Paul Thomas Anderson was born in the San Fernando Valley in 1970 and he has set nearly all of his seven feature films within a short, traffic-snarled commute from where he grew up. His adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, in theaters Friday, is no different, following the stoney wanderings of “gum-sandal” private eye Doc Sportello in and around Pynchon’s Gordita Beach (a fictionalized Manhattan Beach) in 1970. For a variety of reasons–their similarly maximalist tendencies and zany humor–the novelist and filmmaker seem perfectly matched to bring the first Pynchon adaptation to the big screen. And Anderson, who has, throughout his career, fostered friendships with several of his other idols (Altman, Demme, and Robert Downey, Sr., whose recent retrospective he helped to put together in L.A., included) says that his artistic debt to Pynchon is foundational, supreme (though he remains predictably coy about working with the famously reclusive writer). We talked instead about crises of confidence, about heroes too cool to give advice, and “bottomless pit” of father-son relationships.