Paul Thomas Anderson on Phantom Thread

Let's start with the obvious; the starring roles in Phantom Thread are Daniel Day Lewis portraying a borderline fashion designer and Vicky Krieps depicting his defiant muse. However, the score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood is a character on its own. Last night, the introduction by director Paul Thomas Anderson and actress Vicky Krieps preceded a screening to remember; the soundtrack performed live by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra moved the audience to tears.

Was IFFR in a way instrumental to introduce Jonny Greenwood as a composer of film scores? It's said that when you were last here in Rotterdam, with Punch Drunk Love, you went to see a film with his very first score...
"True, there was a film in Rotterdam that Jonny did the score for, called Body Song. But is was no coincidence at all. In fact, I had actually been trying to find that movie because Jonny did the music."

The music is a big part of Phantom Thread. Is it difficult for you as a director that you have to constrain the level of control and let somebody else like Jonny make the decisions?
"No, no, no, I control him (laughs). It's a great collaboration, obviously, as we keep doing it and it works well for us. This is our fifth one together, we didThere Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice and Junun. Maybe the thing that is unique is that it starts early on. I give Jonny things I'm thinking of, or that I'm writing, so he is always involved from the beginning. He knows who is in the cast, what the costumes are like, and based on that he gives me a little bit of music, that becomes more serious once he sees the dailies coming in. It is a very collaborative back and forth, we are always trying to motivate the other."

  • Photo: Paul Anderson Thomas and Bero Beyer

And the idea of doing the film with a live orchestral score?
"The funny thing is that we always had the idea of doing a live score, but that sort of  went away because it was so much work to get it done. Rotterdam had been asking us 'will you do it?' and we really couldn't answer for the longest time. It was impossible to answer because we were overwhelmed by the amount of work even doing it in the first place and just finishing the music. But as we saw the end in sight and felt confident on what we had done, we went back to that question: would it be possible with this film to do a live score? And we said yes. And that's when we got back to the festival. We did the first concert the night before last, in London and we are doing it again in New York and Los Angeles. That is the funny thing about control. Jonny and I can control sort of every last aspect that we want to do, but then you finish it. But the fun with this is that you can not control everything. Nor would you want to. You have to guide it into a place where hopefully mistakes are welcome opposed to unwelcome mistakes. You shape the experience the best you can do so people can hear the dialogue and can enjoy the music. But each time the orchestra plays it, it will be different. And that is really, really exciting. That is the fun of doing this because I get to participate. I've seen that if the music a tiny bit louder, a scene plays differently than if the music fades away. So it has a life of its own, which is really great."

Photo in header: Photo: Paul Thomas Anderson | Interview: Anton Damen