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Creating Daniel Plainview [1/2]: Research, Voice, Costume, and Development | There Will Be Blood

Creating Daniel Plainview [1/2]: Research, Voice, Costume, and Development | There Will Be Blood

This video is brought to you by MUBI a curated online cinema streaming exceptional films from around the globe. Get one month free at In recent memory, there is perhaps no character
study more engaging than Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood— a story following the
obsessive ambition of oilman Daniel Plainview at the turn of the century. But how did Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel
Day Lewis breathe life into one of the most well-developed characters in cinema history? Today, we’ll take a look at how Anderson
and Day Lewis came to work together, how the character was written by Anderson versus how
he was developed by Day Lewis, how Day Lewis came up with Plainview’s iconic voice, how
the costumes were chosen and much much more. This is making film… Paul Thomas Anderson had written the role
of Daniel Plainview for Daniel Day Lewis despite never having met him. Anderson was hesitant at the prospect of contacting
an actor he really admired, but had no connection to. That was until a mutual friend told Anderson
about Day Lewis’ fondness for Anderson’s 2002 film Punch Drunk Love, which gave Anderson
the [quote] “boost of confidence” he needed (Modell). Anderson said that he still would have risked
the failure of attempting to get Day Lewis on board, but knowing that he liked Punch
Drunk Love so much supplied the encouragement to think that maybe he would like this new
project (Modell). Anderson met up with Day Lewis in New York
where they spent a couple of months getting to know each other. Anderson says that he remembers eating a lot
of breakfast and a lot of walking around (Modell). Once they both decided to make the movie,
they split up to prepare— Anderson went back to California to finish the script and
Day Lewis went back to Ireland to begin developing his character (Modell). There was light infrequent contact, but no
more substantial than Day Lewis calling to ask a simple question about the story. Anderson said, “As far as I’m concerned,
I didn’t need to give him anything more than he wanted to know” (Modell). Anderson based his writing of the character
of Daniel Plainview on three components. Anderson thought of the story as being something
out of the horror genre and, believe it or not, the first component he used while writing
the character of Daniel Plainview was Count Dracula. Several sources have dissected this comparison
noting that we are first introduced to Plainview shrouded in the darkness of the mine shaft
protected from the sunlight and that he thirsts for oil like a vampire thirsts for blood (brightlightsfilm). The title, There Will Be Blood, alludes to
oil being the blood of the land. Plainview’s arch nemesis sees himself as
a “Man of God” and, at the end of the film, we leave Plainview secluded in his castle-like
home (brightlightsfilm). “Everyday, I drink the blood of lamb from
Bandi’s tract.” Admittedly, this is a bit of a reach, but
Anderson has confirmed modeling Plainview partially on Dracula and said, “I just had
it in my head, underneath it all, that we were making a horror film… Maybe we go to horror movies because we want
to see something horrible happen, in the same way we might get excited to look at a car
crash. In some ways, Plainview’s story is a bit
like a car crash, one that just keeps getting worse” (Blood for Oil). The second component was the character J.
Arnold Ross from Upton Sinclair’s book Oil!, on which the movie was loosely based. The book involves Ross and his son Bunny coming
across oil while quail hunting on a goat ranch. Ross eventually comes into conflict with the
evangelist Eli, but that’s pretty much the extent of the similarities. The book mostly revolves around Bunny, the
HW character. Anderson had said that he only used the first
150 pages from the book (Wiki). As far as inspiration from the book, it seems
to be mostly Plainview’s way of speaking about his business. In an interview, Anderson spoke about a particular
line from Sinclair’s book. It reads: “I have business connections, so I can get
the lumber for the derrick. Such things go by friendship in a rush like
this.” Anderson said, “anybody who can say that
is pretty cool, you know?… those sort of things helped creating whoever
the hell it is” (Schwartz). The third, and perhaps most important component,
was the “real-life oil tycoon” Edward Doheny. The small amount of Plainview’s backstory
that does make it in the film was based primarily on Doheny. Like Plainview, Doheny was from Fond du Lac,
Wisconsin, worked for a Geological Survey, and mined silver in New Mexico (PONSOLDT). Perhaps the most famous line in the film… “I drink your milkshake.” was also possibly based on something involving
Doheny. Anderson says that the line comes from a 1924
court hearing after Doheny was acquitted of bribery charges following the Teapot Dome
Scandal in which [quote] “Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall had leased Navy
petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming and two other locations in California to private
oil companies at low rates without competitive bidding” (Wiki). Fall reportedly said, “Sir, if you have a
milkshake and I have a milkshake and my straw reaches across the room, I’ll end up drinking
your milkshake” (Shortlist). Fall was found guilty of bribery and sentenced
to one year in jail (Shortlist). However, in 2013, an independent group failed
to find the milkshake quote in Fall’s testimony (Shortlist). An article says that the quote possibly originated
from a 2003 “debate over drilling in Alaska,” in which it was said [quote] “The oil is underground,
and it is going to be drilled and come up… Here is a giant reservoir underground… Just like a curved straw, you put it underground
and maneouver it, and the ‘milkshake’ is way over there, and your little child wants the
milkshake, and they sit over here in their bedroom where they are feeling ill, and they
just gobble it up from way down in the kitchen, where you don’t even have to move the Mix
Master that made the ice cream for them” (shortlist). What’s funny is that the oil they used in
the film was made using the same “stuff they put in chocolate milkshakes at McDonalds”
(Entertainment Weekly). It has been said that Sinclair’s book is
also loosely based on the life of Doheny and his company Pan American Petroleum & Transport
Company. As for Daniel Day Lewis’ preparations, he
said that there was no particular model that he based his portrayal of Daniel Plainview
on (Indie London). Day Lewis read Sinclair’s book and said
that it introduced him to the fascinating world of the oilfields and the lives of drillers
and prospectors, but other than the detail and context of the setting, he didn’t find
any clues as to Daniel Plainview’s character in there (Indie London). Instead, he gained some insight into the mind
of a prospector by reading actual letters sent by oil men and silver miners to their
families (Time Out). Day Lewis said, “I studied the life of…
Edward Doheny only insofar as I learnt about the main events of his life. Los Angeles was actually founded on muck,
it’s an amazing thing, if you see the early photographs dating back to that period. It’s actually a forest of oil derricks with
tiny little houses sandwiched here and there in between them… That was the world, and Los Angeles grew out
of that and was founded on that wealth. Doheny was one of the principal characters
in the building of that city” (Indie London). Another interesting thing to note is that
Plainview’s mansion at the end was actually filmed in Doheny’s mansion. Daniel Day Lewis: “Yeah, I’m not sure
if the fever is for acting or the fever really just for… I suppose that’s what it comes down to.” Charlie Rose: “But what else would it be?” Daniel Day Lewis: “The idea of exploring
the world through a different- with an entirely different experience to your own.” Day Lewis is often asked about his process
of getting into the minds of his characters. Day Lewis said, “The reason I try to resist
talking about it much is because I can never find a way of describing it that seems to
make any sense… On the one hand, it seems to be mystifying
the whole thing, which wouldn’t be my wish, yet from my point of view I need to feel that
there’s a mystery there” (Time Out). It sounds vague, but beyond the normal things
like familiarizing himself with the tools of the era he spent many months in what he
calls “listless rumination” (Charlie Rose). Day Lewis and Anderson discussed Plainview’s
backstory a bit, saying that, before he can convince the audience that Plainview is a
real person, he has to convince himself (Reel Pieces). Daniel Day Lewis already had quite a reputation
for losing himself in the characters he plays going as far as catching pneumonia because
he refused to wear a modern coat in between shots during Gangs of New York (thrillist). He won his first best actor academy award
for his role in the 1989 film My Left Foot, which follows a man born with cerebral palsy
who can only control his left foot. During the production of My Left Foot, Day-Lewis
[quote] “insisted on visiting restaurants in a wheelchair and had to be lifted across
the lighting cables each day to reach the set” (nytimes). On deciding to take on the role of Daniel
Plainview, Day-Lewis said, “I daresay, because the unconscious plays such an important part
in the work, the imagination being on the front line of that … what could be more
liberating than to explore with impunity the darker recesses of one’s imagination and psyche?… I suppose that has always appealed to me,
and I always am most often intrigued by lives that seem very far removed from my own. [With] Plainview, [it] wasn’t the violence
of the man or the misanthrope of the man that attracted me particularly, but just that unknown
life in its entirety” (MetalFloss). Day Lewis thought Anderson’s written version
of Plainview was [quote] “an honest examination of a life” (Charlie Rose). But as much as he enjoyed the script, he had
to consider whether or not he could be the one to bring Plainview to life. Daniel Day-Lewis: “The question mark is-
it’s kind of a false question because it’s already asked too late, in a way.” Charlie Rose: “When you ask it, you’re
already there.” Daniel Day-Lewis: “I’m gone. Yeah, I’ve packed my bag.” Day Lewis spoke more on this with Indie London
saying, “Really, the challenge always seems to be the same thing, to tell a story as well
as you can. To whatever extent I’m able to assess my
contribution at the very beginning, having felt the pull of the orbit of another world,
I try to step backwards and ask myself if I can serve that story as the person I’m
going to be telling that story with. I try to do that, but I think I’m usually
already too far-gone anyhow. It’s a token gesture rather than a real
one” (Indie London). The first step toward breathing life into
the character was to find his voice. What does Daniel Plainview sound like and
how does he speak? One of the most interesting aspects about
Plainview is how his voice and speech relate to his core ambition. Plainview was comfortable mining for silver…
more or less. To get beyond the small time success of silver
mining and up to the massive wealth that oil has to offer requires not only managing a
team of workers, but rubbing elbows with the folks who own and inhabit the land you want
to drill into. Oilmen had to be showmen, they have to be charming, authoritative, and charismatic (Blood for Oil). In order to get what he wants, Plainview has
to somehow convince the people he hates to believe that he likes them. “There are times when I look at people and
see nothing worth liking.” “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some
of you and I hope very much in the months to come, I’ll be able to visit with each
and every one of you.” Really, he just wants to suck the [quote/unquote]
“blood” from the ground and move on. “Just give me the blood, Eli, and let me
get out of here. Give me the blood, lord, and let me get away!” As Day Lewis said— after living in a hole
for years, he’s got to find a voice and a silver tongue to manipulate people (Charlie Rose). People often cite Plainview’s voice when
speaking about Day Lewis’ great performance. It’s easy to understand why this might be
the case considering how different Plainview’s voice is from his own. “If we decide to drill for oil and if the
well begins to produce, I’ll give your church a five thousand dollar signing.” “It seems to me that this sprang like a
golden sapling out of the mad beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson.” Day Lewis had said that he felt lucky that
there are no recordings from that period that could allow people to poke holes in his performance
saying things like “people didn’t talk like that during that time!” (Charlie Rose). That said, Paul Thomas Anderson did give him
some recordings of people from the dustbowl years including some from Plainview’s hometown
of Fondelac, although he didn’t get much help from that (Charlie Rose). Some have said that Day Lewis based the voice
on director and actor John Huston. “The bond issue passes Tuesday, there’ll be eight million dollars to build an aqueduct and reservoir— I’m doing it.” While he did listen to some tapes of Huston, he didn’t base the voice on him (Mental Floss). However, he did say that the “vigor of Huston’s
language” appealed to him, so perhaps it was more about the speech pattern than the
voice itself (Mental Floss). Huston’s 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra
Madre provided provided Paul Thomas Anderson with much inspiration during the making of
There Will Be Blood, but that’s a story for another episode. Daniel Day-Lewis: “I might be listening
to tapes, listening to different voices, allowing things to just run through me. Something might stay; something might not.” Day Lewis claims that he did not base the
voice on anyone in particular (Indie London). He says that it is too hard to recreate something
[or] the idea of something (Schwartz). When taking on a role, he tries to first hear
the sound of his character’s voice before he tries to speak it (Charlie Rose). He said, “I didn’t know what I was looking
for, and as far as possible I try not to dismember the life of a man into separate parts, physical
or spiritual or vocal. I try to allow that life to reveal itself
in some way as if I don’t really have much to do with it. I’m nearly always working on a voice of
some kind, but I try not to do it in isolation from the other work. I talk to myself a lot, I have a little prehistoric
machine with tiny tapes that are incompatible with just about any system I know of. I talk into that an awful lot to see if I
can find a sound that means something. But nearly always it comes with hearing a
voice in my mind’s ear” (Indie London). We can see now how much just Plainview’s
voice has become a part of pop culture. “I’m Daniel Plainview. This is my partner and son HW. I’m an oilman, but I also love milkshakes.” Paul Thomas Anderson recalls his surprise
at the first time he heard Daniel Plainview’s voice saying, “The voice came in these little
Dictaphone recordings that Daniel would send me from time to time. It was funny, because my first impression
of them was ‘This is insane!’… But those are usually the best things, the
things that you have no preconceived idea about that rattle your world. When you’re writing it, and you’re alone in
your room, it’s great. It’s just you. But the great thing is opening it up to someone
else. You have to be selfless and allow this thing
to happen. So I would get these Dictaphone recordings,
which were alternately exciting and nerve-wracking. But after sitting with them, just for a day,
I could see where he was heading. Somewhere along the way, he just kept finding
it, and finding it, and finding it, until it settled into what it became” (Modell). Anderson mentions feeling the same way about
Phillip Seymore Hoffman when he first saw what he was going to do in Boogie Nights (Modell). “Cause I wanted to, you know, I wanted to
make sure you thought it was cool or else I was going to take it back.” And it was similar with some of the musical
pieces Jonny Greenwood sent him early on while making There Will Be Blood (Modell). After the initial shock of a different take
on what you had in mind wears off, you can see what they were thinking. After all, you are collaborating with these
artists for a reason. Daniel Day Lewis is already sort of in character
by the time they start picking out the wardrobe. He heavily involves himself in this process
because he thinks that, since the clothes are part of the character’s expression,
the clothes should be chosen from the point of view of the character (Charlie Rose). Where did Plainview buy his clothes and why
did he make those choices? How does he wish to present himself? So, in a way the clothes become part of the
backstory. Day Lewis said, “if you have begun to understand
the world—or at least to believe that you understand that world that you’re creating
through the eyes of this other life—then you begin to look at clothes in a different
way. You try and imagine the vanity; you try and
feel the vanity of that particular man.… you sort of imagine the man who commands the
attention of millions and has a checkbook the size of the telephone directory at his
disposal, and you imagine him standing in front of a mirror deciding between this pair
of underpants or that pair of underpants, and the hat, and the coat” (Schwartz). Daniel Day Lewis: “When you see Plainview
as he’s dressed later on, you know, he’s the boss. You need to feel that he is a man who could
do the job that any one of his men are doing equally as well and probably better than them.” Mark Bridges designed the costumes for the
film. You might remember Bridges as the costume
designer for Phantom Thread who won the Academy Award… and the jet ski. Bridges finds inspiration in vintage magazine
articles, artwork from the period, movies, and his own memory (Academy Originals). He also likes to use actual vintage clothing
if he can. He finds a magic in coming across the perfect
hat that already exists. Bridges says, “Leading up to the first time
we see that hat, his hats kind of echo or inform what’s going on with his career and
life. He starts with a miner hat that is unshaped
and unformed. By 1911, he had this hat. Daniel Day-Lewis felt the hats were very important
to his character. There were three choices that were all good,
and he took them and lived with them for days. He sort of creates mini-worlds, and so he
took them, just took them for a spin, so to speak, and settled on that one as what he
felt most comfortable with and most represented in his mind the character he was creating. And it took on a kind of magic where he would
be Daniel Day-Lewis, but you knew he was Daniel Plainview once the hat went on. So that was very rewarding to me” (Denver
Post). Here we can see some wardrobe test photos
showing the hats that didn’t work and the one that did. Plainview’s iconic hat was an actual vintage
hat that Bridges found in one of the local costume rental shops (Denver Post). Everything about it was perfect from the size
to the color and quality (Denver Post). They tried to make a double, but it wasn’t
quite right, so the hat you see is the only one that exists (Academy Originals). Also, the sweat stains were real. By the time they got to filming, Anderson
and Day Lewis were so much on the same page that the discussions while shooting revolved
mainly around whether or not Plainview should be wearing a hat or smoking a pipe. Anderson says that it’s the “small stuff
that says everything” (PONSOLDT). According to cinematographer Robert Elswit,
the decision to wear the hat in a scene could easily cause problems for the camera (Blood
for Oil). On shooting interior scenes, Elswit said,
“[I] sought to ‘build the light level up enough so I could shoot with our 200-ASA stock
and not underexpose, working at a T-stop of around 3.2. Things got tricky whenever Daniel was wearing
his hat, because I had to somehow light his face under the brim without making it feel
completely artificial. I tried to place the light far enough away
from him and soften it with diffusion so it would feel like ambient room light. Usually, there was enough ambient light from
the small sources in the scenes, like sconces and table lamps, that I could create a soft,
directional light that didn’t feel flat. Sometimes I’d use a 2K aimed through muslin
and whatever gel we picked. In some of the bigger sets, I just tried to
hide a bunch of smaller units” (Blood for Oil). The important thing here with the research,
voice, and costume, is these are just parts of Plainview and to get an idea of the whole,
it can’t really just be the sum of its parts— it has to be a single thing. To Daniel Day Lewis, it’s not like you add
a voice, a hat, and prospecting skills and you get Daniel Plainview. When asked how his research factors into his
performance, he said, “Of course, there are … things that need to be understood in connection
with the period that we’re working with, the society of that period, that particular
group working within the society, the skills you might need to learn—although, in fact,
digging a hole in the ground, I mean pretty much anyone can do that!… You choose to borrow another person’s life,
and like a child, that’s what you do, and as far as possible, it needs to gradually
appear to you in its entirety, rather than in its separate bits and pieces” (Schwartz). Want more videos on There Will Be Blood? “Yes I do.” Let me know in the comments down below. Stay tuned for part two where we will discuss
Daniel Day Lewis’ method acting, how Paul Thomas Anderson directs his actors, how Plainview relates to other characters, and more. Thanks for watching and thanks to MUBI for
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100 comments on “Creating Daniel Plainview [1/2]: Research, Voice, Costume, and Development | There Will Be Blood

  1. Please replace the red margins with black when you show footage from the film. It completely destroys the images and their compositions.

  2. Miss-Anne-throp-ee. That’s how misanthrope is pronounced. Awesome video! Best movie I’ve ever seen I reckon

  3. I'm pretty certain that if I had a check book the size of a telephone directory, all I'd be able to do is write a record-breaking number of bad checks.

  4. Bravo! Tiny fact! I worked a part time job in Tewksbury Massachusetts simply to get out of the house. 2010. The man I worked for was a greedy ass! But…. his wife errr


    He bragged about changing greenbacks into silver bars.. pompous. Doodling around Massachusetts buying supplies for his extremely beautiful unique tax write off of crystals general store. He lives off of a sub elite! LoL

    Well I put him in his place! What a little girl he turned out to be! I was concerned I had testicles at the end of that exchange and I’m a gentle woman.
    Tolerant. But IRISH AND SOBer!
    Always have been!

    @danieldaylewis is the true master of cinema of all time! Undeniably the GREATEST!

    My Phantom Thread DVD sits as a vault movie of sorts….

    It’s a long good bye! I want to order great boots from an Irish master cobbler!

    surprise us with one more independent film.


  5. Murphy doolan gang at the time of the Lincoln cattle wars had those voices. Listen to Jack palance in young guns. Evan Terrance stamp had that sort of voice, I think it's entirely a believable voice

  6. Dude, love your channel – this video was really informative and flowed perfectly. Great look at this character and actor together

  7. While it was  brilliant to point out  the  ties  betweeen  Treaure  of The Sierra Madre and TWBB, you forget the film both are indebted to: Greed.

  8. PTA has said it himself IN FRONT OF daniel day lewis that HE DIDN’T have daniel day lewis in mind while writing.

    Watch the interview

  9. As someone who works for the USGS and spends a lot of time in the sun, I also buy a lot of hats. Hats are a pretty big deal. DDL knows what's important, clearly.

  10. I do visual art, very rarely. I will not do it professional, because you go somewhere else. You don't know where you were. When you wake up they show you what your hand did. You don't know where you were ! It's not fun. You don't know where you got to and you always come back exhausted.

  11. It is certainly not for everyone, many just threw it off as long and boring, but if your fav flick is Armageddon, yeah probably…
    I couldn’t stop watching, the way the Daniel/Eli story unfolded was so unsettling………… Great film.

  12. 10:12 to 10 :35 , I can totally relate to that feeling of knowing what bastards people are , so this scene had me roaring with laughter. " just give me the blood lord and let me get away ".

  13. There is nothing vague in what Daniel Day Lewis says about his craft. If you start dissecting it and analyzing it you cannot do it properly. It is similar to how a great golfer or great soccer player does not think about how they are going to strike the ball. It is all instinct. The mind is much faster and better at doing things when we do not consciously think about what we are doing.

  14. Cinema Tyler amazing piece of work. My question to u who is a better actor between Al Pacino and Daniel Day- Lewis at giving expression through face I mean their eyes and expression tells the stories without the help of dialogue

  15. DDL raised something from Hell in this character that seemed so real, so authentic, that it appeared artless. I see Daniel Plainview everywhere these days. Once you see There Will Be Blood, it stays with you forever.

  16. "There will be Blood" refers to the personal trajectory Daniel Plainview is on: has nothing to do with oil, surely.

  17. Great, the very pillars of society are a bunch of rutheless, abusive, exploitive, egomaniacal, self-centred, lying, deceiving, murdering psychopthic, money & power-hungry -beasts… what's new ? So awesome to see all these virtues are now fully developed and socially accepted.. Afterall where would we be without them hey ?

  18. Hollywood used McDonald's milkshake thickening agent in a lot of movies and in it's native form it's a green slime. It's the shit dripping from Dr.Satan in Zombie's House Of A Thousand Corpses. Needless to say: after learning that I never had a McDonald's milkshake.

  19. It's not that complicated. He just acted the part, like anybody going to work. This explanation of it all it a bit to erudite.

  20. Does Daniel day Lewis rock the greatest mustache of all time? There will be blood and gangs of New York make my argument.

  21. Daniel Plainview, is one of my all time most liked characters. When I watch the trailer for There will be blood, I felt a incredible need to see this film, I got the same sensation when I recently watch the trailer for JOKER, so the day JOKER opened here in Australia, I went to see it. As in There will be blood…I wasn't disappointed. Joaquin Phoenix and Daniel Day Lewis are two of the most talented actors of our time.

  22. I recently finished Oil! and I bought it because it was the “inspiration” for There Will Be Blood. And the stories themselves have almost nothing in common. I’m glad he clarified this.

  23. I love PTA, and I always enjoy DDL, but this is not one of my favorites. I appreciate the performance, but this movie just never grabbed me. I saw it immediately on release, and decided to watch it again a few years later, thinking I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind at the theater. Sometimes a long movie at the theater is not the best venue, but no…..same. Maybe I’ll watch it again now that its been many years?

    This premise, drilling oil not on your land by using a drill sucked from someone else’s milkshake, is what Saddam accused the Kuwaitis of doing, which led to the Gulf War. There are rumors that this was a CIA operation with the Kuwaitis. Saddam literally went to the US ambassador, who gave his blessing to attack Kuwait. Then the US…well, we all know what happened.

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