Charlie Rose Interview with Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Anderson

By Michael Karpienski | Last Updated: December 02, 2023
Being from Texas, I had a particular soft spot for this film, not just because anything writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson creates is pure brilliance, but because I am also from this spot in the country. Filmed five hours away from my hometown in San Antonio, PT Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis secluded themselves in this empty and isolated town for years.
“There Will Be Blood" was filmed in Marfa – a small town in west Texas. Across the desert and the plains, Marfa is famous for being where “Giant” was filmed, a film starring James Dean also about oil.
To start the film project the first year, the majority of Daniel Day-Lewis’ work was done a long distance from PT Anderson. This was a need according to Day-Lewis based on his enormous curiosity about how oil was extracted. From the start, Day-Lewis would not even consider filming until he could see the world as ‘Daniel Plainview,’ an ambitious miner full of greed who changed his mining business into an obsession about oil extraction.
When Day-Lewis was thinking about how his character looked physically, he could not imagine how the suit appeared. But how Daniel Plainview (the character) embraces his personality when testing his suit at his tailor, or how the character expresses his vanity when looking at himself, as Day-Lewis says it is a universal feeling but very individual in a way of how someone perceives his appearance based on the character’s psychology.
Another great detail is Daniel Plainview’s son in the movie. The kid was not an actor himself, but a young cowboy who competed in the rodeo in west Texas. The kid showed up for the audition and right away PT Anderson loved how natural he connected with Daniel in the particular setting.
Daniel as we know worked in isolation. In his words: “I gather as many resources as possible from the character. I read books about the period, I watch documentaries, listen to recordings of people from that time, I investigate every single aspect of the character, how were his circumstances?”
Daniel found rhythm when interacting with PT Anderson after two weeks or a month after they started filming. And it was very important for him to be open to PT Anderson’s view of the scenes. He and the director had to review the shots and if things did not click in their view they would throw everything in the trash right away and redo it again from the start. You are in a playground in Marfa. PT Anderson and Day-Lewis said they felt like kids playing, experimenting, recalibrating and testing, and being able to try again and again until they did things right. In movies, most work is achieved in one-on-one interactions. Collaboration is dependent on being open and humble enough to take criticism.
“You have to help this new life (character) to tell the story the way he is living it,” Day-Lewis said. “At least with some unconsciousness. The ultimate goal is to completely leave yourself in the character.”
The question goes now to you. Can you do that? Can you leave completely yourself in the character?
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