From a distance, it might be easy to look at the films in the latter half of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s career (“Inherent Vice” aside) and believe the filmmaker to be a Very Serious Person. Certainly, pictures like “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master,” and his latest, “Phantom Thread,” come from a filmmaker who cares deeply about his craft. However, Anderson — and his collaborator Daniel-Day Lewis — aren’t above a good, juvenile dick joke, to the extent that it was one of the foundations of their new film.
Doing the rounds for “Phantom Thread,” Anderson reveals that Reynolds Woodcock, the name of Daniel Day-Lewis’ fastidious fashion designer in the film, originated in the unlikeliest of places — silly texts between friends.
“… the credit goes to Daniel. We were making each other laugh, texting each other back and forth like teenagers, trying to come up with names. I had a placeholder name: ‘Arthur Dapple, Jr., ‘ ” the director told Vulture, however, “…It’s no “Reynolds Woodcock!” It was lingering around but not quite right, and then the text from Daniel came through: ‘Reynolds Woodcock.’ And on two simultaneous coasts, we both started laughing so deeply and so hard that I suddenly had tears pouring down my face. 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.’ ”
Well, that dumb joke hilariously stuck, but again, we cannot stress enough the casually insipid origins of “Reynolds Woodcock.”
“We were texting back and forth trying to come up with names, and he came up with that one, and I fucking choked on my cornflakes,” Anderson told GQ. Well played, Daniel Day-Lewis, well played.
“Phantom Thread” opens on Christmas Day.