In 'Blood,' Day-Lewis Revisits His Darker Side

Daniel Day-Lewis as 'Daniel Plainview' i i

hide captionIn There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, an obsessive loner who strikes it rich in the turn-of-the-20th-century California oil rush.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Vantage
Daniel Day-Lewis as 'Daniel Plainview'

In There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, an obsessive loner who strikes it rich in the turn-of-the-20th-century California oil rush.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Vantage
Plainview travels with his son. i i

hide captionPlainview travels with his son, H.W., played by Dillon Freasier.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Vantage
Plainview travels with his son.

Plainview travels with his son, H.W., played by Dillon Freasier.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Vantage
Daniel Plainview carries boy from derrick explosion. i i

hide captionDuring Plainview's hunt for oil, a derrick explodes.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Vantage
Daniel Plainview carries boy from derrick explosion.

During Plainview's hunt for oil, a derrick explodes.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Vantage

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Actor Daniel Day-Lewis doesn't make movies, he lives them.

He spent weeks in a wheelchair to prepare for his Oscar-winning performance in My Left Foot and learned how to hunt for his role in The Last of the Mohicans.

Day-Lewis prefers not to break character on set and admits that it can take him weeks — if not months — to leave a part once the cameras stop rolling.

So it's no wonder that he makes so few films. His fourth in 10 years opens Wednesday. In There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, an obsessive loner who hits it big in California's turn-of-the-20th-century oil rush.

Day-Lewis tells Robert Siegel that he discovers a character's voice from research, from working with the director and from just immersing himself in the screenplay.

"I'm not entirely sure how it works. Probably because there's some part of me that prefers to let it remain a bit of a mystery," he says.

"It can fray the nerves a little bit because months could go by and no voice comes to you, but at a certain moment — I might be listening to tapes, listening to different voices, allowing things to just run though me ... but at a certain given moment, if I'm lucky, I begin to hear a voice and then the work becomes about trying to reproduce the sound that I hear."

While searching for Plainview's voice, Day-Lewis says he remembers "a quickening of the pulse when a sound began to resonate."

In the film, Plainview is a maniacal brute who says, "I look at people and I see nothing worth liking. I want to earn enough money I can get away from everyone." But it's not unusual for Day-Lewis to play a character whom the audience views with, at best, mixed feelings.

"I daresay, because the unconscious plays such an important part in the work, the imagination being on the front line of that ... what could be more liberating than to explore with impunity the darker recesses of one's imagination and psyche?" Day-Lewis says. "I suppose that has always appealed to me, and I always am most often intrigued by lives that seem very far removed from my own. [With] Plainview, [it] wasn't the violence of the man or the misanthrope of the man that attracted me particularly, but just that unknown life in its entirety."

Day-Lewis compares the relationship he forms with his characters to a partnership in which he is the silent partner. He says he becomes the character "as far as I'm able to delude myself, believing that if I can't create that illusion for myself, then it's unlikely I'll be able to create it for anybody else."

In 2002, Day-Lewis told an interviewer, "In those quiet months before you approach the dreaded beast, you begin to enter into a world that isn't yours. People are always reading some sort of craziness into that, but it seems logical to me." He says he often feels that he has to justify what appears to others as a sort of "self-inflicted insanity."

"For me, the work is really pure pleasure," he says. "I do the work because I love to do it, not because I feel the need to punish myself. I'd do something else if I needed to punish myself."

In fact, Day-Lewis cites his love for the craft as the reason he doesn't make more movies.

"I couldn't love it as much if I did it more often, as simple as that," he says. "It's not in retreat from that work that I go in search of other things. It's with the very positive feeling that I would like to learn about other things for a while.

"And I personally believe those two lives go hand in hand. They need each other. I don't think I'd have very much to offer if my experiences really were taken from other movie sets."

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