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‘Licorice Pizza’ breakout star Alana Haim worried every day that she’d be fired

Movie newbie Alana Haim is already an awards-season contender for her acclaimed performance in “Licorice Pizza.” But she was certain she would be canned from Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, which marked her first acting job.

“I honestly thought I was going to get fired every day because I had no idea what I was doing,” the musician, who’s part of the Grammy-nominated rock band Haim, told Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday’s “Tonight Show.” Luckily, she made it through to the final day of shooting.

“And I remember turning to Paul and saying, ‘Am I fired?’ And he’d be like, ‘You’ve asked me this every day.’”

Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman star in this winning ‘70s set San Fernando Valley romp.

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Chief among the clues to not getting fired, as conveyed to her by Anderson? “Don’t break,” Haim told Fallon. It was a rule she wound up taking to an extreme while driving around in a vintage moving van with co-stars Cooper Hoffman and Bradley Cooper, the latter of whom Fallon called “America’s sweetheart, a national treasure.”

The budding actor, who anchors the L.A. band Haim with her sisters, Danielle and Este, was taking notes as she and fellow newcomer Hoffman — son of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman — embarked on their first film. Anderson got them together and showed a scene from “American Graffiti” where an actor crashes the Vespa he’s riding. The director emphasized that the actor didn’t break character after the crash.

“So I take that as, like, gospel,” Haim told Fallon. “I’m like, ‘The rules of acting: No. 1, don’t break. No. 2, I don’t know yet.’ Those were the rules.”

“Encanto” tops the domestic box office over the holiday weekend, while “Licorice Pizza” has a strong opening in extremely limited release.

They were the rules even when she, a self-proclaimed bad driver, was driving the trio in a stick-shift moving van from the 1970s in one of the movie’s more nail-biting scenes. (She had to go to “truck school,” she said, to learn how to handle the vehicle in the first place.)

“I must have done something to make a popping noise” while driving, she told Fallon. “There was just a pop. But I didn’t think anything of it. And then all of a sudden from the corner of the cab, you know, in the truck, it started filling with smoke.

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“Well, I think this is a test. ... I’m not breaking character. I know the rules. I’m not breaking. This is a test,” Haim said as Fallon collapsed into giggles. “So I’m driving and — smoke, filling this cab.”

Cooper — Bradley, not Hoffman — finally turned to her and said, “Is that normal?” Committed to her art, Haim said only, “Yes.”

What? “That was my answer.”

“In my mind I go, ‘Nailed it,’” she said. After another minute of driving, the take ended and she was thinking, “‘Alana, you’re in the movies now. Look at what you just did. That was incredible.’”

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She turned to congratulate her fellow thespians on a job well done, only to see that both men had immediately evacuated the truck at their first opportunity.

“They’re gone. Fully gone,” she said. Then she heard someone screaming, “Get out of the truck!”

It wound up being a no-big-deal situation, and all was well. But still, she told Fallon, “I didn’t break.”

And that, friends, is acting.

After a successful limited run in select theaters, “Licorice Pizza” opens in wide release Dec. 25.


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