Paul Thomas Anderson on Daniel Day-Lewis's retirement: 'I believe him right now'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread (Photo: Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The long-awaited reunion of There Will Be Blood collaborators Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis was enough to make Phantom Thread one of the fall season’s most anticipated movies. And the film’s must-see quotient only increased after the three-time Oscar winner revealed that it would be his final cinematic performance. Of course, Day-Lewis has channeled Michael Corleone in the past, appearing to be out of the game for an extended period of time before a persuasive filmmaker pulls him back in. But Anderson, for one, takes his star at his word that he’s really and truly done. “I do believe him,” the filmmaker tells Yahoo Entertainment, before immediately qualifying his reply. “I believe him right now. Maybe it’s something that’s worth re-evaluating in a few years. Wouldn’t it be like hilarious if somebody just offered him a great script tomorrow and he was like, ‘This is too good, I can’t pass it up. I’m just gonna do one more, and then I’m out.’?”

Who can blame Anderson for allowing hope to spring eternal? For three decades now, Day-Lewis has been one of cinema’s most vital and chameleonic performers, vanishing into such characters as Nathaniel Poe, Daniel Plainview, and Abraham Lincoln. And he continues that tradition in Phantom Thread, a film that’s specifically tailored to his talents for total immersion. Day-Lewis plays a 1950s fashion designer, Reynolds Woodcock, who initiates an unconventional professional and personal relationship with a headstrong young woman named Alma, played by Vicky Krieps.

It’s the biggest showcase yet for the Luxembourg-born actress, and Krieps admits that initially, she was “very scared” about sharing the screen with a contemporary acting legend. “I’d met him before, but now I was going to meet him in character,” she explains. “But I found this strength within me. I don’t know where it comes from — sometimes I think it comes from my ancestors, because they were farmers! They knew that there was a storm coming, but they still had to tend to their fields.”

Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson on the set of  Phantom Thread. (Photo: Laurie Sparham/Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection)

After her front-row view of Day-Lewis’s intense commitment to his craft, Krieps believes he’s equally committed to his promise of a permanent retirement. At the same time, she’s saddened by the thought that she is potentially his last leading lady. “It’s his opinion, and I respect it. I also find it really brave for him to say what he wants, despite the expectations of his industry. If he doesn’t retire, I’ll also be very happy, because I’ll hopefully get to make more movies [with him]!”

Perhaps Anderson will be the one to reunite them. Asked whether he would approach Day-Lewis ending his retirement to collaborate on another role, the director responds with an unequivocal yes. “I would just want to assure him that he could do it without having any egg on his face after having announced his retirement,” he says, chuckling. “He’d probably be like, ‘Wouldn’t it be embarrassing?’ And I’d say, ‘No, it’s not. Just come back.'”

Phantom Thread is currently playing in limited release and expands nationwide on Jan. 19.