Paul Thomas Anderson makes well-crafted and detailed period dramas, whether it’s it’s the 19th century-based There Will Be Blood or the several groovy movies based during the decade of disco. But he also makes beautifully heartfelt and uniquely romantic films, such as Punch-Drunk Love and Magnolia. Phantom Thread brilliantly combines both styles.
The 1950s-based movie is about a dressmaker who falls in love with a waitress in London, and it features a leading role from Daniel Day-Lewis, which also happened to be his final role before retiring. As the actor is notorious for his extreme method acting and there are tons of bizarre stories from the production, whether it’s people too scared to speak with Day-Lewis or him becoming a real-life dressmaker himself.
Vicky Krieps Avoided Day-Lewis At All Costs
It is well-documented that Daniel Day-Lewis is a very serious actor, and the three-time Academy Award winning-performer can be extremely intimidating on set. Vicky Krieps, who plays Alma in the 2017 movie, witnessed this first hand.
Alma is one of P.T. Anderson’s best female characters, thanks to her chemistry with Reynolds Woodcock, but off-screen, Krieps avoided Day-Lewis whenever she could. According to The Guardian, when everybody was on location and it was a day before shooting began, Krieps “spent a whole day staring into greenery to avoid him” and going on long walks by the sea just to stay out of his peripheral vision.
Anderson’s Writing Process Was More Collaborative With Day-Lewis
So many lead actors have writing credits on movies that viewers wouldn’t expect, whether it’s Tom Hardy on Venom: Let There Be Carnage or Paul on Ant-Man. And while Day-Lewis’s contributions to the writing of Phantom Thread didn’t earn him a writing credit, it reportedly came pretty close.
Where most writer-directors will complete the screenplay before handing it over to actors for them to read, according to Entertainment Weekly, Anderson didn’t feel comfortable doing that with Day-Lewis. Anderson would constantly update the actor with every new page of action and dialogue, just to get his feedback and his criticisms, even when it came to the smallest changes.
Day-Lewis Came Up With His Character’s Name
While most of Day-Lewis’ help writing the movie was in thoughts and ideas, not actually putting pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard, there is one clear part of the movie that was wholly invented by the actor.
In an interview on Jimmy Kimmel, when trying to convince the host that the stoic actor does have a sense of humor, Anderson confessed that it was Day-Lewis who came up with his character’s surname, Woodcock. It’s such an unusual name and outrageous joke, especially in the contest of a romantic ’50s period drama, but it’s still hilarious.
Day-Lewis Hated The Isolated Filming
The beginning of the movie takes place in the countryside of England, where Reynolds resides in his private country house. It’s light, airy, and open, and there are so many great opportunities for shots without any of the cast and crew getting in anybody’s way.
However, when the character moves back to the House of Reynolds, a cramped Georgian London townhouse, according to Indiewire, it was so difficult to shoot and Day-Lewis called the experience “awful.” It’s such a tight space so full of people, and the actor even referred to the isolated, crowded rooms as “termite nests.” As Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting after filming wrapped, Anderson assures people that his experience on set wasn’t the cause. However, audiences may see the actor again, as Day-Lewis has come out of retirement before.
The Movie Was Inspired By Maya Rudolph Caring For Anderson When He Was Ill
In the movie, Alma and Reynolds’ relationship is almost toxic, quite literally, as Alma intentionally poisons Reynolds to the point where he is completely bedridden. Some Redditors think Phantom Thread is boring, but when Alma’s intentions to poison her other half are revealed, it becomes more exciting than a P.T. Anderson film has been for a long time.
But it turns out that it’s with good intentions, kind of, as she does it simply because she wants to take care of him. According to the New York Times, Anderson was inspired by his wife, comedian and actor Maya Rudolph, who took care of him when he was ill, and he noticed that she looked at him in a way that she hadn’t looked at him in years.
Charles James Inspired Woodcock’s Personality
Though the relationship between Alma and Reynolds was influenced by a very personal moment in Anderson’s life, the same can’t be said for the character’s personality. While many directors have Reynolds’ obsessive and controlling behavior, it isn’t based on the filmmaker’s own working methods.
According to Interview Magazine, the characteristics of Reynolds Woodcock are mostly based on Charles James, a dressmaker who was at the height of his career in the 1950s. Just like Woodcock, the designer was a complex genius with a mean streak, and his ego often got the best of him.
Day-Lewis Learned Dressmaking For One Year To Prepare For The Role
There have been so many stories of Day-Lewis’ ambitious method acting over the decades, as he generally prefers to stay in character for months, even when the cameras aren’t rolling, and will only live like how the character would. That habit was taken to extremes for the preparation of Phantom Thread.
According to Slash Film, before principal photography for the movie took place, Day-Lewis studied dressmaking for two years. He worked as an apprentice under Marc Happel, who was the head of New York City Ballet’s costume department at the time. And after that, he designed and made a Balenciaga dress from scratch.
Anderson Served As His Own Cinematographer
Every movie has a cinematographer, and they’re responsible way the film looks, whether it’s down to the lighting or the angle of the shot. Anderson’s movies are best known for their unique and beautiful photography, and that’s thanks to Robert Elswit, who was the cinematographer on every Anderson-directed movie except for The Master.
But, as Elswit’s schedule was full, according to Collider, Anderson preferred to do the job himself rather than trust anyone else with it. When asked about it, Anderson quickly explained that it was a very collaborative effort with the whole crew to get the specific look that he wanted, and there isn’t a director of photography credit.
Between Takes, Krieps And Day-Lewis Would Have Tea Together In Character
While Krieps was originally intimidated by Day-Lewis’ on-set presence, she quickly got over it, and that was thanks to overcoming her fear by facing it head-on. According to The Playlist, though every crew member advised against it, Krieps broke through to Day-Lewis in a way that few other actors ever could.
The actress visited his green room and, surprisingly, the actor greeted her with her character name, screaming “Alma!” Krieps mentioned that they had tea together and a conversation about Virginia Woolf. And from that point on, it became a regular thing.
The Scene Where Krieps Trips Up When She Meets Woodcock Wasn’t Staged
Early in the movie, Reynolds and Alma first meet in a cafe where Alma is a waitress. And knowing that Reynolds is a wealthy and supremely talented dressmaker, it gets all of the waitresses whispering. As Alma heads over to take his order she trips up, clearly nervous around Reynolds, and it seems like a great little detail that Anderson added in.
However, according to IndieWire, that wasn’t the case, and Krieps actually tripped up in real life, nervous about her first scene with Day-Lewis. The actress then blushes and goes completely red, which looks like some kind of lighting trickery, but it was all real.
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