Dillon Freasier (the son (H.W.) was not an actor; he was an elementary student near the film’s West Texas shooting location.
Dillon’s mother wanted to figure out who Day-Lewis was, so she rented Gangs of New York and panicked at the idea of her son spending time with him. So the casting department rushed to her a copy of The Age of Innocence, in which Day-Lewis plays a civilized and gentle man.
Paul Thomas Anderson told Entertainment Weekly that the fake oil used throughout the movie included “the stuff they put in chocolate milkshakes at McDonald’s.”
Paul Dano was originally cast in a much smaller role (Eli’s brother). But once they began filming, Dano was given the role of Eli himself.
Because of this, Dano only had 4 days to prepare for his role of Eli, as opposed to Daniel Day-Lewis who had years.
Paul Thomas Anderson stated that he watched The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) every night before filming this movie.
Every Wednesday night during editing, Paul Thomas Anderson and company would have just steak and straight vodka for dinner to keep in the mentality of Daniel Plainview.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson planned to have the bowling alley (located at the Greystone Mansion) to be painted completely white to give it some Kubrick symmetry and menacing quality. However, he changed it to its original state when it was later decided that the bowling alley was to be given away for ownership after filming.
Daniel Day-Lewis accepted the role of Daniel Plainview as he had been a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous film, Punch-Drunk Love (2002).
Daniel Day-Lewis worked on his role of Daniel Plainview for three years.
The scene where Plainview is baptized by Eli (where Eli slaps him several times) was shot the day after the scene in which Plainview threatens to bury Eli (and slaps him around).
According to Paul Thomas Anderson, they were “pretty loose about where scenes would take place.” This sometimes meant filming scenes three or four different times in different locations, and evaluating the result each time.
While filming in Marfa, Texas, No Country for Old Men (2007) was the neighboring film production. One day, they tested the pyrotechnical effects of the oil derrick fire, causing an enormous billowing of smoke, intruding Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s shoot. They had to delay filming until the next day when the smoke dissipated.
Both this film and No Country for Old Men (2007) would eventually become the leading contenders at the Academy Awards a year and a half later.
Though Jonny Greenwood’s score for this film was very well-received, it was not eligible for the Best Original Score Academy Award because it incorporates parts of his previous compositions “Popcorn Superhet Receiver” and “Bodysong”, as well as some other material composed by Arvo Pärt and Johannes Brahms.
Daniel Day-Lewis appears in every scene of the film, with two minor exceptions – he is not present in the scene where Eli Sunday (still covered in mud) berates his father, or in the brief montage of H.W. and Mary Sunday leading up to their marriage.
Russell Harvard, who plays the deaf, adult H.W. Plainview at the end of the film, is actually deaf.
Although the script is based on the Upton Sinclair novel, Paul Thomas Anderson used only the first hundred and fifty pages for a big portion of the material. The rest was contrived. The novel’s setting was in 1920s but it was moved to the beginning of the oil boom in California.
Daniel Day-Lewis improvised the speech he gives to the citizens of Little Boston, about building schools, bringing bread to the town, etc. Paul Thomas Anderson says of this, “It was delicious. It was Plainview on a platter.”
This remains Dillon Freasier’s only acting role.
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