The Oscar race isn’t over until the last movie screens, and this year one of the final contenders to be unveiled will be “Phantom Thread.” The drama marks the hugely anticipated reunion between Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis, who last worked together a decade ago on “There Will Be Blood.” The Upton Sinclair-inspired drama earned eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and gave Day-Lewis his second trophy for Best Actor (he’d make history and win a third for “Lincoln” five years later), so anyone would be foolish to underestimate just how big “Phantom Thread” will be this awards season.
Focus Features has been keeping a majority of the details surrounding the movie under lock and key, although the official trailer was finally released on October 23, teasing a gorgeously shot drama about the romantic obsessions of a self-destructive artist. “Phantom Thread” seems to operating in the same kind of intense character study mode as “Blood” and “The Master,” and early word is rather strong on the project. The drama opens in select theaters December 25. Start getting ready with the must-know details below.
The Official Story
It had been widely reported since the spring that Anderson’s new film was going to be set in the London fashion world during the 1950s, but it wasn’t until this month that we got a lengthy official synopsis from Focus Features. Day-Lewis will be playing a legendary fashion designer named Reynolds Woodcock, while newcomer Vicky Krieps plays his romantic obsession, a young woman named Alma. Rumor has it the film is an arthouse version of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” meaning Woodcock’s obsessions are darkly sexual, although the trailer kept this part of the movie hidden.
The official synopsis reads: “Set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.”
Anderson Shot the Film Himself
Robert Elswit has served as Anderson’s cinematographer on every feature film save for “The Master,” which was photographed by Mihai Mălaimare Jr. For his efforts on “There Will Be Blood,” Elswit won the Oscar for Best Cinematographer. Anderson was planning on working with Elswit for a seventh time, but the DP’s schedule couldn’t fit in “Phantom Thread” in time. As a result, Anderson decided to shoot the movie himself.
“Phantom Thread” will make Anderson’s feature cinematography debut. Sources told IndieWire earlier this year that the director had been toying with the idea of working as both director and DP on one of his movies for years. He previously served as cinematographer of his 1988 short, “The Dirk Diggler Story,” and on three Radiohead music videos he directed.
“Phantom Thread” is Daniel Day-Lewis’ Last Movie
“Phantom Thread” is even more essential since it marks Day-Lewis’ final performance. The actor’s spokesperson, Leslee Dart, revealed in June that he would be retiring from acting following his work on Anderson’s drama.
“Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor,” Dart said in a statement. “He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.”
The actor will end his career with 18 features under his belt. He’s the only actor in movie history to win three Oscars for Best Actor.
The Inspiration for Reynolds Woodcock
Similar to how Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd was influenced by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in “The Master,” Anderon has reportedly shaped Day-Lewis’ Reynolds Woodcock out of the life of British-born fashion designer Charles James. Rumor had it the character was even named Charles James until the official synopsis revealed it to be Reynolds Woodcock.
James was known as America’s First Couturier. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the designer became famous for “creating the first ‘puffa’ jacket, working out a system for sizing standardisation, inventing the idea of licensing and eschewing all the conventions of the traditional Paris atelier.”
James was the subject of an exhibition at the Met in spring 2014, where department head Harold Koda proclaimed, “He wasn’t a fashion designer. He was an artist whose medium was clothes.”
Anderson Has Reunited With Two Key Crew Members
The director may not be working with his usual cinematographer, but he is reuniting with his longtime composer Johnny Greenwood and editor Dylan Tichenor. Greenwood is a member of Radiohead and has handled original score duties on every Anderson feature dating back to “There Will Be Blood.” His work outside of Anderson’s filmography includes the Lynne Ramsay dramas “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and “You Were Never Really Here.”
Tichenor, meanwhile, hasn’t worked with Anderson since he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Editing on “There Will Be Blood.” Tichenor got his start as the assistant editor on Robert Altman movies, including “The Player” and “Short Cuts,” before teaming up with Anderson on his first three features (“Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia”). The editor skipped “Punch-Drunk Love” and returned for “Blood,” which makes “Phantom Thread” a homecoming of sorts. Outside of Anderson’s filmography, Tichenor has worked on “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Introducing Vickey Krieps
There’s a very good chance everyone will enter the theater looking forward to Day-Lewis’ final performance and then leave only talking about Vickey Krieps. The 34-year-old Luxembourgish actress has the tough challenge of going head-to-head with Day-Lewis as Woodcock’s new romantic obsession, Alma, and the first trailer suggested she’s more than up for the task.
“Phantom Thread” will no doubt be Krieps’ major breakthrough in America, although she has been acting for a decade in Luxembourgian and German film productions. Her most notable titles are “The Chambermaid,” for which she won Best Actress at the German Film Critics Association Awards, and the short film “Pitter Patter Goes My Heart,” for which she won numerous Best Actress prizes at various international film festivals. American audiences may recognize her from small supporting turns in “Colonia,” co-starring Emma Watson, and “A Most Wanted Man,” where she starred opposite Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Rachel McAdams.
Shooting on Film Was the Only Option
Along with Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, Anderson is cinema’s biggest proponent of shooting on film over digital, so it’s no surprise “Phantom Thread” will be a celluloid-lover’s dream. Anderson is once again shooting on 35mm, a format he’s used on every single movie except “The Master,” which was largely filmed using 65mm film stock (although certain portions still used 35mm). According to IMDb, Anderson’s film choices for “Phantom Thread” are identical to “Inherent Vice,” including the use ofKodak Vision3 200T 5213 and Vision3 500T 5219. Similar to his last feature, “Phantom Thread” will reportedly be presented in 35mm and blown-up 70mm in select locations.