Alana Haim Steps Into the Spotlight

With her breakout role in Licorice Pizza the musician flies solo as a newly minted movie star.

Interview by Lynn Hirschberg
Photographs by Tim Walker
Styled by Sara Moonves

Alana Haim wears Prada shorts.
Alana Haim wears Prada shorts.

Throughout her professional career, Alana Haim has been known for performing alongside her two sisters in their hit band Haim. Everything changed, however, when her longtime friend, director Paul Thomas Anderson, sent Alana a script featuring a character sporting her own name and asked her to throw her hat into the acting ring. Just like that, the now 30-year-old musician became a multihyphenate, wowing the film industry with her debut performance in Licorice Pizza. For W’s annual Best Performances issue, Haim explains the tools that helped her get through her first movie shoot (alcohol and toilet paper) and the uncontrollable reaction she had to meeting her co-star Bradley Cooper for the first time.

How did you originally get the part in Licorice Pizza?

After I worked with Paul a number of times, I think he mentioned under his breath, “I'm going to put you in a movie,” and I was happy with an extra, a PA job, anything. Then I was in London, and I was very jet-lagged. I got this email from Paul Thomas Anderson. It was a script and one of the characters’ names was Alana. I immediately freaked out because Paul was using my name. I was just happy with the name being used. I think I read it three times that night. I called him and I gushed about it. And he asked if I wanted to play Alana Kane. Of course I said yes. And then immediately after I hung up the phone, I freaked out and asked myself, "What did I just get myself into?"

How did you feel on your first day of filming?

I felt probably every emotion you could ever have in your life. I've basically never been on a movie set. I've been on a music video set. So I was very nervous, and no one was really telling me anything that was going on that day. We heard Bradley Cooper might show up, and there was full chaos on set. I just felt like the world was spinning very quickly. And then all of a sudden it was silence. No one was moving. Everyone had cleared. Paul called “Action” for the first time, and Bradley Cooper walked toward me and Cooper as Jon Peters. I'm not afraid to say that I peed my pants a little bit. And I'm proud of it.

What was it like to act drunk for the scene when you’re in the bikini?

Paul doesn't know, but I might have taken a sip of alcohol. So, don't tell him. I think my favorite part about that bikini was that I finally had big boobs. I had to stuff this bra with so much toilet paper, I felt like I was back in middle school, and I looked at myself, and I was like, "Oh my god, it finally happened. It finally happened. It happened for me in this coconut bikini." I didn't realize that, as the day went on, the toilet paper started coming up. That was not intentional. You can see the toilet paper coming out.

Haim wears a Paco Rabanne top and headpiece; Bulgari bracelets.

Do you have a go-to karaoke song?

My go-to karaoke song that brings down the house is “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” I always start with that. And then, as the night goes on, maybe there’s a Creed moment, maybe there’s a Mariah Carey moment, but I do it very badly.

What was your favorite movie growing up?

My favorite movie growing up actually is Defending Your Life because I'm obsessed with Albert Brooks. I’ve always been obsessed with Albert Brooks. He is my celebrity crush. I’m looking for my Albert Brooks. It’s so hard. I have not found that person yet.

Do you remember the first time you sang in front of an audience?

I was in a family band with my parents and my siblings called Rockin’ Haim. We only played covers. We never did any originals or anything like that. We played a lot of Santana, a lot of Billy Joel.

What was your first red carpet outfit?

Oh, the Grammys. Yeah, that was a big deal. We got nominated for Best New Artist after our first record, Days Are Gone, came out. We had a little bit of money from signing our record deal, and I took my mom and dad to Saks. We bought my dad an Armani suit, and we bought my mom an Oscar de la Renta dress, and it was the biggest deal. I think Este wore Chloé, but me and Danielle both wore Stella McCartney, and I loved Stella McCartney so much. I still love that jumpsuit. I don't fit in it anymore. I wish I could.

What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?

It’s so embarrassing. It’s Tubthumper, by Chumbawamba. The first album I bought with my own money was Chumbawamba. It has a lime green cover with a purple person on it. I remember it was a huge deal. I made my parents take me to Tower Records and I bought a Chumbawamba CD. And that has to be my answer for the rest of my life.

Where was your first kiss?

My first kiss was in New York on the Fourth of July in my friend’s basement. I had never been in a basement before, and it was her friend, and it was terrible. There’s just spit everywhere, and I had braces. It was definitely a “Wipe your face.” I did get fireworks, though. I did. I couldn't see them, but I felt them.

Hair by Ali Pirzadeh for Dyson Hair at CLM; makeup by Daniel Sallstrom for Chanel at MA+ Group; manicure by Michelle Saunders for Nailtopia. Set Design by Gary Card at Streeters. Produced by Wes Olson and Hannah Murphy at Connect the Dots; production manager: Zack Higginbottom at Connect the Dots; photo assistants: Antonio Perricone, Jeff Gros, Morgan Pierre; digital technician: Michael Preman; lighting technician: Keith Coleman; key grip: Scott Froschauer; retouching: Graeme Bulcraig at Touch Digital; senior style editor: Allia Alliata di Montereale; senior fashion market editor: Jenna Wojciechowski; fashion assistants: Julia McClatchy, Antonio Soto, Nycole Sariol, Sage McKee, Josephine Chumley, Rosa Schorr; production assistants: Tchad Cousins, Juan Diego Calvo, Gina York, Brandon Fried, Nico Robledo, Kein Milledge; hair assistants: Tommy Stanton, Sol Rodriquez, Andi Ojeda; makeup assistants: Tami Elsombati, Bridgett O’Donnell; manicure assistant: Pilar Lafargue; set coordinator: Sarah Hein; set assistants: Olivia Giles, Seth Powsner, King Owusu; tailors: Suzi Bezik, Cardi Mooshool Alvaji; tailor assistant: Elma Click