Oscars: 10 Things to Know About Best Picture Nominee 'Phantom Thread'

10:00 AM 2/21/2018

by Michael Waters

How method acting influenced the on-set dynamics, Vicky Krieps' strange first film role, and where the production team found all of those dresses.

The first thing most people hear about Phantom Thread is that it is Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis' last film. After this, Day-Lewis announced in June, he is beginning a self-imposed retirement from acting. For the movie, Day-Lewis teamed up with co-star Vicky Krieps and director Paul Thomas Anderson, with whom he worked on the Oscar-nominated There Will Be Blood (2008).

Starring Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, an intense and unforgiving couture dressmaker who finds — and loses — a new muse in the waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps), the film has received six Oscar nominations, including best picture. From the retirement of its lead to the dozens of elaborate dresses ferried through production, here are 10 things to know about Phantom Thread.

  • This Isn't the First Time Day-Lewis Has Stepped Away From Acting

    In a surprise announcement in June, a publicist for Daniel Day-Lewis said in a statement that the three-time Oscar winner “will no longer be working as an actor.” 

    Though his intentions seem set, this isn’t the first time that Day-Lewis has stepped back from Hollywood. In the 1990s, he avoided taking on another acting job for five years, opting instead to develop his skills woodworking and shoemaking in Florence, Italy. Only when Martin Scorsese convinced him to star in his 2002 film Gangs of New York did Day-Lewis return to a set.

  • The Film's Costume Designer Created 50 Garments for Production

    Laurie Sparham/Focus Features

    Mark Bridges had already worked with director Paul Thomas Anderson seven times when he signed on to lead the costume design team for Phantom Thread. The job required massive amounts of effort, he told THR. He and his team needed to design 50 luxurious garments, including a number of 1950s party dresses, outsourcing fabrics from London, Rome, Lyon and New York, among other cities. One particularly exciting material: a 17th-century Flemish lace for a lavender dress that Alma (Vicky Krieps) wears in the film. 

     

  • Vicky Krieps Covered Herself in Pig's Blood for Her First Movie Role

    As a high school student, Vicky Krieps experimented with acting by performing theatrical poems she wrote with her friends. She loved costumes, so she tried to appear as an extra in various movies just to wear the elaborate clothing. She was still in high school when she landed her first real acting role. Her friend Govinda Van Maele cast her as the lead in his movie Sweet Dreams From the Slaughterhouse, for which she “covered herself in pig’s blood,” THR previously reported. The film, however, never made it to the editing stage.

  • Daniel Day-Lewis Learned Dressmaking for His Role

    Getty Images

    Daniel Day-Lewis, never one to shy away from plunging himself into a role, learned the art of couture dressmaking for Phantom Thread. According to W Magazine, he practiced making from scratch a Balenciaga sheet dress he had seen in a photograph. 

  • Lesley Manville and Gary Oldman Make Parenting History

    Courtesy of Focus Features

    Veteran stage actress Lesley Manville, who plays Woodcock’s sister in Phantom Thread, has accomplished a rare feat with her Oscar nomination for best supporting actress this year. She and ex-husband Gary Oldman, whose prosthetic-rich performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour has made him the best actor front-runner, are only the sixth pair of parents in Oscar history to receive simultaneous award nominations. 

    Manville and Oldman married in 1987 and divorced in 1990. In those three years, they had one son. Addressing her simultaneous Oscar nominations, Manville told THR, “It’s completely nice and friendly. We were all together on Christmas year before last. We spoke on the phone the other day — he rang me when he saw Phantom Thread, I rang him when I saw Darkest Hour. Just because you’re divorced from somebody, doesn’t mean you hate them.”

  • The Film Wasn't Shot on a Set

    Laurie Sparham/Focus Features

    Phantom Thread producer JoAnne Sellar told THR that one of her biggest challenges was finding a suitable house to shoot in, because director Paul Thomas Anderson refused to build a set for it. “It was quite challenging finding the London house, because in the middle of London, it’s really expensive. You’ve also got to find a house that’s not too modernized and updated, where you’ve got to kind of take everything back to pre-1950s,” she said.

  • Day-Lewis and Manville Knew of Each Other as Kids

    Getty Images

    Although stars Day-Lewis and Manville met for the first time after being cast in Phantom Thread, they knew of each other since they were much younger. “We grew up in London in the ’80s and the early part of the ’90s, so we had a big crossover of friends, but we never actually met,” Day-Lewis told THR, noting that the two immediately connected when they finally sat down together. 

  • Krieps Created Much of Alma's Backstory Herself

    In order to play Alma, Krieps looked to her grandmother’s past. The main things she knew about Alma is that her mother died (a storyline that was eventually cut in edits) and that she moved to London from Eastern Europe. Much of the rest of Alma’s backstory Krieps had the freedom to define for herself. “I really took it from my grandmother,” she told THR. “I tried to understand what it means to be a young woman in the war, seeing people die around you. Close family members. And having to leave your country. Go to a new country. Be an immigrant.” 

  • Wearing All of Those Dresses Was a Second Job for Krieps

    Laurie Sparham/Focus Features

    Before working on Phantom Thread, Krieps had never in her life worn so many dresses. “It was a job on its own to learn how to wear the dresses,” she told THR, noting that “you cannot walk like you walk in trainers.” But she found that the dresses themselves were so structured that they often told her how to wear them — she just had to pay attention.

  • Even Off-Camera, Krieps Talked to Daniel Day-Lewis as Woodcock

    Focus/Screenshot

    Daniel Day-Lewis, a diligent method actor, almost never broke his character on the set. Even off-camera, Krieps sometimes needed to talk to him as though he were Reynolds Woodcock. In one instance, Krieps asked the Phantom Thread production team why she never wore any strapless dress as she felt Alma would. The reply, Krieps told THR, was, “Reynolds Woodcock wouldn’t accept that” because he would think it “too vulgar.” Krieps decided to find out for herself. Off-camera, she approached Day-Lewis-as-Woodcock and asked if this was true. He said no, it would be different for her.

    Krieps got to wear the strapless dress.