Claudia was the first character created, and the other characters were branched off from her.
Aimee Mann's music inspired Paul Thomas Anderson to write the script and at least one lyric (and possibly more) from an Aimee Mann song was lifted and used as dialogue. In the song "Deathly" the lyric goes: "Now that I've met you / Would you object to / Never seeing / Each other again". In the film, Melora Walters's character says "Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing me again?"
Paul Thomas Anderson wrote the bulk of the script during two weeks he spent at William H. Macy's Vermont cabin - afraid to go outside because he'd seen a snake.
When Paul Thomas Anderson approached George C. Scott about playing the role of Earl Partridge, Scott threw the script across the room, saying "This is the worst fucking thing I've ever read. The language is terrible."
The story about the man being killed by a gunshot while falling off a building has for years been used as a hypothetical case in criminal law classes to illustrate causation.
Philip Seymour Hoffman stated during the deathbed scene, everything after Frank's "I'm not going to cry for you" was improvised by Tom Cruise. Cruise didn't feel the scripted lines worked and Paul Thomas Anderson told Cruise to think of when his own father died and to let it move him. During the next take Cruise broke down sobbing, resulting in the scene seen in the film. Hoffman stated Phil's reaction to Frank sobbing was his own, since he didn't know Cruise would enter such a zone and he felt the purity of Cruise's emotion.
The telephone number (877) TAME-HER is shown on the "Seduce and Destroy" infomercials within the movie. Dialing this number used to give a recording of Tom Cruise giving the Seduce and Destroy pitch.
Paul Thomas Anderson made a visit to the set of Eyes Wide Shut (1999), where he offered the role of Frank T.J. Mackey to Tom Cruise.
Jason Robards's character in the film suffers from terminal brain and lung cancer. Robards coincidentally died of lung cancer a year after the film was released.
According to Philip Baker Hall, the scene where Frank T.J. Mackey visits Earl Partridge on his deathbed is loosely based on Paul Thomas Anderson's experiences of watching his father, the late WABC-TV announcer Ernie Anderson, die of cancer.
This was originally supposed to be a short and intimate film. But the more Paul Thomas Anderson worked on the characters the more intricate it became. So the plot expanded from there.
Paul Thomas Anderson wanted to cast Burt Reynolds for an unspecified role. But Reynolds became angry with Anderson during the promotional tour for Boogie Nights (1997) and turned the role down.
After the financial and critical success of Boogie Nights (1997), New Line Cinema told Paul Thomas Anderson that they would bankroll whatever he fancied making afterwards. Anderson readily agreed to this as he figured that it was very unlikely that he would ever be in that position again.
Each line in the "Wise Up" scene is in reference to what the character singing is going through. When Claudia sings, "It's not what you thought when you first began it" this refers to her cocaine addiction. Jimmy's "You're sure there's a cure, and you have finally found it" refers to his cancer. Donnie's "You think one drink will shrink you 'til you're underground and living down" refers to his drinking. Linda's "Prepare a list for what you need before you sign away the deed" refers to her dying husband's will.
In an interview with Marc Maron in January of 2015, Paul Thomas Anderson was asked if he had the opportunity to re-cut the film. He replied, "I'd slice that thing down. It's way too fucking long. It's unmerciful how long it is." He added that "maybe a few" trajectories in the film's plot lines could've been eliminated.
The murder of Edmund Berry Godfrey, mentioned in the prologue, occurred on October 12, 1678 and the three men (Green, Berry and Hill) executed for the murder were done so on evidence provided by Miles Prance, who later pleaded guilty to perjury. The mystery is still unsolved.
Paul Thomas Anderson said this was his favourite film of his own at the time of release.
One of the books Stanley is reading at the library is about scientist Charles Fort, who is noted for his work expanding the boundaries of scientific research to include strange phenomena such as those featured in the film.
The title "Magnolia" not only refers to Magnolia Boulevard in Los Angeles, where much of the movie takes place, but is also similar to the term Charles Fort (who is referenced many places in this movie) coined for a hypothetical region where things that fall from the sky come from - "Magonia".
The phone number that Phil (mis)dials looking for Frank, (818)775-3993, is later revealed to be the number to Linda's pharmacy (printed on the prescription bag).
Paul Thomas Anderson screened the film Network (1976) to his production team before filming began.
When Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) loses his gun, a person wearing a hooded jacket appears very briefly. It is actor Orlando Jones, whose scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
Fiona Apple is also uncredited as the voice of the wrong number that Phil Parma calls in an attempt to find Frank T.J. Mackey.
The Mason symbol is on various walls in the WDKK studio. When Jimmy Gator's producer puts his hand on his shoulder, before the show starts, we see he is wearing a ring with the Mason's symbol on it. Similar to the Masonic farewell, "We met upon the level and we're parting on the square", the phrase is a Kipling quote, "tried on the square" is part of the official Masonic farewell. One of Stanley's library books is "A History of Masonry". The 82nd Mason lodge (8 and 2 being prominently featured throughout the film) is located in Magnolia, Arkansas.
The trailer for the movie features shots filmed especially for it, featuring each character, in a specific location from the film in which they where prominently featured, looking directly at the camera and saying their name. They are (in order): Stanley Spector in the library, Jimmy Gator on his show's set, Donnie Smith in a dentist's chair, Earl Partridge in his death bed, Frank T.J. Mackey in the interview chair, Linda Partridge in her car in the rain, Phil Parma at Earl's front door, Rose Gator in her car at an intersection, Claudia Wilson Gator at the restaurant, Jim Kurring at the police station, and a frog sitting on the green light of a traffic light with a magnolia rising and blocking it out. Ricky Jay narrates the trailer.
Everytime we see Donnie (William H. Macy) in his car, the same song is playing on the radio ("Dreams" by UK artist Gabrielle).
New Line wanted to push the film as a Tom Cruise movie but Paul Thomas Anderson refused, saying it was an ensemble piece. He ended up designing the poster and editing the trailer himself.
Claudia Wilson Gator snorts cocaine off of a CD jewel case. The CD is "I'm with Stupid" by Aimee Mann, who wrote and performed several songs for the film.
The credits for the "What Do Kids Know?" game show give the web address www.wdkk.com which led directly to the movie's official website. The web address "www.seduceanddestroy.com" led to the film's official site, too. Both these links are now dead.
In the Smiling Peanut bar there is a chalkboard that lists two teams, "The Frogs" and "The Clouds". Both are plays by the ancient Greek comedic playwright Aristophanes.
At the time of release, Paul Thomas Anderson stated that he really felt "that Magnolia (1999) is, for better or worse, the best movie I'll ever make".
One of Stanley Spector's books on the table in the library is "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women" written by Ricky Jay, who narrates and stars in the film.
Paul Thomas Anderson is the son of former ABC-TV announcer Ernie Anderson, who started his career as a Cleveland late-night monster-movie host named "Ghoulardi". Paul Thomas Anderson's production company is called Ghoulardi Pictures. One running Ghoulardi gag was to make fun of Parma, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb known for its Polish population. Philip Seymour Hoffman's character is named Phil Parma. One of Ghoulardi's catch phrases was "Stay sick!" When Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) remarks to Thurston Howell (Henry Gibson) that he is sick, Thurston replies, "Stay that way."
John C. Reilly was tiring of always playing heavies so he asked Paul Thomas Anderson to write him a part in which he falls in love with a girl.
During the end credits of "What Do Kids Know?", the final production note is that the program was a Partridge Production, referring to Earl Partridge. The only other reference to Earl as a television producer comes from his son Frank Mackey during his interview with Gwenovier. When asked about his parents line of work, Frank responds that his father worked in television and that his mother was a librarian.
The story of the scuba diver being dropped from an airplane is a debunked urban legend.
Paul Thomas Anderson recently admitted that he finds the film far too long now, and would have cut some of the story lines from the finished product. He never specified what stories he would have cut.
In William H. Macy's bar scene, the video game seen in background is Frogger (1981).
In one of the early versions of the script, Paul Thomas Anderson proposed making it clear to the audience that all the events took place in a very small area, like one square mile or ten square blocks. It was later decided this would take too long to clarify and would confuse people.
In the film, the main cast sings along to Aimee Mann's "Wise Up", which was used in the film Jerry Maguire (1996), also starring Tom Cruise.
According to her official site, Miriam Margolyes asked not to be credited in this film due to the size of her role.
Tom Cruise loved Boogie Nights (1997) so much, he asked Paul Thomas Anderson to consider him for a part in his next film. Cruise, while initially rather terrified at playing such a change in pace, relished the role as it was so completely different from the repressed character he played in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
During the game show scene, a lot of talk is about a movie audition, with Alan Thicke and Corey Haim, about destroying a high school. This refers to Demolition High (1996).
Tom Cruise turned down the role of Jericho Cane in End of Days (1999) to do this film. The role eventually went to Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, Miriam Margolyes appears on both films.
Claudia calls herself Claudia Wilson instead of Claudia Wilson Gator since she doesn't want to be associated with her father Jimmy Gator. Frank T.J. Mackey changed his name and lies that his father isn't alive and that his mother is so he won't be related to his father Earl Partridge.
According to Thomas Jane, he was supposed to play two different characters in the film. But the scheduling overlapped with Under Suspicion (2000) so he was only available for the brief cameo as the young Jimmy Gator.
The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Robards, and Julianne Moore; and six Oscar nominees: Tom Cruise, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Melinda Dillon, Felicity Huffman, and Paul Thomas Anderson - who has a cameo role in the film.
Philip Baker Hall and Jason Robards' characters opt to take a smoke from their cigarettes, but choose not to before they confess of their regrets, and only one of them actually lights it.
Jimmy Gator mentions that "What Do Kids Know?" is endorsed by the "P.T.A." or "Parent Teacher Association." "PTA" is also the initials of the film's director Paul Thomas Anderson, and a common nickname for Anderson.
Paul Thomas Anderson had the idea of calling the film Magnolia (1999) from the outset.
Pat Healy plays two characters in the movie: Sir Edmund William Godfrey, who is murdered by the three thieves in the first scene, and the young pharmacist Julianne Moore yells at.
Henry Gibson's character is named Thurston Howell, which was Jim Backus' character's name on Gilligan's Island (1964).
Paul Thomas Anderson was given final cut for the film, by New Line Cinema, before he presented them with a detailed account of what the film was actually about.
The story at the beginning about the boy being shot as he is falling out of a window is an urban legend.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
This was originally intended to be a small-scale film but as Paul Thomas Anderson's ideas came together, he realized that there were a lot of actors he wanted to create parts for so the project blossomed into something much bigger.
The two quiz kids Donnie Smith and Stanley Spector break into different buildings the same night. Donnie breaks into his old job to get money from a safe and Stanley breaks into the library to read.
To elaborate, the final riddle is never answered but gives the notes B-E-E. The letter "B" resembles an "8" and there are two letter "E's" in BEE. Another 8:2 reference.
The WWDK show director's assistant is played by William Mapother, who is Tom Cruise's cousin in real life.
Tom Cruise (Frank T.J. Mackey) shares the screen with Philip Seymour Hoffman (Phil Parma) in a scene in this movie. In Mission: Impossible III (2006) both Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman are featured against each other as Ethan Hunt the main protagonist and Owen Davian the main antagonist respectively.
In Claudia's house there is a clove of garlic. The clove of garlic is 8 by 2, alluding to Exodus 8:2 as do many parts in the film.
Many actors who appeared in this film also appeared in many David Mamet films: William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Felicity Huffman, Clark Gregg, and Ricky Jay. The cast also includes many regular faces of many Robert Altman films: Julianne Moore, Henry Gibson, Philip Baker Hall, and Michael Murphy. Paul Thomas Anderson is a huge fan of Altman. Both director's surnames also start and end with the same letters, "a" and "n".
Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman previously appeared in Boogie Nights (1997), also directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and were reunited for the final films in the Hunger Games franchise films.
Both Tom Cruise and John C. Reilly appear in this film and Days of Thunder (1990). However they share no scenes in Magnolia.