Gary Valentine follows in a long line of Paul Thomas Anderson’s specific brand of leading men. Gary is eccentric, charismatic, a bit egocentric, a born moneymaker and in love. However, unlike other PTA creations like Boogie Nights hero Dirk Diggler, Gary Valentine was inspired by one of Anderson’s real friends: Gary Goetzman.
In reality, Goetzman is a former child actor-turned-film producer and co-founder of Tom Hanks’ Playtone production company. In his adult career, Goetzman helped back ’90s and 2000s hits like “Philadelphia,” “Silence of the Lambs,” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” In an interview with Vanity Fair, Anderson told the publication his “source material was all of these weird stories that Gary had told me over the years.” Like Anderson, Goetzman grew up in the Valley and was involved in the entertainment industry from an early age.
Also, some of Gary’s more incredible acts in the film are based on reality. For example, a feature in GQ confirmed that Goetzman actually owned a waterbed shop and a pinball palace as a teenager. All of these detailed and weirder stories end up on the big screen. Inspiration for an artist can be hard to come by, but with a friend like Goetzman, it’s no wonder Anderson felt he had to make this film.