There is a lot that can be said about Paul Thomas Anderson movies, but one of the most consistent parts of each and every one of his films is the amazing talent he selects to bring his characters to life. The same can be said about Licorice Pizza and the group of actors that take up the screen in Anderson’s love letter to 1970s Los Angeles.
This charming, humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking, coming-of-age drama about two young Southern Californians attempting to navigate life and love during one of the most confusing times of their lives is told masterfully by newcomers Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim, as well as Hollywood heavyweights like Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, and several others. Let’s dive into where we’ve seen the outstanding Licorice Pizza cast.
Alana Haim (Alana Kane)
Starting things off is Alana Haim, who made her feature film acting debut with her portrayal of Alana Kane in Licorice Pizza. Since 2007, Haim and her two sisters — Este and Danielle — have led the pop rock band Haim, achieving critical acclaim, selling tons of records, and going on tour with everyone from The Killers to Taylor Swift during that time. Haim previously appeared in a 2015 episode of Documentary Now! (playing herself) and The Lonely Island’s 2019 Netflix variety show titled The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience.
Licorice Pizza is actually not the first time Alana Haim and Paul Thomas Anderson have worked together on a project, as the acclaimed filmmaker directed several of her band’s music videos and a documentary about the making of the 2017 album, Something To Tell You.
Cooper Hoffman (Gary Valentine)
Then there is Cooper Hoffman, who made his film debut with a commanding portrayal of Gary Valentine, the young child actor at the center of Licorice Pizza. If Cooper’s name and face look familiar it’s because he’s the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who appeared in a total of five Paul Thomas Anderson movies before his death in February 2014.
Sean Penn (Jack Holden)
Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn portrays Jack Holden, a fictionalized version of Hollywood legend William Holden, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest offering. One of the most prolific names on the Licorice Pizza cast, Penn has done a little bit of everything throughout his career, which goes back all the way to a 1974 episode of Little House on the Prairie.
Over the years, Penn has played iconic stoners like Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, emotionally-damaged gangsters like Jimmy Markum in Mystic River, and historical figures like Harvey Milk in Milk. Penn has also sat in the director’s chair numerous times over the years on movies like The Indian Runner, The Crossing Guard, and most notably, Into the Wild.
Tom Waits (Rex Blau)
Legendary musician-turned-actor Tom Waits portrays film director Rex Blau in Licorice Pizza, the latest in a long line of critically acclaimed movies, though his first with Paul Thomas Anderson. Over the years, Waits has released groundbreaking jazz-infused folk albums, including The Heart of Saturday Night, Nighthawks at the Diner, Rain Dogs, and Mule Variations, earning two Grammys and being nominated a total of seven times. Waits’ film contributions include The Outsiders, The Fisher King, Mystery Men, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Dead Don’t Die, and dozens more.
Bradley Cooper (Jon Peters)
Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated actor, director, and producer Bradley Cooper takes on the role of Hollywood hairdresser-turned-producer Jon Peters in Licorice Pizza, marking the first time he has worked with Paul Thomas Anderson. Over the years, Cooper has appeared in successful franchises like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hangover, as well as Academy Award-nominated pictures like Silver Linings Playbook and A Star is Born. Throughout his career, Cooper has worked extensively with David O. Russell, Todd Phillips, and Clint Eastwood, becoming one of the biggest actors of his era.
Benny Safdie (Joel Wachs)
Benny Safdie, one-half of the filmmaking duo behind Uncut Gems, steps in front of the camera as former Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs in Licorice Pizza. Safdie made waves in the 2017 crime thriller Good Time with his portrayal of Nick Nikas, a film he also directed alongside his brother, Josh. Safdie has also given commanding performances in Pieces of a Woman, Togetherness, and Person to Person, to name only a few. Safdie is also set to appear in the upcoming Disney+ TV show Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Christine Ebersole (Lucille Doolittle)
Veteran film, TV, and stage actress Christine Ebersole takes on the role of Lucille Doolittle (modeled after Lucille Ball) in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. The two-time Tony Award winner has been in a little bit of everything over the years including Tootsie, Saturday Night Live, and stage productions of Grey Gardens. Others may remember Ebersole for her appearances on Royal Pains, Sullivan and Son, and her current show, Bob Hearts Abishola. Others may remember Ebersole for her portrayal of Macaulay Culkin’s on-screen mom in the 1994 adaptation of the Richie Rich comic strip.
Skyler Gisondo (Lance)
Skyler Gisondo, who has been one of the hardest working young actors in Hollywood as of late, shows up in Licorice Pizza as Lance, the boy who gets in the middle of Alana and Gary’s romance.
Following a string of one-off appearances in TV shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, Monk, and Cold Case, Gisondo turned his attention to feature films in the early 2000s, first with Halloween and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, before landing roles in The Amazing Spider-Man (and its sequel) and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. Here recently, Gisondo has appeared in movies like Booksmart, shows like The Righteous Gemstones, and even documentaries, including Netflix’s The Social Dilemma in 2020.
This is just barely scratching the surface of the Licorice Pizza cast, as there are multiple actors who make brief appearances, including Maya Rudolph and John C. Reilly. If you want to know what else is coming to theaters the final weeks of the year, check out CinemaBlend’s rundown of all the 2021 new movie releases.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he’s not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.