Boogie Nights (1997) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Adult film director Jack Horner is always on the lookout for new talent and it's only by chance that he meets Eddie Adams who is working as a busboy in a restaurant. Eddie is young, good looking and plenty of libido to spare. Using the screen name Dirk Diggler, he quickly rises to the top of his industry winning awards year after year. Drugs and ego however come between Dirk and those around him and he soon finds that fame is fleeting.

  • San Fernando Valley, 1977. Jack Horner is a renowned director of porn, all his movies financed by "Colonel" James. He has his regular stable of cast and crew, most who have issues in their lives. They include: actress Amber Waves, who acts as the mother figure to the group in the absence of being a real mother to her biological son, about who she has told no one in her porn circle; actor Reed Rothchild, who wants to live up to his on-screen alpha male status; actor Buck Swope, who works as a stereo salesman on the side and whose country & western style seems to be problematic in getting ahead; actress Rollergirl, a high school drop-out who never takes off her skates; and assistant director "Little" Bill, whose marriage is threatened by his wife being both a nymphomaniac and an exhibitionist. Their collective lives are punctuated by excess in everything, whether it be sex, cocaine use, or the need to amass flashy material possessions. Into their lives comes Eddie Adams, a seventeen year old high school dropout from a dysfunctional family in Torrance. Eddie, who renames himself Dirk Diggler, is Jack's latest discovery, and whose success in the industry is largely predicated on being well-endowed. Because of the validation he receives for the first time in his life, Dirk is easy prey to be sucked into the excesses of the group. Although largely an innocent beyond the few dollars previously earned here and there by showing his penis to anyone who would pay, Dirk also changes as a person as he displays more and more bravado in relation to the amount of validation he receives. The next few years lead to changes in the group, not only because of changes in technology, namely the advent of video, but as the excesses in their lives start to take their toll, and as their association with the business may affect what their post-porn life will look like.

  • Eddie Adams would have been just another high-school drop-out had he not met the likes of adult film director Jack Horner. Horner transforms Eddie into Dirk Diggler, a rising-star actor with a special gift. Set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the film is a tribute to the decor, style, culture, and social attitudes of the era.

  • Eddie Adams, a young man working in a nightclub, is discovered by porn director Jack Horner, who soon puts Eddie, renamed Dirk Diggler, and his "talent" on the top of the pornography industry. But when the 1980s arrive, Dirk and his colleagues in the porn industry have to cope with a new era as well as the baggage they bring with them from the 1970s.

  • Eddie is an aspiring actor who gets discovered by Jack Horner, a porn director who considers his job an art form. Eddie then changes his name to Dirk Diggler and gets sucked in the lifestyle and relationships of the pornography industry of the late-1970s.

  • The story of a young man's adventures in the Californian pornography industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The movie opens in the year 1977 in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), a film director, and Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), his part-time girlfriend/actress, enter a club owned by Maurice Rodríguez (Luis Guzmán). Maurice then meets fellow actors Buck Swope (Don Cheadle) and Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly). Jack and Amber are also met by Rollergirl (Heather Graham) a teenage actress who always wears roller skates. We also see Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a busboy, whom Jack watches with interest. Finally, producer William 'Little Bill' Thomson (William H. Macy) arrives to fix a date for shooting a movie but Jack changes the schedule. Jack ignores Little Bill and goes to see Eddie whom is working in the kitchen. Eddie thinks Jack wants to see him masturbate (which he does for money) but misunderstands Jack's real intentions. Jack tells Eddie he's a film director, who directs "exotic pictures". Jack wants to talk to him over a drink but Eddie refuses his offer by saying that he doesn't drink.

    Some time later, the nightclub switches off their lights. Jack goes home with Amber and fixes himself a drink. Amber snorts a small amount of cocaine and makes a phone call, wanting to speak with her son over the phone but her ex-husband Tom refuses to let her. Little Bill arrives home to find his nymphomaniac wife (Nina Hartley) having sex with a stranger - she coldly tells Little Bill to sleep on the couch. Elsewhere, Eddie goes home and shows off his ego by doing some karate moves in his underwear in front of a mirror, fancying himself as a Bruce Lee impressionist. The sizable bulge of Eddie's penis is prominent through his underwear.

    The next morning, Eddie's mother gets angry that he's working at a car wash at day and a nightclub at night, furious that he doesn't go to school since Eddie apparently dropped out of high school some time ago.

    Meanwhile, Buck Swope tries to sell a hi-fi stereo system during his day job but fails when he demonstrates the system using a country/western song that the customer finds unappealing. His manager blames him because of his "cowboy look".

    Across town, Rollergirl is at a high school taking a test but the questions seem to be confusing. A guy in class (Kai Lennox) slyly imitates fellatio, suggesting he's seen Rollergirl do the same on film. Rollergirl becomes upset and leaves the classroom and the school itself.

    Eddie goes to his girlfriend, Sheryl Lynn's (Laurel Holloman) house. Sheryl praises Eddie and says that he is good at sex. Her suggestion entices Eddie to join the porn industry.

    In the nightclub, Jack whispers something in Rollergirl's ears. Rollergirl takes Eddie in a room and unzips his pants, taken aback slightly by what she sees. She bends down to give Eddie a blowjob. Afterward, Eddie is seen walking around the street and Jack offers Eddie a ride, along with Amber and Rollergirl. Jack takes them to a diner and talks about the porn industry and his dream of making a porno film where the story & plot will "suck them in", rather than just be a cheap film where the sex only entices the audience to masturbate and leave the theatre. They then go to Jack's house and Jack tells Rollergirl to have sex with Eddie, an audition of sorts. She accepts and Jack watches them have sex right in front of him.

    Eddie returns home in the early morning and finds his mother waiting for him. She throws out torrents of verbal abuse, calling him stupid and saying he'll never amount to anything. She tears up some of the decorations in his room and he leaves horribly upset, telling her he'll be a success despite her berating of him. Eddie leaves the house in a fury and goes to Jack's house where Jack is having a poolside party and introduces Eddie to fellow porn actor Reed Rothchild. The two become instant friends. Later, the Colonel James (Robert Ridgely), a porn financier, gets out of a car with an unknown teenage girl and Jack welcomes them. Buck tries to talk to his girlfriend Becky Barnett (Nicole Ari Parker) about the previous situation at work. She suggests he change his look -- Buck becomes angry and stalks off. Maurice asks Amber to talk to Jack to let him act in a porn movie and she says that she will see what she can do. The unknown woman with the Colonel finds someone who has cocaine and decides to snort it with him. When the house phone rings, Maurice picks it up and the caller asks for Maggie. Maurice calls for a Maggie but no one seems to answer (it is Amber who is actually Maggie but she is seen snorting cocaine and is so out of it that she doesn't hear Maurice calling out her real name).

    Little Bill sees his wife having sex on Jack's driveway with another stranger while a crowd of men surrounds her as she seems to enjoy the attention. Little Bill walks away from it in disgust. Jack's cinematographer, Kurt (Ricky Jay), tries to talk to him about the shooting of the Jack's next film, but Little Bill, too distracted by the spectacle involving his wife, gets angry and walks away.

    Back at the pool party, the Colonel then sees that the teenager he was with has overdosed and asks the chauffeur to drop her off at the nearest emergency room. Scotty J. (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a boom operator, sees Eddie and it's love at first sight with him and they converse. Eddie later on is introduced to the Colonel by Jack. The Colonel looks at Eddie's penis & realizes the young man will be a huge money maker. He also suggests that Eddie think about a new name with panache. Later that night, Jack joins Reed and Eddie in his hot tub. Jack asks Eddie to pick up a screen name for his career and Eddie tells him he thought up the name 'Dirk Diggler'.

    On Dirk's first shooting day, Little Bill discusses the script with Jack. Jack decides that Eddie and Amber should be together in a scene. Scotty tells Eddie it is time and Eddie has a monologue and tells to himself that he's ready. Eddie goes and Jack discusses the scene; Eddie asks to be called "Dirk" from then on and Jack heartily agrees. Amber and Eddie also decide that he should ejaculate on her breasts. Little Bill also gives some advice to Eddie. They shoot the sex scene which involves Eddie interviewing Amber for a film role - they have sex right on top of the desk. The encounter lasts so long that the crew eventually runs out of film and they change angles. Amber tells Eddie to come inside her and tell her she's "fixed" (which means she's been sterilized). Afterwards, Little Bill tells Jack that they missed the "money shot" and could use stock footage, which Jack scoffs at, saying it won't match. Dirk tells Jack he can perform the scene again in a few minutes if they need a closeup.

    The crew then decides to celebrate with a wrap up party. With the money they earned from their adult film sales, Reed and Eddie buy new shirts and shoes. Eddie then dances with Rollergirl in the same nightclub that he used to work in. The Colonel is seen with a new underage teenage girl while Becky talks to a new guy. We also see Reed as a magician and perform a rising card trick to Buck. We see Eddie rise to fame as people flock to see his movies while critics praises his "suck-cess". Eddie is also seen disco dancing with Reed and other people and Jack reads accolades about Eddie in the porn trade papers.

    Some time later, Eddie reveals that he doesn't like porn that degrades woman (like John Holmes's films) and discusses a new porn series with Jack about an always-on-the-make private detective and crime fighter. Eddie decides that his character for the new porn series should be called "Brock Landers" while Reed will be called "Chest Rockwell", and they play two private detectives who fight crime, have fistfights with various bad guys, and have sex with their women or random women as their rewards (a thinly veiled version of the 'Johnny Wadd' porn series starring John Holmes, whom Eddie makes reference too). The new porn crime-noir series is immediately a box office hit, which brings in more money for Jack and his crew. Eddie also wins three awards at the 2nd Annual Adult Film Awards in Las Vegas: Best Newcomer, Best Cock and Best Actor. He promises that he will make better movies.

    The movie then flashes forward to 1978. We see a clip from the newest Brock Landers movie, Brock Landers: Angels Live In My Town (based on the Johnny Wadd film China Cat). Jack tells his editor to make some changes. Eddie then takes Amber around his new house and we see an extensive wardrobe and his most favorite possession: an orange 1977 Chevrolet Corvette. We also see a porn actress Jessie St. Vincent (Melora Walters) drawing a portrait of him. Jack produces more of the Brock Landers series. Eddie wins more statues from the Adult Film Awards.

    December 31, 1979 - New Year's Eve. Becky meets a new guy named Jerome (Michael Jace). Floyd Gondolli (Philip Baker Hall) meets the Colonel in Jack's New Year's Eve party and introduces his new porn actors. Amber interrupts Jessie and Eddie and Jessie decides to talk to Buck, who feels lonely, his latest "look" a Rick James outfit, is a failure. Todd Parker (Thomas Jane), an exotic male dancer shows up at Jack's party and talks to Reed. Buck tells Jessie all about what he wants to do. Amber asks Eddie to snort a line of cocaine and he readily agrees to do so. Eddie asks if he looks sexy snorting cocaine and Amber kisses him. Floyd privately talks to Jack and asks him to switch to videotape and tells him it's the "future". Gondolli also tells Jack that he has the connections in distribution that can make Jack a lot of money. Jack argues with him and refuses to accept Gondolli's offer, stating that the purity of film is his medium and he won't give it up. Scotty shows Eddie his new car, which happens to be an orange Datsun. To show his infatuation, Scotty kisses Eddie but Eddie becomes upset, telling Scotty he's not gay. Eddie leaves after Scotty apologizes. Scotty starts crying in his car and realizes that he did something stupid. Little Bill searches the party and finds his wife in a bedroom having sex with yet another man. Embarrassed, he goes to his car and retrieves a revolver. As the countdown to New Year nears, Little Bill kills his wife and her latest partner in cold blood and shoots himself in front of everyone.

    Flashing forward to 1981, a documentary on Dirk/Eddie is being shown. Dirk explains how he disregards the violence in his films, which he'd originally wanted to avoid when he dreamed up the Brock Landers character, while the narrator (Amber) tries to espouse his credibility. Reed also shares his interests on what he decides to do in the future. Rollergirl also shows Eddie's credibility by praising him. Eddie then talks about how people have written & thanked him for his work and also on what Jack does. We then see that it is Amber who has made the documentary while Eddie watches it and thanks her for it. A few minutes later, Jack's telephone rings and Jack picks it up, and realizes it's the Colonel. The Colonel is smiling while we realize that he's in prison. The Colonel tells the whole situation: he had brought a 15-year-old girl to his house and she died from a drug overdose. He tells Jack that, while the police were searching the Colonel's house following the girl's overdose, they "found something," implied to be child pornography. Jack realizes the pedophile that the Colonel really is, and refuses to talk to him anymore. Jack leaves the Colonel behind refusing to hire him a lawyer or to do business with him again. We later see Jack walking through a warehouse where videotapes of pornography fill the shelves and are distributed, indicating that with the Colonel out of the picture, Jack had to accept the deal from Floyd Gondolli. Jack seems bored with the new format, which allows films to be shot simply for the sexual content involved and not for acting or story.

    December 1982. Becky Barnett marries Jerome (the same guy during the after-shoot party). During the wedding party, the strung-out Eddie sees Jack with a new porn actor named Johnny Doe (Jonathan Quint) as Jack tries to recruit him. Eddie gets angry and jealous over the new talent and leaves.

    January 1983. By this time, Eddie/Dirk has developed a heavy addiction to cocaine with Reed and Todd Parker. While high, Eddie sees Amber talking to Johnny and becomes jealous. He tries to get an erection but his addiction to coke prevents it. When he does get an erection, he marches out to the movie set and demands that Jack shoot him immediately. Jack tells Eddie to wait about 20 minutes while they prep the scene. The strung-out Eddie becomes furious, shouting obscenities and saying he's the star and nobody tells him what to do. He also tries to attack Johnny, but when Jack tries to stop him, Eddie tries to attack Jack as well. A shouting match ensues and Eddie walks off the set saying that he doesn't need them.

    March 1983. At Sound City Recording Studios, Eddie is trying to pursue a singing career and, with Reed, is recording a song. Eddie, however, is not a talented singer. We see the rise of Johnny Doe's career as well.

    Meanwhile, Rollergirl and Amber snort cocaine at Jack's house. Rollergirl decides to attain the GED (General Educational Development) and to graduate from high school. Amber says that she misses her two sons (one being Dirk) while Rollergirl calls Amber 'Mom'.

    Todd supplies himself, Reed and Eddie with cocaine. Reed and Eddie go to Sound City to get their tapes to take to the record company but are refused until they pay the fee for the recording time. Eddie and Reed argue with the studio's owner, saying they can't pay him until they take the demo tapes to the record company and get paid. The owner still refuses to release the tapes without payment.

    Elsewhere, Buck and Jessie, who are now married, decide to get a bank loan because Buck wants to start his own business of selling stereo equipment. However, they do not get the loan since they both "endorse" pornography as they are both former porn actors and the bank doesn't want to tarnish its own reputation.

    September 1983. Amber is seen in a custody battle with her ex-husband but the court determines she is an unfit mother due to her continuing involvement in the porn industry, her prior criminal record and her addiction to cocaine. Amber is later seen crying in front of the courthouse.

    December 11, 1983. Jack tries to revitalize his career by starting a new porn show called "On The Lookout". It is an early TV reality series that involves Rollergirl riding with him in a limousine while they search for random men to have sex with her so that they can videotape it. Jack picks up a college kid on the street who turns out to be Rollergirl's former high school classmate (the same one that made the obscene gesture in class that made her quit school). He later insults Rollergirl by shamelessly abusing her. Jack tells him to leave and the guy tells Jack his movies aren't good anymore. Jack is angered and starts to beat the guy up and throws him out of the limo. Rollergirl also viciously stomps on the guy with her roller skates before getting back into the limo and riding off.

    That same night, Dirk/Eddie is then picked up by a stranger named Joe (Channon Roe) who asks him to jerk off for ten dollars. Eddie accepts Joe's offer. Eddie tries to masturbate but cannot do so because he's still strung out on cocaine and can't "get it up". Suddenly, a car containing several gang members drives up; they are Joe's friends and they begin beating Eddie heavily in a homophobic assault. Joe joins in on the beating claiming that he entrapped Eddie for the sole purpose to target a "fag" like him. The gang quickly withdraws, leaving the bloodied Eddie on the side of the road.

    Jack's limo passes Buck and Jessie (who is now seven or eight months pregnant), who pull into an all-night donut shop. Buck goes to purchase some donuts. Suddenly, a thief bursts in and robs the shop at gunpoint. While the clerk packs the money from the cash register and the safe, another customer dressed like a cowboy slowly pulls a large pistol and shoots the robber. As he falls, the robber shoots the customer, who is also hit. As the armed customer pitches forward, he shoots again, hitting the clerk in the head. The clerk's blood splatters on Buck, who is unharmed. Looking at the floor, the shaken Buck sees the bag of money dropped by the robber. Seeing that no one else is there and no security cameras around, Buck takes the money and runs out.

    Long Way Down (One Last Thing).

    Flashing forward to a few months later in 1984, Eddie and his friends are desperate for money. Todd decides to steal cash from a wealthy drug dealer named Rahad Jackson (Alfred Molina) (the character is inspired by real-life gangster Eddie Nash). They decide to try to fool him by selling him a half-kilogram of baking soda disguised as cocaine for $5,000. Todd also shows the guys that he's carrying a gun, in case things go awry.

    That evening, Dirk, Rick, and Todd arrive at Rahad's house where the strung-out and debauched Rahad openly welcomes them and buys the cocaine while a bodyguard measures it. Rahad is also listening to 'Sister Christian' by Night Ranger as Rahad shares his opinion on track lists. Reed and Dirk want to count the money in the car but Todd refuses to listen to them. Rahad then listens to Rick Springfield's 'Jessie's Girl' as he sings along. Reed and Dirk decide they don't to wait around any longer before the gig is up and ask Todd to leave with them. Suddenly, Todd demands Rahad give them whatever is in the safe in the bedroom. When Todd points the gun, Rahad shoots Todd in the shoulder. Todd shoots back and kills the bodyguard. Rahad retreats to his bedroom. When Todd kicks the door open, Rahad kills him with a shotgun blast and chases Reed and Dirk out of his house trying to shoot them as well. Dirk speeds away in his Corvette while Reed runs off on foot. Dirk runs out of gas and is forced to stop in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

    Early the next morning, Dirk/Eddie turns up at Jack's house after the frightening experience. He apologizes to Jack for their previous falling out and is forgiven. Eddie is still terrified and tries to rest on Amber's lap.

    A few more months later, we see that Buck now has a new stereo store from the money that he stole from the botched robbery at the doughnut shop. He seems to finally have found the right "look" for himself, styled as an 80s rapper with Amber filming his TV ads. Rollergirl is seen taking the GED exam while the Colonel is still in prison and being beaten by his hulking cell mate. Maurice opens up a new club with his brothers (whom he briefly mentioned earlier in the film) but realizes that its sign features a spelling error. Reed pursues his role as a magician, doing what appears to be an adults-only act where his female assistant is topless. Jessie is seen giving birth to a baby boy while Buck coaches her and Scotty films it.

    In the final scene, we return to Jack's house several more months later. The group has become more of a family as Jack has resumed his career in the adult film industry. We follow Jack through the house. Jack tells Rollergirl to tidy her room. Reed plays with Buck's and Jessie's baby in the backyard swimming pool while Jesse paints a new portrait. Jack tells Maurice that his cooking is filling the house with unpleasant odors. Jack also argues with Buck that he wants a "mellow" hi-fi system. Jack then goes to Amber's room and asks her if she's ready or not for the shoot. Eventually in a bathroom, we see Dirk, dressed Miami-Vice style and practicing his lines in front of a mirror. He unzips his pants and finally reveals his flaccid penis (told to be 13 inches long when erect). He zips up and walks out of the room and goes onto a nearby room to film his latest feature.

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