Phantom Thread: 13 things about the fashion film everyone is talking about

Set in 1950s London, the Paul Thomas Anderson film is Daniel Day-Lewis' last

Set in 1950s London, the Paul Thomas Anderson film is Daniel Day-Lewis' last

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a high-flying fashion designer who is a committed bachelor — until he meets his match. (Focus Features)

It's a film that has barely been out for a few weeks but has already won a slew of awards for directing, screenplay, acting and music — and it's promising to win many more. 

Phantom Thread is set in 1950s London, where dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril create fashions for royals, film stars, heiresses, socialites and dames under The House of Woodcock.

Three-time best actor Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock, who is a committed bachelor — until he meets Alma.

Lesley Manville, who plays Cyril, is on q Friday, so we rounded up 12 fascinating facts about the movie, which many are calling one of the best fashion films ever made.

The movie is said to be Daniel Day-Lewis' last

Revered actor Daniel Day-Lewis has appeared in a host of incredible films — A Room with a View, My Left Foot, Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln to name just a few — and he announced in a statement that Phantom Thread will be his last. He had not made a film since 2012's Oscar-winning biopic Lincoln. "I knew it was uncharacteristic to put out a statement," he said in an interview. "But I did want to draw a line. I didn't want to get sucked back into another project. All my life, I've mouthed off about how I should stop acting, and I don't know why it was different this time, but the impulse to quit took root in me, and that became a compulsion. It was something I had to do."

When they set out to create the film, the creators didn't know it would be about fashion

When Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson set out to make the film, they didn't even know it would be about fashion. "When we started I had no curiosity about the fashion world. I didn't want to be drawn into it. Even now, fashion itself doesn't really interest me. In the beginning, we didn't know what profession the protagonist would have," said Day-Lewis. "We chose fashion and then realized, 'What the hell have we let ourselves into?' And then the fashion world got its hooks into me."

The name of the lead character began as a joke

While the film is rooted in the real fashion scene in 1950s London, the Woodcock family is fictional — and the name was reportedly a running joke between Day-Lewis and Anderson. Day-Lewis suggested the name Reynolds Woodcock for his character, and it supposedly made Anderson laugh so hard he cried. "On two simultaneous coasts, we both started laughing so deeply and so hard that I suddenly had tears pouring down my face," remembered Anderson in an interview. "I thought, 'We can't do that, right? Of course we can't. But … we have to do that!' I remember calling him, and he was laughing as much as I was, and I said, 'We've got to do this. Let me write it into the script and we'll live with it. We'll try it on for size.'"

Day-Lewis actually learned how to sew

In preparation for the film, Day-Lewis watched archival footage of 1940s and '50s fashion shows, studied famous designers, consulted with the curator of fashion and textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and for months, apprenticed under Marc Happel, who is head of the costume department at the New York City Ballet. He also learned how to sew, and practised on his wife Robin, trying to recreate a Balenciaga sheath dress that was inspired by a school uniform.

"Rebecca was very patient," Day-Lewis said in an interview. "The code that I had to crack was a very particular gusset in the armpit. You couldn't tell from the photos how the gusset was designed. Marc and I each worked on our version of the gusset and, through trial and error, ­figured it out." Day-Lewis then lined the dress in a pinky lilac-coloured silk, which became Woodcock's trademark. "Rebecca has worn the dress," Day-Lewis said. "It's very pretty."

I gave so much thought to every single detail. I was probably infuriating- Daniel Day-Lewis

He also created Woodcock's wardrobe

Not only did Day-Lewis learn how to sew; he imagined, and amassed, an entire personal wardrobe for Woodcock, from wool and cashmere fabric from Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard to purple socks ordered from an ecclesiastical shop in Rome to shoes he had made at George Cleverley in London. He even imagined how his house would be, right down to the pens and notepads — and even the dogs. "I wanted lurchers," Day-Lewis said. "I gave so much thought to every single detail. I was probably infuriating."

In order to develop a bond on screen, Day-Lewis and Manville simply became real-life friends

A key relationship in Phantom Thread is the bond between siblings Cyril and Reynolds, who have an unspeakable ease with each other on film. To achieve that intimacy, over the six months prior to shooting, they simply became friends. That proved tricky with Manville living in London and Day-Lewis travelling between his two homes in Ireland and New York, so they relied on texts.

"We talked on the phone a lot, we even texted cheeky texts back and forth," Manville says in an interview with q, which you can listen to on Friday. "I mean, what we were doing was becoming friends as Lesley and Daniel and then, nearer to the time when we were about to shoot, you kind of take that piece that we developed with each other and you metamorphosis it into Cyril and Reynolds, and you know, it worked."

The lead character is nothing like Anderson

Anderson, who rose to fame early in his career with the hits Boogie Nights and Magnolia, not only directed the film, he also wrote the script. But he certainly didn't model the lead character after himself. "I've thought about this a lot because it keeps coming up," he said. "Sewing by its very nature requires a kind of patience and focus that I don't have, but I have it for sure in other ways," he said in an interview. "If you came and saw what my desk looks like, you'd be like, right, he's not Reynolds Woodcock. I mean, I am not meticulous at all. I'm really impatient."

Chris Rock told Anderson to make a relationship movie, so he did

With all of its finery, Phantom Thread is about as far as you can get from Anderson's previous film, Inherent Vice, which was about a 1970s Los Angeles stoner who gets tangled in the criminal underworld. "I had a desire to make a film in England, and an appreciation for couture and those gowns and that kind of world, and the genre of Gothic romance that was so appealing to me, too," said Anderson. "And I'll name-drop: Chris Rock once said to me, 'Man, when are you gonna make a relationship movie?' I was like, 'Hmm, that's a good one.' If Chris Rock gives you a piece of advice, you should run with it."

Phantom Thread is also about slowing down

Part of the inspiration for the film came during a spell when Anderson fell ill, and his wife had to care for him, which forced everyone in his family to reduce their pace. "[It's] about what it means to slow down," he said in an interview. "In this day and age, it becomes magnificently difficult to stop yourself and slam on the brakes. The idea that you can only slow down if some sort of illness takes over you is so relatable to me," he said. "Our family is focused on getting the kids out to school every day, always moving, moving, moving, and it took this horrible thing to happen to stop us and slow us down."

The film was scored by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood

Jonny Greenwood is best-known as the guitarist for seminal British rock group Radiohead, but he has also scored several Paul Thomas Anderson films, including There Will Be BloodThe Master and Inherent Vice. Anderson, in turn, has directed several Radiohead videos. 

The critics are raving about it

Phantom Thread has only been out a few weeks, but the critics are raving, and the film has already won nearly 20 awards for direction, screenplay and score — and that's before award season has even begun. Metacritic has assigned it a score of 92 out of 100, which means "universal acclaim."

It's only the second film of his career that Day-Lewis gets to speak in his natural English accent

Day-Lewis grew up in England, but of the myriad characters he has played, only one other had an English accent — 1988's Stars & Bars. In Phantom Thread, however, he returned to his roots. "I don't know why, but suddenly I had a strong wish to tell an English story," Day-Lewis said. "England is deep in me. I'm made of that stuff. For a long time, a film set in England was too close to the world that I'd escaped from—drawing rooms, classic Shakespeare, Downton Abbey did not interest me. But I was fascinated by London after the war. My parents told stories about living through the Blitz, and I felt like I ingested that. I am sentimental about that world. And my dad was very much like Reynolds Woodcock. If a poet is not self-absorbed, what else is he?"

The poster for Phantom Thread, a film that has won major critical buzz ahead of awards season. (Focus Features)

Even though it's his last film, Daniel Day-Lewis hasn't seen it, and doesn't intend to

Day-Lewis says he doesn't intend to see the film — in part because feels sad about leaving acting, even though he is excited about his retirement. "Do I feel better? Not yet. I have great sadness. And that's the right way to feel. How strange would it be if this was just a gleeful step into a brand-new life," he said in an interview. "I've been interested in acting since I was 12 years old, and back then, everything other than the theatre—that box of light—was cast in shadow. When I began, it was a question of salvation. Now, I want to explore the world in a different way."


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