There Will Be Blood is a 2007 epic period piece written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film follows an oilman named Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who is overcome by greed during the Southern California oil boom in the 19th and 20th centuries. The film was hailed for its acting, cinematography, direction, and is considered to be one of the greatest films of the 21st century. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, it took home Best Actor for Day-Lewis and Best Cinematography for Robert Elswit. Now, take a look into some lesser-known facts about the film and what’s made it stand out in history.
The Actor That Plays Adult H.W. Plainview Is Deaf In Real Life
One incredibly memorable scene in the film is when a young H.W. Plainview loses his hearing due to a gas blowout. Because the film spans a large amount of time, in later scenes, we see H.W. Plainview as an adult who is played by Russell Harvard, who is deaf in real life.
They chose to use a deaf actor because the appropriate portrayal of deaf people and others with disabilities has become more prevalent in the movie industry.
A Widely Circulated Picture Taken On-Set Wrongly Claimed To Feature Daniel Day-Lewis
When filming the movie, an on-set photographer took a photo of a man that they claimed to be Daniel-Day Lewis. Even though the picture didn’t look like the actor, the photographer thought it was because he had changed his appearance.
It didn’t take long for the image to be released to the press, where it circulated various magazines and websites, leading to rumors spreading that Day-Lewis changed his appearance to play the lead role. The actual actor photographed was Vince Froio, who played one of Daniel Plainview’s associates towards the end.
Some Scenes Were Shot Several Times In Multiple Locations
Notorious for being a perfectionist, Paul Thomas Anderson wasn’t entirely sure where each scene in the film would take place. As a result, some scenes were shot multiple times in different locations, and during editing, the particular location that was added that best fit the film.
During the editing process, Anderson and his team would eat steak and drink vodka every Wednesday night to feel like Daniel Plainview and best map out the story of his life and eventual downfall.
Daniel Day-Lewis Is In All But Two Scenes
The lead of the film, Daniel Day-Lewis, is in almost every scene of the movie except for two. These are the short montage of H.W. and Mary Sunday leading up to their wedding and the scene when a mud-covered Eli Sunday yells at his father.
Daniel Day-Lewis, who has always been picky about the roles he chooses, was interested in the film after seeing Paul Thomas Anderson’s work on Punch-Drunk Love. Of course, Anderson was thrilled to bring such a renowned actor onto his project.
A Pyrotechnic Test Stalled The Production Of No Country For Old Men
At the 80th Academy Awards, There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men were tied for the most nominations, with each film having eight. As well as being head-to-head at the awards ceremony, ironically, both films were being shot in Marfa, Texas, at the same time.
On one occasion, director Paul Thomas Anderson and his team were testing out some pyrotechnic special effects for an oil fire scene in There Will Be Blood. However, the smoke from the pyrotechnics got into the background of a shot of the Coen Brother’s No Country for Old Men. They then had to delay their production for a day until the smoke cleared.
The Film’s Connection With Milkshakes
One of the most famous and quoted lines in the film is when Daniel Plainview screams, “I drink your milkshake!” at Eli Sunday before murdering him. This line was taken from an official testimony by New Mexico Republican Senator Albert Fall, who used the milkshake metaphor to describe how he would accept bribes for oil-drilling rights.
Anderson found this appealing, so he added it to the script. Milkshakes are also involved in the film since Anderson claims the fake oil that was used contained the same substance that McDonald’s uses to produce their chocolate milkshakes.
Daniel Plainview’s Hats Showed His Character Development
The costume designer for the film, Mark Bridges, has noted that Daniel Plainview consistently wears hats throughout There Will be Blood, which are designed to show the character’s development.
In an interview with The Denver Post, Bridges explains, “Leading up to the first time we see [the main] hat, [Plainview’s] hats kind of echo or inform what’s going on with his career and life.” Day-Lewis also had a say in the hats his character wore since it was his ideas for the hats to have meaning in the first place.
Eli And Paul Sunday Weren’t Initially Going To Be Twins
During the casting for the film, Paul Dano was given the small role of Paul Sunday, with actor Kel O’Neill being cast to play the more significant part of his brother Eli.
However, the two brothers weren’t twins in the original script, yet after Dano shot his only scene as Paul, Anderson decided to make the brothers identical twins and asked if Dano would also like to play Eli. Paul Dano was then expected to be ready to play one of the film’s biggest roles just four days after it was offered to him.
Daniel Plainview’s Dark Personality Attracted Day-Lewis To The Role
Actor Daniel Day-Lewis has never been known for playing lighthearted roles, so it’s no surprise that the darkness within Daniel Plainview was attractive to him.
In an interview with NPR, Day-Lewis explained, “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?” In the end, it all worked out too, because Day-Lewis’ take on Daniel Plainview can be described as nothing less than unnerving.
Anderson Was Inspired By The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
Although there were rumors that Paul Thomas Anderson watched The Treasure of the Sierra Madre every night before filming began, Anderson admitted that although he watched it a lot, the number of times “has gotten completely exaggerated.”
He also told Filmmaker Magazine, “It’s essentially a dialogue, a dynamic between these three guys. [The film’s] traditional straightforward storytelling was what I was influenced by, and it was something that seemed to apply when trying to make a big story on a limited budget.”
Dillon Freasier, Who Played H.W., Never Acted Before
When casting the role of H.W. Plainview’s son, they went through a number of professional child actors before Anderson decided they needed a “boy from Texas who knew how to shoot shotguns and live in that world.”
Casting director Cassandra Kulukundis then began searching around schools in the area, and according to the Los Angeles Times, she was looking for “a child who didn’t play with GameBoys but worked outside.” One of the boys recommended was Dillon Freasier, whose police officer-mother ironically pulled over Kulukundis the same day Freasier auditioned for the role.
Day-Lewis Didn’t Do As Much Preparation As He Usually Does
Although Daniel Day-Lewis is notorious for going to great lengths when preparing for a role, this wasn’t necessarily the case for There Will Be Blood. Since the film is loosely based on the book Oil!, Day-Lewis told IndieLondon, “I read the book [Oil!]. The first 150 pages or so introduce you to the world of the oilfields at that time, and there’s a lot of great detail about the world of the drillers and the prospectors.”
Besides that, the actor admitted he didn’t do much else except for mastering his character’s voice by listening to old recordings of director, writer, and producer, John Huston.
Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Almost Involved
Initially, Paul Thomas Anderson had wanted to cast Philip Seymour Hoffman for the role of HM Tilford. However, he decided against this and decided to cast someone else to distance himself from some of his other works.
He wanted to have a kind of rebirth of his works, which wouldn’t have been as effective if he had used Hoffman, who had been in Anderson’s more lighthearted films such as Boogie Nights and Punch-Drunk Love. Regardless, Hoffman was busy anyway filming Synecdoche, New York.
The Final Scene Was Supposed To Be Much More Graphic
In the final scene of There Will Be Blood, Daniel Plainview chases Eli Sunday around his bowling alley before finally beating him to death with a bowling pin. As horrific as this was, the scene in the original script was going to be substantially more graphic.
The plan was to still have Plainview beat Eli to death, but it was going to be a tumbler instead of a bowling pin. Plainview was then going to throw Eli’s corpse into the bowling pins and down into the cellar. Yet, when it came time to film, it was decided that the graphic nature of the scene didn’t fit right.
They Used Real Mine Shafts
During filming, the town of Marfa near the Texas-Mexico border was used to look like Bakersfield, California. One of the main reasons for using this location is because there are several abandoned mine shafts all over the area that had been dug at the beginning of the twentieth century.
One of the shafts that were used in the film is incredibly deep, sixty to seventy feet that connects to a mechanically dug perpendicular tunnel at the bottom. Other sets, such as the church, were built on the site.
There Were Rumors That Daniel Day-Lewis Built His Own Oil Rig
Known as one of the most intense method actors in the business, some outlets reported that Day-Lewis built an oil rig in his backyard. Nevertheless, these claims were false.
In an interview with IndieLondon, Day-Lewis commented, “It was rumored apparently that I’d built a derrick in a field behind my house in County Wicklow […] and I must say when I read that I thought: ‘That’s not a bad idea, I might try that!’ But we were a bit short on help at the time.”
Dillon Freasier’s Mom Was Nervous About Her Son Working With Day-Lewis
Even though the film was an incredible first job for the young boy, Dillon’s mom was nervous about her son working so close with a man that she didn’t know. So, she decided to watch one of his movies and landed on Gangs of New York.
Upon seeing the film, she was horrified over Day-Lewis’ performance as Bill the Butcher, so someone sent her his movie The Age of Innocence instead to calm her nerves. When Day-Lewis won Best Actor for his work on There Will Be Blood, he thanked his young co-star, but he was already asleep.
Paul Dano Wasn’t Always Sure What Day-Lewis Was Going To Do
Acting the opposite of Day-Lewis in such an intense film would be daunting for even the most experienced actors.
Regarding his experience, Dano told Collider that there were “definitely some moments where, you know, I was going, ‘Holy [expletive] … Because we didn’t really rehearse and so sometimes, I didn’t know how big something that was going to come out of him was going to be, because he’s so powerful. And I don’t really want to say specific instances.” Certainly, this was a moment in Dano’s career that he would not soon forget.
The Movie Was Only Partially Based On Oil!
Although the credits claim that the film is based on Upton Sinclair’s novel, Oil!, the book didn’t have all that much influence on Paul Thomas Anderson’s vision for the film.
Anderson told The A.V. Club, “[W]ith There Will Be Blood, I didn’t even really feel like I was adapting a book […] I was just desperate to find stuff to write. I can remember the way that my desk looked, with so many different scraps of paper and books about the oil industry in the early 20th century, mixed in with pieces of other scripts that I’d written.” He went on to note that they were pretty “unfaithful to the book.”
Day-Lewis Based His Character’s Mannerisms On John Huston
Daniel Day-Lewis took inspiration for Daniel Plainview’s mannerisms by studying John Huston, who ironically wrote and directed 1948’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which influenced There Will Be Blood.
According to Day-Lewis, “I did listen to some tapes of Huston’s voice, among others. And there was something about the vigor of Huston’s language appealed to me.” It appears that Day-Lewis’ study of Huston worked out int he end, considering his voice in the film is one of the most memorable parts of his performance.