“There Will Be Blood” scribe-helmer Paul Thomas Anderson discussed the film at the ArcLight Theaters Tuesday night as the last film in Variety’s screening series.
Anderson was asked about the difficulty in adapting books for the screen (“Blood” is loosely based on “Oil!,” Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel). “You should get the rights first,” he deadpanned, “That’s not what I did.”
After discovering that writer Eric Schlosser had the rights to the book, Anderson found that securing the rights was a relatively easy task.
“I called him up and I said ‘You got the rights to this?’ and he said ‘Yeah, did you read it? You’re the only person I’ve ever met who’s read this book,'” Anderson recalled, “and I told him I was trying to make a film out of it and he was very generous and he said ‘Well, you make it. Go ahead.’ That’s the quick story.”
Anderson also described working with famously intense star Daniel Day-Lewis, who played the film’s central role of oil baron Daniel Plainview.
“I obviously thought it’d be a good idea to work with Daniel Day-Lewis,” Anderson chuckled, “And when I stated writing, I tried to keep it in the back of my mind. You know, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.”
But the filmmaker’s admiration for the actor proved to be mutual, as Day-Lewis turned out to be a fan of Anderson’s earlier film “Punch Drunk Love.”
The two hit it off and enjoyed working together on the film. “It really feels like you start dating,” Anderson explained, “There’s a courtship, maybe some fondling…then all of a sudden, you’re married.”
Although Day-Lewis and his co-star Paul Dano were faithful to Anderson’s script, the pair was free to improvise, and Day-Lewis lived up to his reputation as an actor who truly inhabits his character. By the end of the shoot, “Plainview bullshit was just dripping off his tongue,” laughed Anderson, “He just couldn’t help himself.”