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Hey Boys and Girls, we're so excited to let you read about the Temple's visit by the cast of There Will Be Blood. As you know, we adored the film (click here if you haven't perused our praise) and we were thrilled to hear some nifty exposition by the director, Paul Thomas Anderson and cast members Paul Dano and Ciarán Hinds. We even got to hearken to the dulcet tones of Daniel Day-Lewis himself *le sigh*, as he explained why choosy mothers might not choose Bill the Butcher to babysit their cowpunching kids. Dig it!

 

Q: What inspired you to make a film based on Upton Sinclair’s novel at this particular point in time? 

Paul Thomas Anderson: The inspiration comes first and foremost from the book. I’d been trying to write something, anything, just to get something written, and I had a story that wasn’t really working about two fighting families. It didn’t really have anything, it just had that premise. When I read the book, there were so many ready-made scenes and the great venue of the oilfields and all that, so those are the kind of obvious things that seemed worth making a film about. And the desire to work with Daniel, certainly, once that presented itself as a possibility certainly drove the engine for me to write it and to finish it and to give it to him.

 

Q: Daniel, what was the challenge of playing a guy who’s sort of a miserable prick at the beginning of the movie and still one by the film’s end? 

Daniel Day-Lewis: No challenge! *laughs* I never really saw him as a miserable prick, but... I don’t know what the challenge is … The challenge is, I daresay, is the same as it always is which is just to try and discover a life that isn’t your own. And Plainview, as he came to me in Paul’s beautiful script is a man that I didn’t understand at all. It was a life that was completely mysterious to me and that unleashed a fatal curiosity which I had no choice but to pursue.

 

Q: But how did you see Daniel Plainview?  

DD-L: Just a fella trying to make a living.

 

Q: Did you see his story as a descent to madness or was he that angry and hostile from the beginning? 

DD-L: Well, I’m not really the best person to say this, but I believe you see the seeds of the man you meet at the end in the man you meet at the beginning, but undoubtedly, to me he’s undergone a fairly, uh… 

PA: Transformation 

DD-L: Yeah, so it never occurred to me to think that his journey was a short one.

 

Q: Paul, did you write There Will be Blood with an eye to making it a social commentary? Some of the film’s subtexts deal with the issues of class warfare and religion versus material wealth. How conscious were you and the actors of that? 

PA: Aware of it to know that if we indulged too much in it or let that stuff rise to the top that it could get kinda murky. It’s a slippery slope when you start thinking about something other than just a good battle between two guys that see each other for what they are. Just trying to work from that first and foremost and let everything that is there fall into place behind it. It would be horrible to make a political film, or anything like that, but just to tell a nasty story and let the rest take care of itself. 

Paul Dano: I think, for me, I would leave that for Paul to bring out in the film if that’s what he wanted, but I certainly didn’t look at it as anything more than a story and something to try and tell. I think it would have been dangerous for me to have worried about trying to bring out some sort of political theme or something other than being truthful to the character. 

DD-L: I feel that same way as Paul

 

Q: Was it Paul Dano’s work with Daniel in The Ballad of Jack and Rose that led him to be cast as Eli? 

PA: It was. The first time I’d seen Paul was in The Ballad of Jack and Rose and I called Rebecca Miller to talk to her and tell her and Daniel how much I loved the film, but really, the first question on my mind was “Who the hell was that?’, cos I thought he was so terrific. I think I’d just finished writing the script, so I knew I had to find somebody to play the part. I’d originally, insanely, thought that it should be like a 12 or 13 year old boy, and that kinda seemed ridiculous. Then I saw Paul and thought he would be great. He certainly got a good recommendation from Rebecca and from Daniel.

 

Q: Daniel this role was tremendously physical, you’re getting dirty, digging for the silver and oil, can you talk about how you prepared? 

DD-L:  The thing about those lads, I mean when you discover Plainview at the beginning, he’s almost learning himself how to do it. Anyone that can swing an axe or a sledge, which anyone can do, can dig a hole in the ground. So in terms of the physical preparation, there wasn’t really anything to do except, just y’know, stay fit and then start digging holes. Y’know, they kinda made it up as they went along, and that was true even as you see in the story, before even cable drilling and rotary drilling became sort of common use, they began by scooping this muck as it erupted naturally out of the earth. Scooping it up in saucepans and buckets and stuff, that was the first way of gathering oil. And then someone had the bright idea of trying to set up an A-frame and plunge the equipment of a telegraph pole down into the ground *laughs* see if that would help it along. It was incredibly primitive.  

As the story progresses, then there’s something to learn about because the drilling procedure is a fairly complicated thing, but at the beginning it’s sheer blood and sweat, really, just to scoop this stuff up.

 

Q: Why was there a change from the original Upton Sinclair title of Oil!? 

PA: We changed the title of the book because at the end of the day there’s not enough of the book probably left to feel that it’s a proper adaption {sic}of the book. Probably selfishly I wrote the title down and it looked really good, y’know, and I thought we should call the film that.  

 

Q:  Was the film meant to be a comment on the U.S. dependence on oil? 

PA:  The U.S. liking oil and all that… Well, I grew up in California and there’s a lot of oil out there. I don’t live that far from Bakersfield, which is where the initial discoveries of oil were in California and still are pumping away. I suppose I’ve always wondered what the stuff is, how we get it out of the ground, why we like it so much, and what the story was. The story of oil in California in particular in this country was really well told in the first couple hundred pages of the Upton Sinclair book. He started to write the book in the 20’s, when he went with his wife to the Signal Hill area, which is down near Long Beach; it was essentially set up to be vacation homes overlooking the Long Beach bay. What happened was somebody decided instead of building a vacation home, they decided to drill for oil and they struck oil, so this community went absolutely mad. His wife owned a plot of land, they took a ride down there; this community was trying to get a lease together, trying to meet independent prospectors to see if they could get together and potentially get a bigger pie made up. But when he {Sinclair} witnessed this group trying to get this lease together, he, in his words says he ‘witnessed human greed laid bare’. He just saw these people go absolutely crazy and he knew what he wanted to write about. That’s what started him on the road of that story, and we just picked up where he left off, I suppose. There was a lot of other things that go on in the book; it goes to Hollywood, it goes to Washington, it takes care of the Teapot Dome scandal, it takes care of the Russian Revolution. All these massive things that we couldn’t do, but at the core of the story was the drive and ambition not only from this independent oilman, but also from the people that he was supposedly getting the better of in leasing their land. The ambition was on both sides equally.

 

Q: Can you talk about some of the confrontation scenes in the film? There are some real fights. Can you tell us from a technical standpoint how they were set up? 

PA: Well, I’d say first up is the reservoir. Daniel takes the first swing. 

DD-L: It was a very difficult day, wasn’t it? Horrible day. Things weren’t going right and there were people doing all kinds of things to try and fix the pipe which was needed to be working in the background, filling the reservoir that we digging. So we lost a lot of a day in this place which we couldn’t afford to do cos time was very tight. And essentially, out of necessity often something interesting is born and Paul set up a tracking shot which covered the whole scene. We didn’t know if we could make it work because obviously with the hits, you have to get each right, the right angle, and in a moving shot that covers the whole scene chance of everything right in that shot are pretty slim, but we sort of attacked it like that and there’s nothing you could do to get ready for that except just try it and try again.  

PA: And the next day we got to shoot the baptism scene, so Paul got to have his way. And that was a very similar thing with one exception, we decided that we would shoot everything – we didn’t rehearse it, we just sort of knew where they would stand and had a couple cameras rolling. We figured that we would just get the scene before the slapping starts, we would get that and then we could start slapping… but Paul either forgot or decided to take his own initiative and began Daniel across the face.

 

Q: And were there a lot of takes of the last confrontation? 

PA: That’s a fog. That’s two days in a fog in a bowling alley. I don’t remember quite exactly how it happened honestly. 

DD-L: The last scene? 

PD: It was fun. It was fun. 

DD-L: Again, y’see we actually shot that in the Doheny mansion. Sinclair actually loosely based the character in his book on the life of Edward Doheny, so by second-removed there was also a connection there. This was this huge, great, gloomy pile was the pyramid he built to himself with the wealth he accumulated. And it’s overseen by the Doheny trust, and the Doheny trust employs a very large army of people in extremely neat uniforms to watch every godammed move that you make in the place. I don’t know what they thought we were doing in there, but they seemed quite disturbed by the whole thing, but we’d already entered in a realm where we didn’t know one thing from another. It was very tight, again we had very little time to play with and it was a fog. 

 

Q: Can you tell us about the unusual soundtrack? 

PA: It sort of begins and ends with Jonny Greenwood, and sort of the good idea I had, I suppose, to ask him to do it. He had a couple pieces that existed before that he’d written for orchestra. He’s better known for his day job, he was in a band called Radiohead, but he has written a few orchestral pieces that I’d heard that I thought were terrific. He also did an experimental film called Body Song that he wrote the score for. Anyway, I’d known him for a few years, asked him to do it and showed him the film, and he said, “Okay, great”. I gave him a copy of the movie and about three weeks later, he came back with two hours of music. I have no idea how or when he did it, but he did it. It’s kind of amazing. I can’t say that I did any real guiding or had any real contribution except to just take what he gave us and find the right places for it. There’s a couple things that he’d written on piano that we then took to an orchestra. A couple things he’d written for a string quartet that just went straight into the film and just sort of did that over the course of a couple of months. It was a great experience working with him. 

DD-L: Paul recorded the music at Abbey Road in London and the astonishing thing about Jonny is that he didn’t study composition. I think he was a violinist, right? Studied violin, then he went into the band, the band became his life, but somehow along the way he taught himself composition and he is the resident composer for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who plays a lot of the music and he scored the whole thing himself. 

 

Q: Paul, you thank Robert Altman in the closing credits of the film. Could you talk about that? 

PA: Everything of Robert’s films has been an inspiration to me, seeing his films when I was starting out. We became pretty close in the last few years of his life. I got the job of sitting next to him on Prairie Home Companion for insurance reasons. My partner was in the film and she was pregnant at the time, and just in case anything happened with Bob, I was hired to sit there next to him. And it was … I can’t tell you what I took from it. Obviously, it was a privilege and an honour and all that, but just such an amazing good time for 30 days to sit next to him. Bob was very good at relaxing; he was a very relaxed director. I don’t know if he always was like that, I think he might’ve been. But I would find myself getting uptight about things and he would just sort of look at me like, ‘What are you worried about, it’s all gonna be fine’, and maybe I learned that from just sitting around with him, to relax a little bit more. He died while we were cutting the film. I was planning to show it to him, actually I was in Ireland with Daniel we were working on the film and I was planning to come back and show it to him and I never got a chance to. So that’s really a drag that he didn’t get to see it, so we dedicated the film to him.

 

MG: Can you tell us about the young man, Dillon Freasier, who plays H.W.? I thought he had a wonderful presence and that beautiful face. I wondered how you found him and for the actors who had scenes with him – Daniel played his dad, and Ciaran played his surrogate dad - can you tell us it was like to work with him? 

Ciarán Hinds: Well, I suppose I should say a word. *all laugh* I joined just a bit later after the guys had started, and Daniel and Paul told me about this extraordinary young fella they’d found to play H.W. and no word of a lie, I found him to be a great joy. A very natural young fella with a lot of natural cheek about him; but somehow for someone so young, a lovely dignity. That’s what I found, a real dignity about him. 

PA: Cassandra Kulukundis was the casting director, we did start out in Los Angeles and New York and reading young men with head shots and that kind of thing and resumes, and we thought they should be sent to their rooms *all laugh*, they didn’t … they were really… We thought we needed a boy from Texas, who knew how to shoot shotguns and live in that world and she asked around at the schools, she said, ‘I’m looking for a man in a young boy’s body’, and one principal said, ‘I have just the boy,’ and it was Dillon. She didn’t really have him read scenes or anything like that, she just sort of talked with him and we talked with him, and it was pretty clear that he was a very special young man. He took to it really well. We’re all so fond of him. He’d never been on a movie set; he’d never seen a movie camera, nothing like that, but he just loved it. I remember having the first costume fitting, and you would think that most 10-year old boys would not look forward to wearing those britches, you would think; but the second he saw them he said, “I’ve always wanted to wear britches!” *all laugh* 

DD-L: I agree with everything that Paul and Ciarán were saying about him. I felt very close to Dillon, very fond of him. He’s a cowboy; by the way, his father is a rancher. Dillon he’s got his rodeo buckles, he’s won numerous events, he does the round-ups, he’s the real thing and so he has the strange maturity that is very unusual. Something that a lot of kids of his age might have in common in that part of the world, he’s really used to hard work.  He’s got hands like … he could knock out a horse with those hands, big, y’know? He’s just the most delightful person; he had that curiosity for everything that was going on both technically with the camera, the shots, and every department, he was just constantly drinking in all this new information with such excitement and pleasure.  

There was a moment which I kinda mentioned before a couple times; as we approached the moment when we were going to start shooting, I started to worry a little bit because we were very close and we had a nice friendship, and I thought, ‘Man, how’s he gonna feel when I start kinda treating him harshly? I’d better have a conversation with him about that.’ So I kinda sat him down, and *laughs* I created this atmosphere of, um … this portentous atmosphere. I said, ‘Dillon, you know how I feel about you and there are gonna be moments in the next months to come where I’m gonna speak harshly to you, I’m not gonna treat you nicely. I hope you understand that I love you and so on…” And he looked at me like I was insane! *all laugh* ‘Of course, I know that, what’s your problem?’ He was just one step ahead of us pretty much most of the time. 

CH:  Absolutely. 

PA: He just needed the go-ahead once in a while. He had to struggle with Ciarán and he had to slap Daniel…. 

DD-L: He didn’t like to do that 

PA: He didn’t like to do it initially. 

DD-L: Luckily. 

CH: He developed a taste for it, though. *all laugh* 

PA: But once we said, yeah you really have to struggle; you have to hit him across the face as hard as you can, its okay, y’know...  His mom said * in southern accent* “You better do it, Dillon, they told you to do it, you could do it, its okay.” 

CH: Yes, ma’am!

PD: Yes, ma’am! 

DD-L: His mum, she just raised him so beautifully, he’s very respectful and so on. She no longer is, but at the time his mum was a state trooper and she thought wanted to do things right, she thought she better check out this bunch of people that were going to be taking care of her son. So she thought, ‘I’ll go and rent a movie that that feller did,’ and she went and got Gangs of New York! *all laugh* She was absolutely appalled at the thought she was releasing her dear child into the hands of this monster… There was a flurry of phone calls and somebody sent a copy of The Age of Innocence to her. Apparently that did the trick.

 

Q: How do you understand Plainview’s relationship to his son? 

*all take a long time considering* 

PA: I think his relationship to the boy… I wish Daniel could have done better with illness. The trouble that he has facing up to what happens to the boy. It would’ve been nice if he could’ve done better with that… 

DD-L: You know there’s a real connection between those two. It’s not pure exploitation, although Daniel taunts him later on, y’know, the idea of a cute face to buy land. Even earlier on there’s a sort of joke made of it when he bumps into a fellow prospector in the train station, but it definitely goes deeper than that. The problem is Plainview has no understanding of what the responsibilities of a parent are, so his son is preternaturally responsible in a way that a genuine partner would be for the day-to-day running of his business. From Plainview’s point of view, anything that interferes with the running of the business is something that he has to take care of even for his son’s sake, as well. And so he just doesn’t know how to deal with this damaged creature. He’s a child; he doesn’t know how to be a father to him. He’s like a friend and a partner, but he doesn’t know how to take care of him as a father. He has no means of knowing how to.

 

Q: How were the film’s very distinct dialects and ways of speaking developed? 

PA: The first speech in the movie is taken pretty directly from the Upton Sinclair book, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve traveled over half our state…” The one thing that I did to it, there was an accent applied to it the way Upton Sinclair wrote it; I didn’t want to impose any kind of accent on whoever was going to play the part, so I just wrote it out. It was just incredibly simple, very direct. I could remember feeling, keep the language simple. I couldn’t imagine these guys using more words than they had to use. I just couldn’t see it. You see pictures of these guys in these oil camps, and you just think, I’m pretty positive their economical with what they say, and it became a nice way to attack it.

 

Q: For Paul Dano, how did you research Eli, an evangelical preacher? 

PD: I first started trying to learn a little bit about the time period, whenever you’re doing a period piece, that’s important. Especially, to me, sharing a lot of scenes with Daniel, knowing how well he immerses himself within the periods I’ve seen him work in. I looked up some stuff about evangelical preachers, but I sort of had a privilege with Eli, which is that he didn’t have radio or television, and I don’t think he had the opportunity to see a tremendous amount of preachers, except when somebody traveled through his town. He didn’t have a lot of books either, so I think he sort of made himself up once he found what his gifts, and his savviness and charisma could bring him. I think that slowly took over in him and through the words of the Bible and loving to hear himself talk, he found some way to be spiritually seductive via himself. As an actor, I don’t know if that was an excuse on my behalf, but it was a way for me to just sort of run with the material Paul gave me and not have to base it on one person or a group of people in particular and run with whatever instincts I had for the character.

 

Q: Originally, there was another actor meant to be another actor in the role of Eli and Paul was meant to play the brother, Paul Sunday. According to the New York Times article on Daniel, the original actor was intimidated by working with him and dropped out. 

PA: Well we had an actor and it didn’t work out, and we had Paul and he was in a small part, and we thought, God why have we got him in such a small part? And better yet, maybe because of my obsession with East of Eden, I thought, well, they gotta be twins, right? I thought it was too good to pass up that idea. 

DD-L: I’m probably not he right person to speak about it anyhow, I mean I was quite surprised when I read that comment. Whatever the problem was, during that time with that particular person, I absolutely don’t believe that it was because he was intimated by me, I happen to believe that. I hope I’m right.

 

Q: And Paul Dano, what was your reaction when you were offered both roles as twins; were you thrilled, more screen time, another character?

PD: Double the pay. *all laugh* I didn’t have a lot of time to think about things like that. I certainly didn’t relish the idea of getting a bigger part in the film because of trying to throw myself into the character and that was the priority. I have to say in retrospect, yeah, it was wonderful to get to spend more time in Texas with these guys here. I feel very lucky and hopefully I was able to contribute to it in a short amount of time. That was my main concern, to make a contribution with not a lot of time to prepare.

 

~ Mighty Ganesha

December 10th, 2007

 

 

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