NEW YORK — Daniel Day-Lewis is taking a stylish final bow with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
The 1950s-set fashion drama (in theaters Christmas Day) had its first East Coast screening Sunday night at New York’s DGA Theater, where Day-Lewis appeared for a moderated Q&A with writer/director Anderson and co-stars Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps.
Unsurprisingly, the three-time Oscar winner did not address his shocking retirement announcement last June, when his representative released a statement saying that he “will no longer be working as an actor” for unspecified reasons that he would not comment on. Instead, the post-screening discussion stuck specifically to the film, which reunites Day-Lewis with Anderson a decade after 2007’s There Will Be Blood, for which he won his second best-actor Oscar as imperious oil tycoon Daniel Plainview.
Phantom needles a tense romance between sharp-tongued dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis), who runs an eminent London fashion house with his sister (Manville), and enchanting waitress Alma (Krieps), who becomes Reynolds’ muse but finds herself vying for his attention.
Anderson says he was inspired to write the script while laying in bed with his wife, Saturday Night Live veteran Maya Rudolph.
“I was very, very sick one night and my wife looked at me with a love and affection I hadn’t seen in a long time,” Anderson remembered. “So I called Daniel the next day and said, ‘I think I have a good idea for a movie.’ ”
In reality, “Paul just needed an old man and I seemed to fit the bill,” joked Day-Lewis, 60, dressed down in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt.
To prepare for the movie, they researched European designers such as Cristóbal Balenciaga and dived into the histories of Paris and London couture after World War II.
“Paris was the dominant world, but there were also really interesting designers working in England,” Day-Lewis said. “It felt that the work should reflect a sense of the history of England, and the fabrics that come from the British Isles. That was kind of a hope: that Woodcocks’s world would be reflected both in the design and the quality of the fabrics, and the place that he comes from.”
Phantom is an ode to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 romantic thriller Rebecca, and explores similar themes of love and obsession. But it’s also about the “need for another person: a need that we sometimes feel we don’t need, even though we do,” Anderson said.
And while fashion is certainly front and center in the story, “it could’ve been (any other profession) in the creative world,” Day-Lewis added. “(We’re) trying to understand the relationships through that world, but the work itself is immaterial.”
More: Will #OscarsSoWhite return in 2018? It’s possible
Although reviews and social-media reactions to Phantom are embargoed until Dec. 7, Day-Lewis is widely predicted to earn his sixth Oscar nomination for his performance by pundits on awards site Gold Derby. The film’s other possible contenders include costume designer Mark Bridges, composer Jonny Greenwood and German actress Krieps, who hilariously recounted taping an audition without knowing Anderson or Day-Lewis were involved.
“When I made the tape, I thought it was for a student film because it was not a script, just a few lines of text,” Krieps said.
“The writing was that good,” Anderson deadpanned.