Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, Phantom Thread will mark the end of an era. It may just be Anderson’s latest opus, but it will also mark three-time Oscar-winning Daniel Day-Lewis’ final performance.
For this final film, Day-Lewis will portray the renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock in 1950s post-war London. The film follows how this man’s life becomes disrupted by the love of his life, Alma, played by Vicky Krieps, who soon becomes his muse and lover. It’s an illuminating portrait of an artist, and given the fact that the artist is a dressmaker, the clothing plays an especially key role in this flick.
With that in mind, LRM had a chance to sit down with Oscar-winning costume designer Mark Bridges, who is also a longtime collaborator with Anderson, and discuss some of hsi big inspirations for the film.
Okay, thank you so much for this time with us. I do have to say, cause I really enjoyed the movie. I loved the dresses.
Bridges: Thank you.
Obviously that — was based on the title — one of the main focuses. How did you get into this film?
Bridges: Oh, I worked with Paul Thomas Anderson for twenty-two years. This is our eighth feature together. It’s always really exciting when Paul says “I’ve got a new project” because you never know if Boogie Nights is going to come across your desk or There Will Be Blood is going to come across your desk, and now Phantom Thread about fifties couture. It’s a dream subject matter, but then also working with a colleague I’ve worked with 22 years, and then, of course, Daniel [Day-Lewis], and then shooting in London … I mean it was just an amazing experience. Paul and I did our usual “I am in on it” very early in the script process. He does his own research, he shows me what he has researched, and I’ll pick up that ball and run with it, keeping in mind what we’ve discussed or what pictures I’ve seen from what he’s been interested in. Then I’ll try to elaborate on that for him and really tailor it to the script.
Okay. So you used pretty much the storyline, the characters, the personalities, to go ahead and bring in the designing part?
Bridges: Yes, yes. Really try to tell the story of the film by the choices of the clothes and the choices of the colors. Just try to emphasize the storyline in a really subtle way. We never want to get caught in it, but there are subtle visual clues of things connecting from and earlier thing. Either a Reynolds design that is repeated again, or something that you see in a couture garment that was worn by Alma. It subtly illustrates how she may have influenced his life and his art.
What did you use for inspiration? I know based on what was being brought in about the film, but what helped you with inspiration overall?
Bridges: You know, I think we really looked at what was happening in London couture at the time and how it’s more of an occasion-driven industry. It was more gowns and dresses made for cocktails, or gala events, or jubilees, or balls or … It was more event-created wardrobes, and gowns, and dresses than say French, which has a kind of chicness and a little bit more of a romance in flight of fancy than London couture at the time.
Which one would you say was your favorite dress in the film?
Bridges: You know that’s a really hard one because there are aspects of each of them that I love. Probably the lavender one with the seventeenth century Flemish lace on that they do the photo shoot with. Because it has a story. He found … we found that lace. We were lucky enough to find that lace. We found a three-meter piece that was really that old, but because it was made out of linen, it really lasted really well. We washed it. I hand-washed that piece of lace. Figuring out how to manipulate it, what the design of the dress was, how to use it … and I’ll tell you, everyone was holding their breath when we cut into it. Between the excitement of having a piece that valuable that resonates with the story, and then turning it into something beautiful and luscious with that, and pairing it with that silk satin from France … it just was really “ahhh.” You’re looking at it when they’re shooting it and you’re just gob-smacked. I’ve been with it every step of the way and it still … I was just very pleased with how it came out and where it plays in the story.
That was actually one of my third pieces. I have to say, I am not big on lace.
But in the film, you integrated lace so well that I was like “I will even wear that.”
Bridges: It was one of the things that we decided was going to be a hallmark of the house of Woodcock. There is a lot of lace. I’m honestly not a big lace person myself, in general. But once you go into seeing these laces and how delicate they are and how beautiful they are … there’s one that she wears with the black lace and it’s magenta underneath the black lace, and black — you see it very briefly, it will be on display in a few places in town — it’s called Oliver Rose pattern, it’s a Chantilly lace. When you see how delicate it is and how beautiful it is, and how 1955 it is, then I got new appreciation for lace and all the many varieties of it. As a rule, I don’t think you’d can find much lace in any of my movies.
This was just right. It was right for the period, it was right for Woodcock. And we had some beautiful examples of it.
I really liked it. Like I said, I’m not big but then I was like, “Wow, it’s actually really nice.”
Bridges: Thank you.
I’m not too girly, so when you don’t feel too girly it makes you feel like the lace is not for you.
Bridges: Which wouldn’t have been for Alma either …
Exactly because she was not super girly, super feminine.
Bridges: Right. But she still wore it well. When he put it on her and it was pleasing to him … as complicated with our ideas behind the clothes as it was with their relationship.
Mm-hmm, that’s true. Now in the movie, Mr. Woodcock gets in his focused modes, silence … tell me a little about you. What are your moments of the day where you’ve got a moment where you’re like, “Okay, I can sit here … this is the perfect atmosphere for you to focus”? What’s yours?
Bridges: I like to be among the clothes. I’m a real … I had a separate office where we working, but I would rather be where the clothes are, where they’re being made. That’s my thing, I want to be among the clothes. Even if I would come in on a Saturday or Sunday just to be by myself that would be handling the clothes, putting things together, dressing a mannequin or something. Having to step back and thinking about how this could be better, how this could be different, what we need. I was constantly making lists … my assistants would come in on Monday and I had had a whole new list for them.
Bridges: More things! Yeah, absolutely. Just to make it better, richer, and deeper. That kind of quiet time is rare when you’re in production because you’re always running someplace and there’s a deadline. I think me being quiet and alone with the clothes is kind of my thing.
So Alma would have definitely been someone you stay away … buttering her toast.
Bridges: Somewhere else. She would have been somewhere else. Yeah, absolutely.
Like “go to the next room.”
Your work has covered all these different eras. Which would say is your one favorite? The one you’ve enjoyed the most that you’d love to do again?
Bridges: You know, I look back very fondly … they all have a good story in it … but I look really back fondly on Boogie Nights. I really do. Only because it was … we were so young and fresh and everything was exciting and it was also … that was kind of my era. I really loved that era, and I used a lot of biographical things that I remembered … choices and things. It was a fun free-willing time with Paul and every film has its own experience but I do feel like that was so much fun and satisfying artistically. It was a great combination of having a great time and still making something that people still talk about today.
Phantom Thread hits theaters on December 25, 2017.