Will we ever stop being in awe of Paul Thomas Anderson? The auteur filmmaker’s precise eye and attention to detail are unparalleled, as evidenced by these narrated “Phantom Thread” screen tests. With characteristic eloquence, Anderson discusses everything from lens choices, lighting, and set design in this fascinating audio commentary. The screen tests also reveal just how good the film’s three actors are, beginning wth the enigmatic Vicky Krieps, who is entirely captivating without uttering a single word.
“These tests with Vicky were the first time we ever shot her on film,” says Anderson. “It reminded me of a great documentary called ‘Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words,’ where they have screen tests she did when she came to Hollywood. She has absolutely no make-up on but she looks like she has make-up on, which is astonishing.”
Anderson laments wallpapering over a beautiful hand-painted wall in Cyril’s office, but recognizes that sacrifices must be made for Lesley Manville’s skin: “You’d have to be pretty foolish to not light her well. She is a terrific actress, and she has a face that is a stop and a half brighter than everybody else’s in the movie. She has luminescent skin, as they say.”
Exhibiting his own Reynolds Woodcock-esque particularity, Anderson cannot hide his disdain for a certain white porcelain teapot. “I think the biggest thing we learned from these tests is just how much we disliked that teapot,” he says. “It definitely didn’t belong in the House of Woodcock.”
The relationship between Reynolds and Cyril feels fully fleshed out even in these early screen tests. It’s no surprise, when you consider the combined acting chops of Manville and Daniel Day-Lewis. “When I saw the two of them sitting on the couch like this, I figured we had something good on our hands,” Anderson says. “Because they looked like two orphans to me who’ve known each other for quite a long time.”
Watch the “Phantom Thread” screen tests with Anderson’s commentary below.