of the film when Alana, his former high school classmate, calls him seeking work on Joel's campaign. Mann's time playing Laurie proved to be great preparation for his role as Brian, who has grown jaded by Joel's idealism and has unrequited romantic feelings for Alana. In his next role, Mann plays Eight Air Force Officer Robert Rosenthal in Apple TV+'s upcoming World War II miniseries "Masters of the Air," which was ironically produced by Anderson's inspiration for Gary Valentine, Gary Goetzman.

John Michael Higgins (Jerry Frick)

Gary juggles many a side gig in "Licorice Pizza," one of which includes his public relations company that represents Los Angeles area restaurants, including Japanese-fusion eatery, The Mikado, run by Jerry Frick (John Michael Higgins). Jerry is a chipper, gregarious soul, who also happens to have an unfortunate tendency to stick his foot in his mouth and say pretty offensive things. This type of paradoxical character is a difficult feat for an actor to pull off sincerely without veering cartoonish, and it is difficult to imagine any actor besides Higgins succeeding so effortlessly.

Although he has worked consistently in film and television since the late 1980s, Higgins's crossover breakthrough arrived playing the extravagant Shih Tzu owner in Christopher Guest's dog show satire "Best in Show." Still, if you have watched television in the last 30 years, you've likely caught Higgins on a sitcom or two, as he has guest-starred on dozens from "Seinfeld" to "Arrested Development," and was a series regular on "Great News" and the "Saved By The Bell" reboot. Most recently, Higgins has hosted Game Show Network's "America Says" for five seasons.

Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Momma Anita)

Gary's dynamic with his mother (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) is part relationship, part business. When Alana is taken aback by Gary's assorted business ventures and responsibilities and asks about his parents' whereabouts, he tells her his mom, nicknamed Momma Anita, works for him and is in Las Vegas looking after The Hacienda Hotel. We later see that Momma Anita also works at Gary's public relations company, presenting advertising pitches to clients, and later at his waterbed business, handling phone orders.

Simultaneously playing mother and his employee, Ellis nails Momma Anita's complicated role in Gary's life as "momager," exuding both maternal warmth and business savvy. Ellis honed these tones most famously in her recurring role on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" as The Waitress, the source of Charlie Kelly's (played by Ellis's real-life husband Charlie Day) obsessive affection who has zero interest in him. Since making a splash on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," Ellis has gone on to guest star on several sitcoms and recurred on "The Grinder" and "Santa Clarita Diet."

Tom Waits (Rex Blau)

Tom Waits originally encountered fame as a musician in the early 1970s, blazing a completely singular trail with his other-worldly, gravelly voice and chaotic blend of experimental jazz and blues. His unique style and vivid songwriting are best encapsulated in his 1985 album "Rain Dogs," the haunting apex of his musical career.

Although Waits may remain a musician first to some, he has forged an equally impressive parallel career in acting that began shortly after the release of his debut 1973 album "Closing Time," appearing in "Paradise Alley," "The Outsiders," and "Rumble Fish." His big film breakthrough was in Jim Jarmusch's "Down By Law," in which Waits co-starred opposite John Lurie and Roberto Benigni as a jailed DJ in New Orleans. Waits has not acted often since then, but if there is one thing that lures him to a role, it is an auteur filmmaker. Having worked with Robert Altman ("Short Cuts"), Francis Ford Coppola ("Bram Stoker's Dracula"), Terry Gilliam ("The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"), and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen ("The Ballad of Buster Scruggs") among others, it makes sense he found his way to Anderson for "Licorice Pizza." Waits is hilarious as the ornery movie director Rex Blau, who goads Jack into re-staging one of his famous acting stunts in one of the action centerpieces of "Licorice Pizza."

Joseph Cross (Matthew)

We first meet Matthew (Joseph Cross) in "Licorice Pizza" when he is having dinner with his closeted partner, LA City Councilman Joel Wachs. Unbeknownst to Matthew, Joel has spotted a journalist stalking the restaurant and has called Alana to have her pose as Matthew's girlfriend and escort him out, so Joel won't be outed in the press. When Matthew wises up to what Joel's doing and emotionally confronts him in front of Alana, Cross is both tender and exacting in a way that recalls his best performances.

Cross began acting as a child in the Disney Channel original television movie "Northern Lights" and the CBS soap "As The World Turns," before starring in the family holiday movie "Jack Frost." This launched a steady career of supporting turns — interestingly in almost exclusively historical or period films, including "Flags of Our Fathers," "Milk," "Lincoln," "Mank," and "Licorice Pizza." Matthew only appears twice toward the end of Anderson's film, but he delivers a blow that stings and has a profound effect on Alana and the important choice she makes shortly after they meet.

Harriet Sansom Harris (Mary Grady)

When Gary tells Alana to sex-up her waterbed phone sales pitches, she dials it up to ten, giving the customer an earful of innuendo and making a sale. Gary is impressed by her acting and takes her to meet his talent agent, Mary Grady (Harriet Sansom Harris), based on the real-life child star agent of the same name. In possibly the funniest scene in "Licorice Pizza," Gary instructs Alana to say "yes" to anything Mary asks as she gauges her acting skillset. Mary hounds Alana with a barrage of questions, but ends up buying Alana's escalating exaggerations.

It might take you a few moments to identify Harris, as this scene is shot in blown-out, smoky sunlight with Mary's cigarette constantly threatening to pierce the screen. But you certainly will recognize her, given her 45-year career in theater, film, and, most illustriously, television. "Licorice Pizza" is her second collaboration with Anderson after playing alcoholic heiress Barbara Rose in "Phantom Thread." This is also not Harris's first rodeo playing a talent representative, having appeared in nearly every season of "Frasier" as Frasier Crane's ruthless agent Bebe Glazer. Others might remember her from her three-season turn as wicked Felicia Tilman on "Desperate Housewives" or her forays into the Ryan Murphy multiverse with appearances on "Hollywood," "Ratched," and "American Horror Story: Apocalypse." Judging by Harris's recent excellent, Emmy-nominated guest role on HBO Max's "Hacks," her best roles may lie ahead.

Christine Ebersole (Lucy Doolitte)

When Momma Anita is unable to escort Gary to a publicity appearance in New York City, Alana steps in as his chaperone. Gary joins his castmates from the family movie "Under One Roof," including star Lucy Doolittle (Christine Ebersole), to deliver a musical performance on the Jerry Best show to promote the movie. Anderson told Vanity Fair the whole sequence was inspired by Gary Goetzman's experience promoting the actual film "Yours, Mine, and Ours," starring Lucille Ball, who Anderson confirmed to Variety is the basis for Lucy's character. Prior to the appearance, Lucille warns Gary to behave, which he disobeys in the post-show interview with Best, trying to impress Alana with an off-color, sexual joke that spoils the wholesome moment. Backstage, Lucy loses her cool and berates Gary, having to be dragged away by a crew member.

Ebersole's role as Lucy Doolittle is tailor-made to highlight her assets as an actress, cultivated in her five decades in entertainment. Before landing her first big film roles in "Amadeus" and "Tootsie," Ebersole's first worked in television on the ABC soap opera "Ryan's Hope" and had a year-long stint as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live." These four roles alone display Ebersole's versatility as a performer, which has afforded her a rich, consistent career. Most recently, Ebersole had supporting turns in "The Wolf of Wall Street" and on television on TBS's "Sullivan & Son," HBO Max's "Search Party," and Netflix's "The Kominsky Method." Ebersole has an impressive, Tony-winning legacy on Broadway, which primed her well for Lucy's musical performance in "Licorice Pizza." 

Maya Rudolph (Gale)

One of the most immediately recognizable faces in "Licorice Pizza" belongs to Maya RudolphEmmy-winning actress, comedian, and Anderson's wife of over two decades. Rudolph previously appeared in Anderson's other 1970s-set comedy, the trippy adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel "Inherent Vice," as private investigator Doc Sportello's pregnant secretary, while pregnant herself.

Rudolph is most famous for her tenure on "Saturday Night Live," specifically for her impressions of Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, Kamala Harris, and Maya Angelou. After departing the sketch comedy show in 2007, she found success in studio comedies ("Bridesmaids," "Grown Ups") and animation voice work ("Big Mouth," "Big Hero 6.")

In "Licorice Pizza," Rudolph plays casting director Gale who auditions young boy actors for a Sears clothing commercial. She is shocked to see Gary going up for a role clearly intended for someone half his age, but humors the audition out of respect for Gary and his connection with the commercial's director Vic (Tim Conway Jr.). Rudolph makes the most of her cameo role, delivering excellent comedic reactions as Gary struggles to deliver the youthful enthusiasm Gale's seeking. Of her experience making "Licorice Pizza," Rudolph told People Magazine, "We were all around and so we had a little world. Like we were living in the 1970s in San Fernando Valley for like three months. It was beautiful."