It was just a couple of weeks ago that Daniel Day-Lewis finally opened up to W about his decision to quit acting after what would be his final movie, Phantom Thread. The period drama, in theaters December 25, stars Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned society dressmaker in 1950s London who’s somewhat codependent on his sister (played by Lesley Manville) and his endless stream of beautiful young muses to come up with his masterful designs. (Even though the line apparently ends when Alma, a feisty young woman played by new face Vicky Krieps, comes along and actually stands up to his maddening ways.)
Day-Lewis is giving up acting, as he told Lynn Hirschberg, because after thinking about doing so for years, the role of Reynolds Woodcock ended up enveloping him in a sense of sadness. And the famously private actor is not letting retirement change his public face, as his remarkably brief appearance at the New York premiere of Phantom Thread on Monday night would attest.
Following a screening at Lincoln Center, Day-Lewis turned up to a party at the Harold Pratt House with his director Paul Thomas Anderson, whom he also teamed up with in 2008 for his Oscar-winning turn in There Will Be Blood. Well, really, he showed up to the outside of it. Day-Lewis dutifully spent a minute or so in front of the photographers on the red carpet that was erected under a tent on the sidewalk, but didn’t bother to step inside the party far enough to field congratulations for his Best Actor Golden Globe nomination announced that morning. Instead, with a flash of a characteristic hoop earring, he was gone.
Before they joined the likes of Sienna Miller and Michael Shannon, who were circling the room, I caught up with some of Day-Lewis’s costars, who only found out he wouldn’t be acting again until after production had wrapped. And while the actress Heather Harris, who plays one of Woodcock’s clients, said her “jaw dropped” when she heard the news, Manville reacted with a cool, careful consideration, much like her character in the film: “It’s his personal decision. I suppose I was a bit surprised, and I wouldn’t discuss it, really, because it’s not my place to,” she said.
Vicky Krieps, who had a scarf wrapped around her lacy Alexander McQueen gown to stay warm, also demurred on commenting on her costar’s retirement, but she was happy to discuss her own approach to researching the role, which mirrored Day-Lewis’s in its thoroughness. “I learned how to sew and tried to learn how the models at the time would talk and behave, especially at the Dior house. I read [Christian] Dior’s biography,” she said. “Everything that was around fashion I could, and I did, prepare for—but everything that was to do with Alma and Reynolds, I couldn’t,” she said of the story’s main storyline, the romance between her and Day-Lewis’s characters. For that, she added, “I tried to rather empty myself of knowledge, instead of gaining it.”
“Most of my work went into my patience—or trying to be patient, which I usually am not,” she said when asked about having to deal with the often outrageously annoying behavior of Day-Lewis’s character, from wiping off her lipstick mid-dinner to telling her she has no breasts shortly after they first meet to likening the sound of her buttering her toast at breakfast to “riding a horse across the room.”
Over the course of the film, Krieps’s character goes out of her way to push the buttons of Day-Lewis’s character—as, in the end, did Krieps. “Oh, all of them!” she said when asked whether the noises she makes in the film to intentionally disturb him were also actually satisfying. “Whenever I could annoy, I was happy to.”
Off camera, of course, things were just fine between the two, Krieps said. Though unlike Day-Lewis, she did have to take a break from her role and the stifling atmosphere of 1950s London. In between takes, she’d put on sneakers and headphones, because she “needed sometimes to be me and to hear my music and to feel a little bit Vicky.” As for what she would listen to? “Anything,” she said, adding: “Anything that would enhance my patience.”
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