Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most acclaimed American directors working today. Five of the eight feature films that he’s written and directed have been nominated for Oscars, with eight total nominations. But even though he’s received an incredible amount of acclaim over his career, the high-point of his filmmaking is arguably 2007’s “There Will Be Blood.” And in a new retrospective over at Vanity Fair, the origin of the film’s most iconic scene gets revealed.
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The scene from “There Will Be Blood” that many people remember most of all is when Daniel Day-Lewis’ character utters the famous “milkshake” line. But really, it’s not the line that makes the scene so incredible, but instead, it’s the entire dialogue between Paul Dano and Day-Lewis that creates this tension and buildup that explodes and culminates in the film’s surprising ending.
And according to one of the folks that worked on the film, the origin of the scene revolves around the recasting of Dano’s role (which was two weeks into production, as he replaced ousted actor Kel O’Neill) and Anderson’s inability to come up with a satisfying conclusion to his epic tale.
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Editor Dylan Tichenor, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the film, explained how the iconic ending came to be:
“We didn’t have a really good ending. Paul had written a few different scenes; very early in the scripting, there was a reporter coming to talk to Daniel at his mansion, and that didn’t fly. The end of the movie just didn’t seem to have a point. Once the part of Eli Sunday was re-cast and it became Paul Dano, it turned into a totally different character. The milkshake line—I think everyone cocked their head and laughed when they read it, like, ‘What?’ Daniel is an amazing actor, and has a bit of a crazy process, and he just completely glommed on to that moment. He’s got to ramp up the energy and his anger and his character’s desperation, up to the point where he can kill Paul Dano’s character. I wanted the scene to be very surprising and just grip you by the throat. It’s a ludicrous ending. I mean, it’s crazy. It’s unexpected. But for that kind of movie, it’s the right ending. Anything less spectacular would be a bit of a letdown.”
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As mentioned, “There Will Be Blood” is not only thought of as Paul Thomas Anderson’s best work, or perhaps the best performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, but is often regarded as one of the best films in the last two decades. And to think one of the most memorable scenes, in one of the best films of the last 20 years, came down to some last-minute maneuvering and a casting decision after production had already begun.
You can watch the scene below: