×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Paul Thomas Anderson Unveils Daniel Day-Lewis Fashion Romance ‘Phantom Thread’

“I’m a f—ing movie director — I don’t know anything about obsession,” filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson said sarcastically after the first Stateside screening of his new film “Phantom Thread” Friday night.

Indeed, the six-time Oscar nominee’s latest work does revolve around that very concept, which has been famously explored by masters like Alfred Hitchcock. Anderson even boldly name-checked Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” and “Vertigo” as touchstones. But there’s also a dash of reflexive cinema in there; if you define a film as the manifestation of a single vision by an army of artisans at the whim of a sovereign, well, that’s exactly what Anderson has explored here, albeit within the context of 1950s London couture.

Phantom Thread” stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, an esteemed fashion designer of the era whose world is up-ended by the arrival of Alma (Vicky Krieps), a forthright woman not content to simply play the part of the demure muse to the beyond-reproach genius. Soft-spoken but larger-than-life, Reynolds toils away in his lavish home, flanked by seamstresses and his right-hand delegate and sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), building on a passion for the craft instilled in him by his mother. But in Alma, he meets a formidable “emotional challenge,” as Manville put it.

“Alma’s arrival is sort of bittersweet, because Cyril has seen women come and go,” Manville said. “Cyril has, in a maternal way, had to mop up the mess of Reynolds’ emotional life, and I suspect she thinks it’s about time he did have somebody in his life with gravitas, who he could have something real with.”

Added Anderson: “It’s great to have a disruptor. [In this film] it’s love, so is it a disruptor? I don’t know. He has that line, ‘A house that doesn’t change is a dead house.’ So it seems like this house is maybe nearing its death faster than it should be without something new coming in to make it grow again and make it come alive.”

Anderson and Day-Lewis had been looking for a follow-up in the decade since their last collaboration, “There Will Be Blood.” The writing process differed on “Phantom Thread” somewhat, though. Anderson had pretty much hammered out “There Will Be Blood” on the page by the time he went to Day-Lewis with it. This time, working hand-in-hand was vital, particularly as it pertained to Day-Lewis’ method tendencies.

“We did research together and we agreed I would share writing with him as we went along,” Anderson said. “Everything in the house of Woodcock was so particular, in terms of what chair, what silverware, what teacup, so you have to involve Daniel in every aspect of that. It wasn’t as if Mark Bridges, our costume designer, could go independently and create a bunch of costumes and then put them into Reynolds Woodcock’s lap. It was very much a collaboration and everything in this world was coming from Reynolds. And that’s as it should be. The production was pushed forward by that.”

For Krieps, who arrives as an interesting wild card in the lead actress race this awards season, the lack of rehearsals was unusual. She essentially met Day-Lewis on set, in costume.

“I think they are both very different, but because they’re so different, that’s why they love each other,” she said of the two characters. “He shows her a new world she would never have had access to, a world of dressmaking and all this glamour and beauty. And she, I think, shows him an inner world.”

Speaking of awards season, “Phantom Thread” is part of a Focus Features stable that also includes Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour,” Stephen Frears’ “Victoria & Abdul” and Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled.” Day-Lewis is sure to be in the thick of the lead actor conversation, particularly on the heels of his latest retirement announcement, but the film is most likely to register in a number of craft categories. However, you can take at least one race off the table: Anderson ostensibly shot the film himself, and there is no credited cinematographer on the project. So it won’t be competing in the category.

“Phantom Thread” has been dedicated to the late filmmaker Jonathan Demme. It opens Dec. 25.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Naomie Harris Shriek

    'Venom 2': Naomie Harris Eyed to Play Villain Shriek Opposite Tom Hardy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomie Harris is in talks to play Spider-Man villain Shriek in Sony’s “Venom 2,” with Tom Hardy returning as the titular anti-hero. Andy Serkis is on board to direct, and Michelle Williams and Woody Harrelson are also reprising their roles. The original film was a huge hit for the studio when it premiered in 2018, [...]

  • David Weisman

    David Weisman, 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' Producer, Dies at 77

    David Weisman, who was Oscar-nominated as producer of “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” died Oct. 9 in Los Angeles due to complications from West Nile virus. He was 77. Weisman had a long career as a graphic designer and photographer and co-wrote and co-directed cult classic “Ciao! Manhattan” about 1960s icon Edie Sedgwick. Born in [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Composer Michael Giacchino on Setting the Right Tone for 'Jojo Rabbit'

    Michael Giacchino is a widely respected film composer, with an Oscar and a Grammy for “Up” and an Emmy for “Lost,” as well as a Grammy for “Ratatouille.” He is stirring up Oscar buzz again with his score for Fox Searchlight’s “Jojo Rabbit,” written and directed by Taika Waititi. Giacchino talked with Variety about the [...]

  • Michael Giacchino Film Composer

    How the 'Jojo Rabbit' Production Team Created a Child's View of Nazi Germany

    When picturing Nazi Germany during World War II, most people think of black-and-white or sepia-toned images of drab cities. For the cinematographer and production designer of “Jojo Rabbit,” a film set squarely in that time and place, it became clear that the color palette of the era was far more varied than they could have [...]

  • Robert Duvall (Oberst Kilgore)

    Studiocanal Steps Up its Heritage Game in Germay Via Arthaus Classics

    LYON, France – Continuing its devotion to heritage film in Germany, Studiocanal is bringing classic movies back into cinemas while also releasing newly restored DVD/Blu-ray collections of beloved titles. The leading producer-distributor enjoyed a major hit this summer with the one-day re-release of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now: Final Cut,” which scored 12,000 admissions in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content