The director of Phantom Thread looks back on his collaboration with the brilliant English actor.
Update of October 17, 2021: Early 2018, First met Paul thomas anderson to talk about his reunion with Daniel Day-Lewis, his flagship actor of There Will Be Blood for Phantom Thread. On the occasion of the film’s broadcast, this Sunday on Arte, we share his words, captivating for all those who love the careers of these two artists. An interview that completes in passing the documentary scheduled for the second part of the evening, Daniel Day-Lewis: the heir, already visible on Arte.TV and the channel’s YouTube page. Note that when creating Phantom Thread, the actor had let it be known in the press thathe was planning to retire. Since then, he has effectively no more projects as an actor.
Our review of Phantom Thread
Interview of February 15, 2018: Phantom Thread, the new film by Paul Thomas Anderson, has just been released in French theaters, and it’s a splendor. Portrait of an obsessive and tyrannical couturier in the London of the 50s, this second collaboration of the American director with Daniel Day-Lewis, ten years later There Will Be Blood, could also be the last, the actor having announced to want to stop the cinema. He had certainly already done the trick in the late 90s, before Martin Scorsese offered him to be the bloodthirsty butcher of Gangs of New York… But this time, according to PT Anderson, it’s serious.
It is said that you worked very closely with Daniel Day-Lewis while writing Phantom Thread, almost co-wrote the film with him… Have you ever worked with an actor like that?
No, except with Philip Seymour Hoffman on The Master. The difference being that for The Master, I had a lot of material to condense, while this time, the starting point was very tenuous.
What exactly was this starting point?
It wasn’t even originally a question of talking about the fashion world, just the story of a man and a woman. He is egocentric, he only manages to show tenderness when he is sick or tired. She will then look for a way to weaken him… I had the image of their meeting in a restaurant, that’s all. I told Daniel about it, because we were trying at all costs to work together again since There will be blood. We started to think about who could be this man. An artist, maybe? But then in what area? How about a couturier? Little by little, we developed a passion for the figure of Cristobal Balenciaga. We also really liked this Beatrix Potter story, The Gloucester Tailor, on a tailor who must prepare a coat for the mayor of the city, and is helped in the night by mice, who are grateful to him because he protected them from the cat.
Five films to watch before Phantom Thread
When did you know that you considered the material for a film?
Little by little, everything fell into place. Daniel and I were moving in parallel. Me on my script and him on his research. Which was pretty smart because it saved us precious time. I knew he would need at least a year to think about the role and learn to sew. I was also not sure that he would say yes to me on arrival! He might as well have concluded that he was ultimately not interested. But he was happy to explore this world… It was he who found the name of the character, Reynolds Woodcock! When you work like this, there is always a moment when things become concrete, three-dimensional. Where it is no longer just a question of documentary sources and scraps of script. That moment is when Daniel began an internship with the designers of the New York City Ballet. I went to visit him and that’s when I realized it was going to do it. He looked so happy, he was having a blast. And he was good!
Between your two films with Daniel Day-Lewis, you made two films with Joaquin Phoenix. Do they have things in common?
On the set, Daniel arrives every morning already “in” the character. He behaves like the man he embodies. Joaquin does the same, and honestly I think that’s a good way to think about his work. Seeing them totally invested from the first hour of the day is galvanizing. People often misunderstand this process. They think it’s a weird thing, or a way of taking themselves seriously. How painful, bleak. While not at all. We laugh a lot.
Not always, obviously… After the shooting of the film, Day-Lewis had these very strong words in the magazine W, to explain his desire to stop the cinema: “Before turning Phantom Thread, I didn’t know I was going to quit. Paul and I laughed a lot while preparing the film. Then we stopped laughing and were overcome with a great sense of sadness. It took us by surprise: we did not understand what we had given birth to. It was hard to live with. And it still is. ” What exactly is he referring to?
Hmm. No doubt at the asparagus scene …
That awesome housekeeping scene in the middle of the movie …
Yes. We wrote this sequence imagining that it would be very funny. There was something absurd and grotesque about it that really made us laugh. But it was hell to turn. It didn’t sound as expected at all. So much the better after all, the shoots are made for that! But I could see that Daniel was in pain, he told me between takes. “It’s not what we imagined it would be, is it?” I don’t know, maybe that’s when sadness took hold of him…
What about his retirement? You believe in it ? Did you see it coming?
Of course I believe it! These things must be taken seriously. Quite frankly, no, I wasn’t expecting it. Even though I know he talked about it a lot. He’s been itching for twenty years. Right now, I prefer not to think about it, I put my head in the sand. A lot of people think he’ll come back eventually. But if I were you, I wouldn’t be delusional.
25 (true) Daniel Day-Lewis facts
The story of Phantom Thread : In glamorous 1950s London, famous fashion designer Reynold Woodcock and his sister Cyril are at the heart of British fashion, dressing royals, movie stars, heiresses, socialites and ladies in the Maison’s recognizable style. Woodcock. Women parade through Woodcock’s life, bringing inspiration and companionship to this hardened bachelor, until one day he meets Alma, a young woman with a strong character who will quickly become his muse and lover. He who controlled and planned his life down to the millimeter, here he is overwhelmed by love.
Daniel Day-Lewis is masterful in There Will Be Blood [critique]