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The Reeler Blog

There Will Be Bruises

By Ben Gold

Like a prospector traveling to unknown territories in search of riches, The Reeler journeyed to the Upper East Side of Manhattan for the 92nd Street Y’s preview screening of There Will Be Blood. Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Daniel Day-Lewis joined moderator Annette Insdorf for a discussion afterward, revealing a pair of down-to-earth fellows whose creative collaboration sounded strikingly like its lead character's own harrowing journey through the hellish depths of humanity.

"Partners in crime": (L-R) Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson on the set of There Will Be Blood (Photo: Paramount Vantage)

Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a character even more ferocious than his Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. A self-described “oil man” in early 20th-century California, Plainview is concerned with little besides making money; he conjures an unearthly growl throughout, in direct contrast to Day-Lewis’s gentle, refined English accent. He described his tradition of creating his characters from the ground up, going as far as to invent Plainview’s back story. “There’s no choice, really, but to do that work," he told the audience. "Not only because you need to do it, but because the only way of convincing anyone else that I’ve found my way into another life is, firstly, to convince myself. And there’s no possibility of doing that unless I understand everything of what lead that man to the place you discover him.”

Anderson loosely based Blood on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, but for the actor that is where the relationship ends. “The novel had no relevance when we were making the film,” Day-Lewis said. “As much as it might have started Paul off on his journey, which in turn lead to our partnership, and me embarking on mine in a different way, we had to separate ourselves from anything other than the very specific world we are trying to imagine. From that point of view, even if there had been some connection, one would resist, very much, the conscious sense of that.”

For his part, though, Anderson took inspiration from a variety of outside sources, one of which being John Huston’s 1948 film The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Anderson said he was influenced by the film’s structure -- specifically, its economy of story. “I can just remember coming across it as I was starting to write the film, struggling to find a foothold," he said. "I had lots of good bits and pieces, but nothing that really had cement to it. I came across it again and it was a life saver.”

But, Anderson added, once filming begins, the side of him that is a writer must be left behind. “You have to hand off to someone," he said. "It’s scary. Even as much as I trust Daniel, he’s got his job. We’re in this together -- partners in crime. It’s a terrifying baton hand-off, but it’s a great one when it happens.”

It was especially nerve-wracking when directing a film with such intensely visceral and violent scenes. Thankfully, though, Anderson had a plan. “They were real, at least initially, to a certain extent,” Anderson said. “ 'Let's everybody try and get this right the first time so we don’t have to hit anyone more than we have to.' ”

Posted at December 13, 2007 1:58 PM

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