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A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview
Paul Dano as Paul Sunday / Eli Sunday
Dillon Freasier as H.W.
Kevin J. O'Connor as Henry
Ciarán Hinds as Fletcher
Sydney McCallister as Mary Sunday
David Willis as Abel Sunday
Hans Howes as William Bandy
Paul F. Tompkins as Prescott
Jim Downey as Al Rose
David Warshofsky as H.M. Tilford
Russell Harvard as older H.W.
Colleen Foy as older Mary Sunday
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Scott Rudin, Daniel Lupi, Joanne Sellar
Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson (Based on Oil! by Upton Sinclair)
Music by Jonny Greenwood
Cinematography Robert Elswit
Editing by Dylan Tichenor
Distributed by Paramount Vantage, Miramax Films
Release date(s) December 26, 2007 (Limited), January 25, 2008 (Wide)
Running time 158 minutes
Budget $25 million
Box office $76,181,545
TEASER TRAILER (CUT BY PAUL)
MIDNIGHT SHOW CLIP
A sprawling epic about family, faith, power and oil, THERE WILL BE BLOOD is set on the radical frontier of California’s turn-of-the-century petroleum boom. The story chronicles the rise of one Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who transforms himself from a down-and-out silver miner raising a son on his own into a self-made oil tycoon.
When Plainview gets a mysterious tip that there’s a little town out West where an ocean of oil is oozing out of the ground, he heads with his son, HW (Dillon Freasier), to take their chances in dust-worn Little Boston. In this hardscrabble town, where the main excitement centres around the holy-roller church of charismatic preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), Plainview and HW make their lucky strike. But even as the well raises all of their fortunes, nothing will remain the same as conflicts escalate and every human value - love, hope, community, belief, ambition and even the bond between father and son - is imperilled by corruption, deception and the flow of oil.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD is the fifth film from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, MAGNOLIA, BOOGIE NIGHTS, HARD EIGHT). Anderson’s screenplay is loosely based upon the classic, 1920s muck-raking novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair. Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis heads a cast that includes Paul Dano (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), Ciarán Hinds (ROME, MARGOT AT THE WEDDING), Kevin J O’Connor (VAN HELSING, THE MUMMY) and newcomer Dillon Freasier.
Anderson and his frequent collaborators JoAnne Sellar and Daniel Lupi produced THERE WILL BE BLOOD. The executive producers are Scott Rudin, Eric Schlosser and David Williams. The film features cinematography by long-time Anderson associate and Academy Award-nominee Robert Elswit, ASC (GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK); production design by Jack Fisk (THE NEW WORLD, MULLHOLAND DRIVE, THE THIN RED LINE); costume design by Mark Bridges (MAGNOLIA, BOOGIE NIGHTS) who has worked four times previously with Anderson; editing by Dylan Tichenor ACE (THE ASSASINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS) who also edited MAGNOLIA and BOOGIE NIGHTS; and a resonant score from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood.
About the production
“There’s an ocean of oil beneath of our feet. No one can get at it except for me.” - Daniel Plainview
THERE WILL BE BLOOD joins a pantheon of American motion pictures that explore the powerful confluence of ambition, wealth, family and the magnetic lure of the West. Paul Thomas Anderson’s fifth film plunges the audience into an astonishingly raw and real turn-of-the-century California and revolves around one unforgettable character: Daniel Plainview, a rough-and-tumble prospector who transforms himself and an entire town through oil. As he ascends from a rugged miner to an imperious tycoon, in the mould of such historical oil pioneers as Edward Doheny and John Rockefeller, Plainview will bring progress and riches to a land that has never known them, at a cost that will blacken his very soul.
As portrayed by Academy Award-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Plainview is a man whose charm, aspirations and uncompromising obsession with remaining self-made will stir up a maelstrom in the Central California town of Little Boston. As oil gushes up from the ground, Plainview will bring changes of operatic sweep to this insular world - pitting belief, hope, love and hard work against cynicism, greed, seduction and monstrous corruption.
Shot in Marfa, Texas where the legendary oil-themed GIANT was filmed decades ago, Anderson and a devoted cast and crew have crafted a symphonic tapestry of images that appear to come to vivid, visceral life right out of a sepia-toned photograph - yet are completely original and intimately specific to Daniel Plainview’s meteoric rise and bloodcurdling descent.
Paul Thomas Anderson, a two-time Academy Award nominee, has previously directed four films set in the West, though each has been its own entirely distinctive exploration of the territory. His first film, HARD EIGHT, was a crime thriller set amidst the casinos of Las Vegas. This was followed by BOOGIE NIGHTS, a kaleidoscopic look at the adult film industry; MAGNOLIA an interwoven tale of one devastating and magical night in the San Fernando Valley; and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, that rare fresh take on the romantic comedy. THERE WILL BE BLOOD marks Anderson’s first journey into the foundational days of California’s lavish wealth and power, before movies, before high-tech, when oil was the driving force of the land and brought hungry, ambitious men Westward in search of fortune and a new future.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD began with Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!, although the tale took off in its own cinematic direction from there. While in a London bookshop, a homesick Anderson spied the novel and its California-themed cover instantly drew him. Once he began reading, he was compelled by Sinclair’s view of the state in a time when tenacious, risk-taking oil prospectors were changing the then-rural landscape with derricks and oil fields. “The novel is set in an area, Signal Hill, I know well and that part of California’s history has always been interesting to me,” says Anderson. “Reading the novel was quite exciting.”
Upton Sinclair, of course, is best known for his still widely read 1907 novel, The Jungle, a triumph of muckraking fervour set in the slaughterhouses of Chicago that forever changed the American food industry. Two decades later, he would write an epic intended to similarly probe the corruption and exploitation at the heart of the then-burgeoning American oil industry. Set in California, Oil! follows the relationship of a millionaire oil tycoon named J Arnold Ross - modelled after several of the nation’s wealthiest oilmen from the era, including Edward Doheny - with the son he hopes will take over the family business. Instead, his son rebels against him and begins organizing oil workers in collusion with a dirt-poor family of holy-roller fundamentalists, which includes a charismatic and power-seeking boy preacher named Eli Watkins.
Paul Thomas Anderson was primarily inspired by the 500-page novel’s first 150 pages, wherein Sinclair delves in exquisite detail into the gritty, precarious lives of oil prospectors and oil workers. He was also drawn to Sinclair’s pitting of unbridled greed against unchecked spiritual idealism, each with their own insidious consequences. From that foundation of inspiration, he found his own characters of Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday wending in their own directions, towards their own intertwined fates.
Anderson began to do further research - prowling through the oil museums that dot California - letting the era’s plentiful, richly atmospheric photographs further fire up his imagination. “You get giddy looking at all those amazing photos,” Anderson notes, “getting a real sense of how people lived their lives. There’s so much history in the oil areas around Bakersfield - they’re filled with the grandsons of oil workers and lots of folklore. So we did an incredible amount of research and I got to be a student again and that was a thrill.”
In addition, Anderson read numerous books and was especially influenced by The Dark Side of Fortune, an acclaimed biography of Edward Doheny by Margaret Leslie Davis, which recounts Doheny’s rise from an intensely driven son of immigrants to a failed silver miner in Silver City, New Mexico to an icon of fame, power as well as corrupting greed as California’s first big oilman. To further follow Doheny’s trail, Anderson made his own trip to Silver City, immersing himself in the old pictures and yellowed newspapers that fill the town’s libraries and museums. Ultimately a mix of history, landscape and the very nature of bringing this slippery, precious substance up from the ground became the propulsive force in Anderson’s screenplay, melding lyrical frontier dialogue with intensely visual sequences of escalating suspense.
Now, the research ended and, as Anderson says, “it was time to pick our heads up out of the books and get out on the road.” He did so in concert with his long-time producing partners, JoAnne Sellar and Daniel Lupi. Sellar had known that, following PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, Anderson was looking “to do something completely different,” and was drawn in by the world he hoped to create in THERE WILL BE BLOOD, though she knew it would be their biggest challenge yet.
“Paul had sent Daniel Day-Lewis the script when it was about three-quarters of the way done and Daniel committed to it immediately, which was wonderful because I don’t know if Paul even would have made the movie without Daniel,” recalls Sellar. “Now we had a script and we had Daniel and the trick was to figure out creatively how to do this.”
Inspired by his extensive research of the time period and geography, Paul Thomas Anderson came to see Daniel Plainview as a silent, self-reliant man - formed by a deeply individual early struggle for survival - who is suddenly thrust into the chaos and cacophony of gaining tremendous power once he strikes oil.
When Daniel Day-Lewis came on board to take the role, Daniel Plainview immediately took on even deeper human contours, in a breathtaking pendulum ranging from dark humour to terrifying insanity, from moments of surprising tenderness to outbursts of dastardly menace. Day-Lewis, an Academy Award winner and multiple Oscar nominee, has been called the most gifted actor of his generation. Director Jim Sheridan, who has worked with Day-Lewis several times (and directed him in his Oscar-wining performance in MY LEFT FOOT), once told the New York Times: “He feels like he’s betraying himself if he doesn’t give it 100 hundred percent. It’s not possible, the obliteration of the self, but he comes as close as anyone could.”
Two years elapsed between the time Day-Lewis accepted the role and production began, giving the actor time to contemplate both the life of a turn-of-the-century oilman and the crevices of Plainview’s soul. He became fascinated by the primal nature of digging for oil and by the feverish frontier dreams it inspired in many - only a few of whom succeeded in attaining the ultimate in power and fortune. He closely studied Doheny and other oilmen of the era. Then, on the set, he inhabited the character completely, utterly, frighteningly, just as Paul Thomas Anderson knew he would.
Says Anderson: “It’s a privilege to work with Daniel Day-Lewis and few directors have had that privilege. I had to work up the courage to ask him, but I always knew there was only one man for the job.”
Adds co-star Paul Dano, who tangled repeatedly with Day-Lewis as Plainview’s chief nemesis and rival, Eli Sunday: “He blew my mind consistently. I would say daily. ‘I don’t know where the stuff that comes out of him comes from, but it’s an amazing mystery.’”
The performance would resonate through every aspect of the film and remain a mysterious force even to those who watched it unfold in-the-moment on the set. “I still see something new in Daniel’s performance every time I watch the film. It is an amazing thing,” comments JoAnne Sellar.
It would be easy to say that THERE WILL BE BLOOD rests on Day-Lewis’s and Dano’s shoulders, but Anderson asserts that the power of the film’s performances lies equally in the secondary cast of supporting roles and extras, many of whom were cast from among locals in West Texas, who bring a rawness and authenticity that accentuates and colludes with Day-Lewis’s disappearance into the role.
“Without exaggerating, I believe that a film lives and dies by its extras,” says the writer-director. “The locals in the film had that West Texas flavour that can only come from living in that place, and they were all so generous with their time and humanity. I’m so proud of the work they did. You can have a great actor like Daniel Day-Lewis, but if the person who is standing behind him is all wrong and a distraction, you’re dead.”
When Daniel Plainview arrives in Little Boston, it quickly becomes apparent that his greatest rival in the town will be Eli Sunday, who looks like a child but is a bold and fervent preacher in the charismatic tradition with designs on building a large, devoted congregation - one he knows could be threatened by the coming of oil, wealth and new blood to the town. Sunday is played by Paul Dano, who on the heels of his critically acclaimed portrait of an angst-ridden teen in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, spins a full 180 degrees into a bracingly different kind of portrait, one that draws out the raging inner conflicts between a young man’s yearning for love and adulation with his desire to be a man of God.
For Dano, the attraction to Eli lay in his words - the florid, zealous monologues that Anderson had written for him in the screenplay. “There’s a lot of fun stuff to play around with in Eli because he loves language and he’s so grandiose,” Dano explains. “For me there was a lot of osmosis between what Paul wrote on the page and doing research and looking at pictures and reading the Bible - and I think that all kind of came into play subconsciously in creating him.”
Dano became fascinated by the power and the peril of evangelical preachers, whose lives and myriad styles he studied. “They are often soft-spoken people, but they have that fire on the pulpit or on stage that can captivate an audience. There’s an element of seduction to it and when you feel people reacting that way it is very empowering,” he notes. “But I also think once you have that kind of power and control, you are very tempted to keep using it and you can lose your sincerity. Just like Daniel, who loves power, I think Eli loves being the centre of attention, and that’s why they are destined to have an epic struggle.”
As Daniel Plainview grows more powerful, so too does Eli grow more popular and more infuriated at the way Daniel dismisses him and his importance in their community. His rancour boils over in a chilling sermon sequence wherein he begins to wreck a little personal vengeance in the guise of religious fervour. “That scene is a big turning point for my character, as it is for Plainview whether he knows it or not,” says Dano. “Plainview has embarrassed Eli, he’s hurt Eli, and he’s not respected him or his church so it’s really important for him to feel the tide start to turn.”
Paul Thomas Anderson was especially gratified by the working relationship that developed between Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis, who had worked together once before on Rebecca Miller’s THE BALLAD OF JACK & ROSE. “Paul was not only familiar with how Daniel works, he was up to the task,” says Anderson. “He had the confidence to go head-to-head with Daniel. Despite the incredibly tense relationship between their characters, they also had to find some real mutual enjoyment - and I think they came to share the thrill and the joy of jumping in and pretending. They had to feel very safe with each other because things could get out of control, and they did at times.”
Adds JoAnne Sellar: “They did keep their distance from one another and maintained that sense of rivalry on the set.”
Dano was exhilarated to work with Daniel Day-Lewis in creating a pair of such high-wire performances, but he equally enjoyed Anderson’s decision to populate much of THERE WILL BE BLOOD with local non-actors, many of whom form Eli’s congregation. “It was a risk, but it felt very powerful and it really worked,” he says. “Everyone was so good.”
Ultimately, the intensifying battle between Eli and Plainview comes to a head in the film’s volatile, incendiary climax. Dano recalls that even while shooting that scene in the bowling alley of Plainview’s mansion the mood kept shifting, unpredictably. “It started out quite fun and then it turned dark and emotional and then very scary,” he recalls. “We did it without any constraints and suddenly I was dodging bowling balls and Daniel was coming at me pretty strong. It was very intense and exhausting and at times, terrifying.”
Henry and Fletcher
One of the film’s most mysterious and riveting characters arrives quite suddenly on the scene. This is Henry, played by Kevin J O’Connor, who intriguingly claims to be Plainview’s long lost brother and grows closer to him than anyone else for a time, eliciting Plainview’s most honest and scorching confessions.
For his portrait, O’Connor - who is best known for his work in Stephen Sommer’s horror epics including The Mummy and Van Helsing - drew inspiration from several photographs, including one presented to him by Paul Thomas Anderson. “It was a period picture of a guy who had been arrested and he had this big moustache,” he recalls. “Then I had another photograph from a friend of mine of a guy in a family portrait kind of sitting to the side. And his suit was a little too tight on him and looked like he didn’t belong, like he was just trying to get away with getting a meal. So when I saw those photographs, I decide to lose some weight so I’d look a little hungrier and that was key.”
This was the first time O’Connor had worked with Paul Thomas Anderson and the experience, he says, was quite novel. “He’s one of the most unusual directors I’ve ever worked with because he cares so much about the details that he gets everybody else interested in the details and that’s amazing,” O’Connor comments.
Also joining the cast as Daniel Plainview’s right hand man, Fletcher, is Ciarán Hinds, the sought-after character actor who is also seen this fall in a comic role in Noah Baumbach’s MARGOT AT THE WEDDING. Hinds recalls his initial shock upon reading the screenplay. “It had a whole different feel to it,” he says. “The themes were biblical and epic, about desire and revenge and emotions driven by ambition. And the style of the writing was such that the flavour just came off the page. It was immediately earthy and very visual. Paul’s gift is to combine an extraordinary eye with a real sense of storytelling and emotional undercurrents, all naturally.”
Hinds was also struck the by unique place that Fletcher holds in the unfolding of the story. “He’s really an observer,” says the actor. “He doesn’t get that involved but as he watches what Plainview gets up to, the more he’s driven. The nature of Fletcher is that he sees that there’s practical work to be done and he does it, very quietly and modestly.”
In the making of the film, Hinds particularly enjoyed working with so many local first-time and non-pro actors. “Their natural sense of being who they are and their ability to listen sometimes put us to shame,” he notes. “They also knew the territory and the lay of the land and they understood the power of the land in a simple but profound way that city folks might not.”
One of the West Texas locals who comes to the fore in THERE WILL BE BLOOD is Dillon Freasier in the role of HW, the child whom Daniel Plainview raises as his son in a relationship that is fraught with both physical and emotional peril. Freasier was discovered by casting director Cassandra Kulukundis who searched in local schools for a child who could take on the demanding role with a deep naturalism. Kulukundis found Freasier in tiny Fort Davis, Texas, where he had lived all his life and, prior to the production, had never even seen a major American city.
“Dillon is this amazing 10 year-old boy who had never had anything to do with movies before, which is what Paul was looking for,” explains JoAnne Sellar. “He wanted someone who already could handle a gun and ride a horse and for whom that whole landscape was second nature - and Dillon turned out to be an amazing find.”
Already at home in the outdoors, Freasier took with great enthusiasm to playing HW, whose life takes a sharp turn when he loses his hearing in an oil accident that will cleave a wedge between he and his father. Says Ciarán Hinds of the co-star, with whom he developed a strong friendship: “Dillon goes on quite an emotional journey and for someone who’s never done this before, he’s amazingly natural and truthful. You see the absolute child in him.”
Although Freasier would perform most of his scenes with a man considered one of the greatest and most exacting actors of our time, he was never intimidated. “Daniel was awesome,” Freasier says, quite simply. “He was so cool and it was something just to get to meet him. He taught me a lot. He taught me when boxing that you should always duck forwards, never back. I didn’t know that.”
In the course of the story, Freasier learned sign language and also found himself having to perform several difficult stunts, including being thrown by an oil derrick explosion and setting fire to his father’s house. “At first I was a bit nervous about the stunts,” he admits. “But by the time I learned how to do them, I was really excited.”
Another source of excitement for Freasier was seeing Russell Harvard portray his character as a young man determined to know the truth about his past. “When I saw Russell, I thought ‘wow, you look exactly like me.’ Later we became really close friends and it was very cool.”
The family Sunday
When Daniel Plainview hears there is oil seeping out of the land on a family ranch in Central California, he finds himself beginning a life-long communion, and collision, with the rural Sunday family. The family’s patriarch, Abel Sunday, who makes a fateful deal with Plainview, is played by David Willis, who was most recently seen in Steven Soderbergh’s THE GOOD GERMAN. Local Marfa artist Christine Olejniczak, who had never acted in a film before, won the role of Mother Sunday. She recalls: “When I came in for the interview, Paul had all these period pictures kind of pasted up around his office and he explained that what he wanted me to do was to help make those pictures real.”
That’s exactly what would come to pass after Olejniczak won the part. The costumes, sets and story began to transport her into another time. “All my dresses were either grey or the colour of tobacco spittle and were just so sad. It brought me into this kind of hard life that just sort of exposed me... I began to understand what Paul meant,” she says.
Olejniczak was also amazed by how the group of actors came together so naturally as the Sunday family. “It was really kind of amazing to see how all of our physical features matched and to hear our voices together. We became this sort of spookily dysfunctional family as soon as they gathered us together,” she observes.
Indeed, the screen family grew so close it was hard to break them up when their scenes were completed. “On the last evening of our filming, I remember Paul wouldn’t acknowledge that he was done filming the Family Sunday, as if he didn’t want to let us go,” recalls Olejniczak. “And then after we finished, I remember the entire family just rushed up and started hugging and saying goodbye... the girls had their faces in their aprons crying and it was really a moving, wonderful moment.”
Ten year-old Alpine, Texas resident Sydney McAllister took on the role of young Mary Sunday, who finds an unlikely and life-long friend in HW Having grown up around animals all her life, McAllister found it completely natural to play a farm girl and she understood Mary’s attraction to HW “She’s very lonely and her dad is kind of mean to her so when she finds HW he becomes her one friend,” she explains. “He doesn’t care if she’s poor or how she looks. They really just like each other.”
Later, McAllister’s role was expanded upon by Colleen Foy, a rising young actress who plays Mary Sunday as a young woman - one who remains HW’s closest friend in Little Boston where he has become forever associated with his father’s fury and recriminations.
Another local, Kellie Hill, was recruited straight out of a Marfa theatre class to play Ruth Sunday. “I thought of her as the kind of shy person who always wants to say something, wants to step in, but just can’t,” says Hill of her largely silent performance.
The cast was completed by numerous extras, many of whom were recruited from among Marfa’s local ranchers as well the construction crew, to play Little Boston’s new oil workers. Says extra Barry Earwin: “I think being blue-collar type people, we appreciated the work ethic of these characters. Working on an oil well was a high-paying job in those days but it was very dangerous and teamwork couldn’t be stressed enough, which is something we understand.”
On the set, the mix of locals and professional actors came together with few hitches. “Paul seems to seamlessly make that sort of mix work, the way he works so closely with everyone,” explains Sellar.
Anderson notes that at times the cast and crew felt a bit like oil workers. “Oil workers in those days were men who kind of wandered from home to home, who did the best they could by labouring with their hands, who worked 12 hours a day - and we were doing the same thing,” he says. “There was this illusion among us that we were actually out there digging for oil.”
When Paul Thomas Anderson began sending the script for THERE WILL BE BLOOD to his crew it came replete with a notebook filled with more than 100 photographs from the era. They would serve as inspiration for what Anderson wanted to create: a period piece so enveloping and insular it would feel at once unlike today’s world yet unmoored in time. The sheer creative electricity of the process brought Anderson back to the roots of his filmmaking career. “I was just really thrilled and excited,” he recalls. “I kept saying ‘this feels like BOOGIE NIGHTS.’”
To capture the environs so key to the film’s suspense and transporting atmosphere, Anderson worked closely with Academy Award-nominated director of photography Robert Elswit. Elswit has collaborated with Anderson on all his previous films and his work includes the stunning black and white photography of George Clooney’s acclaimed period drama GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK - but THERE WILL BE BLOOD would take him outdoors, into sunlight and the vast, iconic Western landscape. Elswit delved into breathtaking, painterly compositions that riff on the film’s themes - evoking both the mercilessness and the lure of desert landscapes laced with hidden treasures - while revealing the landscapes as never seen before.
Says Anderson of his working relationship with Elswit: “By now, we know each other so well that we know when to steer clear and when to embrace each other. He is so generous in putting up with my ideas and then helping me to turn them into good ones. You have to be really comfortable when you’re shooting inside a 50-foot deep hole in the earth, and we just really enjoy working with each other.”
Anderson also recruited production designer Jack Fisk, who begin his career auspiciously as art director on Terence Malick’s BADLANDS, the austere, heartbreakingly poetic look of which would go on to influence many films to come. Fisk would go on to work regularly with Malick as well as with such stylistically daring directors as David Lynch and Brian De Palma. “He was the only man for the job,” states Anderson. “There’s nobody else like Jack. When we talked about for the first time, he said ‘I really want to do this because I have no idea how to do it.’ And you can’t ask for anything more exciting than that.”
As with Malick, Fisk found that working with Anderson was a process requiring maximum creativity. “Due to my experience with Terry, I like to build complete, 360-degree sets and never strike them. This worked great with Paul, who was constantly inventing scenes on the spur of the moment. The film was always changing and it was very creative and exciting,” says Fisk.
At first, Anderson hoped to shoot the film in its authentic California setting. “But it’s impossible to find what California used to look like in California,” he remarks. Adds Sellar: “We couldn’t find the scope we were looking for in California because there’s usually a Burger King in one direction and a freeway in the other.”
A search led them all to Marfa, Texas, population 2400, an isolated West Texas ranching town near the Mexican border that has become an idyllic arts community. There, the stark, hard landscape with its 360-degree views and lack of development made for the perfect blank slate on which to create their own vision of a turn-of-the-century Central California town. Utilizing the town’s natural and human resources, the production ultimately employed about 15% of the local populace. “Marfa first and foremost looks just like Bakersfield did at one time,” observes Anderson. “It’s also close enough to the West Texas oilfields that we were able to mine the area for old oil drilling equipment. That area has some really friendly people and we had the best set there is - that West Texas landscape.”
Adds Fisk: “We liked the idea of really getting isolated out there where we wouldn’t have any distractions and we could get completely wrapped up in Little Boston.”
In Marfa, Fisk chose the 50,000-acre Maguire Ranch on which to build the sets because it was a wide open space that featured a must-have: railroad tracks. “It was like our own little mini-lot,” notes Sellar. “We were in this cocooned environment where you could really feel you were going back in time. Being so remote meant we couldn’t always get things quickly which made us very resourceful and really added to the creativity of it all.” A nearby former feather factory that manufactured costumes for Las Veas shows was even transformed into production offices as well as wardrobe and prop storage.
Continues Fisk: “The great thing about this location is that we were able to have all the sets on the one ranch. They might be two miles apart but it was all the same ranch. Paul and I were able to walk around the ranch visualizing things,” explains the production designer. “We picked a place for the derrick and then the Sunday Ranch and then we saw a little rise in the distance and said, that’ll be a good place for the church. So we had a sort of triangle with the church, the ranch and the derrick.”
The Sunday Ranch was built without blueprints, largely by instinct. “I thought ‘what would I do if I was farmer out there?’ ‘How would I build a shelter for my family?’ I really love working through character,” says Fisk.
For the church, Fisk kept things sparse to reflect the fact that the congregation had no funds to spare when it was built. “We got the idea to build it in the shape of a cross, so it’s this little pathetic church on the hill trying to mimic a great European cathedral. We didn’t even put windows in, just the cut-outs of Gothic shapes,” he explains. “And there is no flooring, just dirt.”
It took about three months for the crew to build the entirety of Little Boston by hand. “It became a real little community,” muses Fisk. “The houses were all built in three-dimensions out of wood and we also built a number of real buildings with interiors, including the train station.” To complete the train station, the production also brought in a vintage locomotive - Old No. 7, a Prairie Locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania in 1907, which spent a century hauling lumber, then oil before finally becoming a passenger train.
The place felt so isolated and outside time that Anderson and Fisk made an unusual decision to use no signs whatsoever, whether street signs or business signs, that might anchor it. “A number of times we were tempted and then one of us would remind the other, ‘I thought we said no signs.’ What Paul wanted was to do with this film was to apply a sense of yesterday to any time frame. Daniel Plainview could live in any period.”
Naturally, one of the biggest challenges was erecting the nearly 100-foot tall wooden cable tool-drilling derrick - which is a centrepiece of the story, going through several incarnations as well as catastrophic events. Fisk began by studying the history of oil derricks and looking at some historic examples. His inspiration was a 106-foot derrick erected in Taft, California in Kern County, once a hotbed of drilling activity in the heyday of California’s oil boom. It was here that the so-called Lakeview Gusher produced, for a short time, over 100,000 barrel a day, the most ever seen in the US. Ultimately, Fisk and special effects co-ordinator Steve Cremin built the film’s version in part from original 1896 plans he found at the Kern Oil Museum, using as much vintage cable drilling equipment as possible.
Cremin came to the project well-versed in the subject because his father worked in the oil industry. “I understood the theory of drilling and the mechanics of how it used to be done well enough to put something authentic together,” says Cremin. “There was no sort of stock design for derricks of that time, so we started searching for parts that were correct for the period and built them into our own mechanism. The big challenge is that most of these were built at a time when there were no safety regulations and they often collapsed. So we had to hide parts that were much stronger underneath the deck to keep it safe.”
Later, Fisk and Cremin would line the derrick with dynamite and blow it up - which, even given all their long, arduous work in constructing the thing, Fisk didn’t mind. “I thought it was very exciting. We built it to burn and we always knew it was going to burn. We would have just had to tear it down anyway and it was a rare chance to show a set under destruction,” says Fisk. Adds Cremin: “I loved the way it caved in on itself and corkscrewed downwards; it’s a great look, very organic, the way it kind of does itself in.”
The destruction of the derrick was saved for the very end of the production in Texas. “We kept pushing it back in the schedule, because here we had built this 80-foot derrick and we didn’t want it to burn and then realize we need it for something,” explains Sellar. “It became this very suspenseful and anticipated event, where locals pulled up lawn chairs to watch it.”
Moving on from Texas to Southern California, Fisk created a very different type of set with the lavish yet neglected mansion in which an older Plainview dwells at the climax of the film. These scenes were shot in Los Angeles’ famed Greystone Mansion, built in the 1920s, not coincidentally, by oil tycoon Edward Doheny for his son, who died in a murder/suicide before he ever occupied the 55-room, 46,000 square foot home.
Though Greystone has been used in numerous films, it has never been seen quite like this. “Paul really transformed the mansion,” says Fisk. “You had Daniel Day-Lewis in the living room camping out by the fireplace and pissing in a pot - so you had this beautiful mansion filled with the chaos of a madman and it tells you so much about what has happened in those years. We also had a lot of fun rebuilding a bowling alley in the basement. There had been one there at one time but it had been destroyed so we resurrected that and it’s still there now.”
For all the complexity and imagination of his designs, one of Fisk’s most intriguing triumphs came early in the film, with the simple tripod-style oil derrick, which changes Daniel Plainview’s fate at the outset of his story. “We read about the mechanics of oil drilling back then and really tried to simulate that - but what was so exciting for me was the way it changed and evolved and looked so real,” remarks Fisk. “We wound up building a shaft that was about 40 feet deep so that we could fill it with oil and shoot all the way to the bottom.”
Throughout, Jack Fisk was inspired by Paul Thomas Anderson’s unflagging enthusiasm for what they were achieving. “He was very excited during the whole shoot,” recounts Fisk. “He was always saying ‘can you believe I’m really shooting this?’ He’d spent such a long time preparing for the film and writing it and working on it with Daniel Day-Lewis that I think he was constantly in love with the idea that we were actually making it happen.”
Fisk especially loved collaborating with cinematographer Robert Elswit who made the most of his sets and locations with his magnificent compositions. “Working with Robert was such a delight. I mean, he has no ego. He just wanted to make the best film possible no matter what the constraints. His enthusiasm never wavered. He was always ready to try new things and explore.”
Hats and coats
Equally key to the film’s sense of a fully lived-in world of its own are the costumes of Mark Bridges. Bridges has collaborated numerous times with Paul Thomas Anderson, but THERE WILL BE BLOOD would take them both into new territory as their first film with a period setting - and perhaps America’s most evocative and romanticized period. Bridges began thinking about the basic tenor and philosophy of the look while Anderson was still writing the screenplay. “Paul called me up one day and said ‘I need to know what this movie’s gonna look like’ and that’s when we started to put together images from the period to tell the story visually,” Bridges recalls.
He continues: “Then, things began to evolve and Daniel Day-Lewis came on board. Being able to visualize him in the role of Daniel Plainview put a whole other dimension onto it - and Daniel turned out to be the greatest collaborator a costume designer could have because he brought so much to the process. Yet he was also very open to suggestions. We would sit and talk through the choices of suits and ties and how they would work dramatically. It was a really wonderful back-and-forth collaboration.”
Details as seemingly simple as Plainview’s hat sparked major conversations. “We went through many hats to finally decide which one was strongest visually and which was the most like Daniel Plainview. We also talked at length about the shoulders of his suits and shape of his pant legs. I always felt that if I was helping Daniel Day-Lewis to create the character then I was doing my job. The challenge for both of us was showing the development of the guy, who he was and more so who he becomes between 1898 and 1927.”
When it came to dressing Plainview’s son, HW, Bridges went to town with knickers and knee socks in the lavish manner wealthier children were presented in the Victorian era. “Daniel uses his son as a kind of ornament to get sympathy and to make himself more acceptable to people,” the designer explains, “so whenever HW is out in public he’s very much on display.”
Bridges, too, utilized Anderson’s extensive research into the history of California’s oil tycoons and field workers to provide clothes for the film’s many smaller roles but notes that he wasn’t a slave to chronology. “I didn’t worry that much if a piece of clothing was from 1902 or 1911 if it worked for the scene. There was a real grey area anyway in that time where people didn’t change styles as quickly as we do now. So the feeling is not ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ but rather, evoking the period so you believe in it. It was always a mixture of research and art.”
To dress Eli Sunday, Bridges considered how a man of little means, but lofty religious ambitions, might clothe himself. “You know, when we first meet Eli, he lives on a farm, he tends to goats, so you have to wonder how would he even acquire the clothing of a preacher? The first time we see him in church, I did a funny thing where he’s all in black with a shirt with a top button that’s white so it’s vaguely suggestive of a clerical collar - and I thought that’s something he might have done, under the circumstances, to show that he’s a man of the cloth. As he grows in popularity, I wondered how he would try to present himself and where he would get his clothes - would his parishioners donate things to him from deceased family members or that sort of thing? There was a lot of imagination, while keeping the silhouette correct for the time.”
Bridges also gave considerable consideration to the clothes worn by the Sunday family. He is especially pleased with Mary Sunday’s dresses. “There’s a bodice shape that I found in research that’s sort of like a pigeon-chested thing and I just had to have that for her,” he explains. For Abel Sunday, Bridges used an authentic 1902 suit. “It had this incredibly unique shape and since you wouldn’t see a suit like that today it felt very true to the period. The detective work of finding items like that was a lot of fun.”
The palette was especially tricky. “The concept was essentially non-colour,” he notes, “it was all greys and beiges and browns and a bit of over-dyed blue because you can’t do work clothes without blue. We did a lot of custom colours to make the film look the way it does.” The palette also had to work with Robert Elswit’s carefully crafted lighting. “I always consulted with Robert on the colours because he has such a terrific eye and he makes everything look so magical and beautiful.”
The actors often received inspiration from the transporting powers of their clothing but performing in hot desert condition in wigs and hats and petticoats took some fortitude. “To sit still in 100 degree weather in all those layers of clothes was challenging for all of us,” says Christine Olejniczak, who plays Mother Sunday.
Sums up Bridges: “I know the cast suffered quite a bit for our benefit, but I think they will be very proud of how they look and come off in the film.”
After four years of research, preparation and production, Anderson was now nearly alone with the story again. “You know, when you’re making a film you start with all these collaborators,” he says, “and in the end you come down to just three people - the director, the composer and the editor (Dylan Tichenor) - holding this work together.”
As much as the characters and setting of THERE WILL BE BLOOD, the film’s music became part and parcel of the storytelling. The score, which defies the usual period conventions for a film set at the turn of the century - and completely subverts the traditional symphonic instruments it uses, using them to forge a mosaic of unsettling, surprising and often sinister shadows of their usual sounds - becomes a major player in the tale, accompanying great swaths of otherwise silent cinema as Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview determinedly finds his first oil in the opening portion of the film.
To create the score, Paul Thomas Anderson turned to a novel source: Jonny Greenwood, best known as the guitarist and one of the major creative forces behind the innovative rock band Radiohead.
Anderson was drawn to Greenwood not only because of his appreciation for Radiohead, but after hearing a piece Greenwood wrote on commission for the BBC entitled “Popcorn Superhet Receiver,” the eerie, dissonant ambiance of which resonated with him.
Anderson gave Greenwood free reign and Greenwood took that freedom and ran with it, creating music that not only supports the imagery and characters of THERE WILL BE BLOOD, but informs them in surprising ways, all while building a mounting sense of terror of the forces at work below the surface. At times, in the beginning of the film, Greenwood was composing for what was essentially a silent film - which sparked his music to become downright narrative in its breadth of sounds and range of textures. “His score is like a roller coaster ride,” comments JoAnne Sellar.
Later, the score would be recorded on a stage at London’s legendary Abbey Road studios in exhilarating sessions that made it clear they had a transcendent piece of music on their hands.
“I knew Jonny would come back with something great,” says Anderson. “At first you would think it was completely wrong, but after a few days it would start to settle in and it was just really amazing. I think Jonny completely got into the idea of telling this story through music.”
A brief history of California oil
Though few people realize it, the biggest export industry in California following the leader, motion pictures, has long been oil. The state may not be as famous as Texas for it, but the rapid growth of the oil industry in the early 20th century was central to the development, and especially the tremendous, lavish wealth, that first made California an irresistible dreamland for so many.
California’s volatile geological landscape has featured natural oil seeps for eons - hence, such fossil bonanzas as the La Brea Tar Pits. By the time Spanish colonialists arrived in the 1500s, Native Americans were already scooping the bubbling oil up from the ground for so-called “asphaltum,” used to make canoes, baskets and other items requiring waterproofing. The new settlers also began to use the stuff and, in 1850, General Andreas Pico (brother of the last Mexican governor of California, Pios Pico) became the first person in California to distil oil, which he used to light the gas lamps in his home near Newhall.
As widespread demand for kerosene grew, so too did the drive to bring more oil out of the ground. In 1865, the first productive oil well popped up in California’s sparsely populated, largely agricultural Central Valley, and sparked a series of small strikes that fed the booming young city of San Francisco.
In those days, finding oil was a painstaking, high-risk task. Drilling with the era’s unsophisticated equipment was difficult, dangerous and a huge gamble because you could easily come up empty. Even if you found oil, the cable rigs used to extract it were unpredictable - and if a gusher caught on fire, huge disasters could and did result. The task drew brash, driven risk-takers, adventurers and men of fervent, forward vision - and those who succeeded would become the titans of America’s ascending industrial age.
Once oil was found in a new area it often precipitated the so-called “black gold rush” as workers, entrepreneurs and other hopefuls from the East deluged once tiny, rural hamlets looking for opportunity. Many towns experienced clashing cultures as industrialists, prostitutes, gamblers and other colourful characters arrived in town along with the oil. One such town was Summerland, a spiritualist colony just outside Santa Barbara, which became home to the first offshore oil field in the Western Hemisphere - and, to the residents’ dismay, was also soon home to numerous saloons and boarding houses. Rancour led to the sabotaging of wells, including those belonging to one of the era’s biggest tycoons, J Paul Getty.
1888 saw California’s first mighty gusher. This was a well named “Adams No. 16” in the Ventura Basin, drilled by a predecessor to the Union Oil Company, undeniably proving California’s potential in the oil industry.
In 1892, the same year the automobile was born, the itinerant Edward Doheny struck oil near what is now Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium and within 5 years had increased his wells to more than 500, amassing one of the nation’s most considerable fortunes. Other major players in the oil business included John Rockefeller who started Standard Oil, the parent company of Chevron, and a dominant force in the early industry. (Upton Sinclair, who wrote the novel Oil! on which THERE WILL BE BLOOD was loosely based, would later help to stage protests against the Rockefellers and their anti-union practices.)
By the turn of the century, the California oil boom was in full swing, especially in the San Joaquin Valley. In 1910, the largest gusher in the state’s history, the Lakeview Gusher, began flowing at an incredible 125,000 barrels a day. That same year, California’s oil peaked at some 77 million barrels of oil; indeed, at that moment in time, the state was producing as much as 70 percent of the world’s oil supply.
The big California oil boom lasted only about a decade before the flow started to run out. Drilling continued (and still continues across the state) but by the time the Depression hit, most of the big fields and wells had been sucked dry and abandoned. Meanwhile, the search for oil, more vital than ever to a rapidly changing society of automobiles and industry, had moved on to countries abroad, sparking the beginning of multinational oil.
About the filmmaker
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON (Director/Screenwriter)
Director and screenwriter Paul Thomas Anderson won attention for his short film CIGARETTES & COFFEE at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. He went on to expand the short into a full-length feature, HARD EIGHT (1996). Anderson is most notably known for BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997), MAGNOLIA (1999), and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002). His latest film is THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007).
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