Magnolia: The Official Site

Coffee & Cigarettes: A P.T. Anderson Resource


Magnolia Review (soon)

Magnolia CD Review

Magnolia: The Shooting Script Review

Secrets of Magnolia
Blink, and you may have missed something in the latest
opus from P.T. Anderson.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is dynamic and may be updated in the future. Please revisit this page for further information.

Early on in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, Tom Cruise makes his first appearance as smarmy Frank T.J. Mackey, a self-help guru pushing his woman-conquering "Seduce and Destroy" manual. Unless you're used to trainspotting telephone numbers in movies, however, you might have missed the fact that the digits plastered on screen were indeed legit.

To avoid bothering real people, most films use fake phone numbers beginning with 555, a prefix formerly associated with directory assistance. But Enterainment Weekly reported in their January 21st issue that the 877-TAME-HER (826-3437)  number shown on screen was, in fact, in service. A spokesman from New Line told EW that the phone number "had to be purchased."

After dialing, Entertainment Weekly heard "a recording of Cruise (as Frank T.J. Mackey, of course) leading a crowd in an expletive-filled misogynistic rant." When EntertainmentWerks called the number on January 14, the recording had been replaced with a tamer "sales pitch" from the fictional Mackey. The replacement recording is amusing nonetheless, and is sure to amuse trivia fans. Parts of the recording are heard in the film as Phil Parma (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) waits on hold trying to reach Mackey.

The switch of recordings leads to speculation that perhaps other Magnolia related messages may rotate on the line - only time will tell. 

Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey - "Seduce and Destroy" sales pitch
1.3 MB WAV

Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey - longer "Seduce and Destroy" sales pitch
2.6 MB WAV

In the meantime, the overly curious staff of EntertainmentWerks went ahead and perused the film for other "hidden" treasures. Intense scrutiny revealed more telephone games - two other telephone numbers are revealed in the film, one of them is used twice. To protect the innocent (and to convice those of you with nothing better to do to go watch the movie yourself), we won't reveal the numbers here. But we can say they are geographically correct. Both numbers given are in the 818 area code, which is used in areas outside of Los Angeles, where the film takes place.

When EntertainmentWerks tried one of the phone numbers (we actually missed taking down the second number, so we couldn't call it), a recording of a female voice awaited us on the other end.

Magnolia "Mystery" Message voice
856K WAV

One might suspect that the film's director Anderson is daring members of the audience to try calling the actual phone numbers. After all, a correct area code and actual, in-service phone numbers are hardly necessities for good drama.

There are other visual and aural nuggets awaiting astute viewers of Magnolia.

Some may have noticed a website address in the closing credits of the film's fictional game show, What Do Kids Know? Fictional web addresses have popped up on television and in the movies quite often (see upcoming sidebar on the IP addresses shown in American Pie), but - to our knowledge - nobody had taken the plunge and utilized those addresses. Until now, that is. Imagine our surprise when the fictional www.wdkk.com address actually took us to the official Magnolia site.

Cigarettes & Coffee, a P.T. Anderson website also reports www.seduceanddestroy.com and www.tameher.com are also pointed back at the official site.

But perhaps the most talked-about on-screen minutiae are clues to the film's audacious climax.

We'll warn you here that you may want to stop reading. We won't give away the third-act twist, but the information here is best enjoyed by those who have seen the film.

The clue to the film's climax lies in a passage from the Bible, of all things - Exodus 8:2. In preparation for the actual scene, the film scatters references to the numbers 2 and 8 throughout. Some of these references are listed below.

Magnolia begins with a trilogy of unusual tales.

  • In the first tale, we see a hanging victim in close-up wearing the number 82.
  • In the second tale, we see a pilot in a red plane, clearly marked 82.
  • In a flashback, the same pilot plays cards in Vegas. He needs a 2. He gets an 8.
  • We see a sign for a meeting which starts at 8:20.
  • In the third tale, we see a boy ready to jump off his building. Next to him are ropes arranged as an 8 and a 2.
  • Downstairs, we enter the home of the Barringers, who have an 82 on their door.
We then head into the main stories of the film.
  • When we are introduced to police officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), we hear a personals ad he recorded. His box number? 82.
  • An onscreen title informs us there is an 82% chance of rain.
  • When the What Do Kids Know? show goes on live, there is a man in the audience holding up a sign reading "Exodus 8:2."
  • The host of the show says they are heading into their 8th week with the kids team, and there are 2 days and 2 games left until they beat a record.
  • A woman named Marcie is booked in jail. The number for her photos is made up entirely of 8s, 2s and 0s.
  • In a bar, there are an 8 and a 2 handwritten in blue on a dry-erase scoreboard.
  • "Quiz Kid" Donnie Smith's oversize check is dated April 28.
  • Just as the rain ends at the intersection of Magnolia Ave., bus-stop signs light up to reveal stark "Exodus 8:2" messages.
  • A billboard reading "Exodus 8:2" is seen down the road from the intersection as well.
And now, trivia fans, round two is up to you!
- Derek Miner

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