15 Surprising Facts About There Will Be Blood

Paramount Home Entertainment
Paramount Home Entertainment

Family, greed, religion, madness, and milkshakes came together in unexpected and jarring ways in There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling tale of a wealthy oilman named Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) who uses his cunning and charm to convince a small California town to let him drill their land for oil in the early 1900s. His manipulation tactics work on all but one member of the community: Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), a young preacher who proves to be a surprisingly deft opponent for Plainview.

On the 10th anniversary of the movie’s release, we went behind the scenes of the epic Oscar-winner to dig up 15 fascinating facts about its making.

1. IT’S ONLY PARTIALLY BASED ON UPTON SINCLAIR’S OIL!.

Though even the credits note that the film is based on Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, the novel served as more of a starting point for Paul Thomas Anderson, who adapted it for the screen.

“[W]ith There Will Be Blood, I didn't even really feel like I was adapting a book,” Anderson told The A.V. Club. “I was just desperate to find stuff to write. I can remember the way that my desk looked, with so many different scraps of paper and books about the oil industry in the early 20th century, mixed in with pieces of other scripts that I'd written. Everything was coming from so many different sources. But the book was a great stepping-stone. It was so cohesive, the way Upton Sinclair wrote about that period, and his experiences around the oil fields and these independent oilmen. That said, the book is so long that it's only the first couple hundred pages that we ended up using, because there is a certain point where he strays really far from what the original story is. We were really unfaithful to the book.”

2. PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON AND DANIEL DAY-LEWIS WERE FANS OF EACH OTHER’S WORK.

While producer JoAnne Sellar has said that There Would Be Blood may never have even happened if Daniel Day-Lewis had declined the role, Day-Lewis said that he was excited simply at the prospect of working with Anderson, as he was a fan of the director’s work.

“Initially, it’s all about the script,” Day-Lewis told IndieLondon. “But in [Anderson’s] case, I certainly knew his films and already admired him a great deal. And most particularly for his recent film Punch-Drunk Love. So even the very idea of working with him when the word came was something I was intrigued by. Nonetheless, had I read that script and not felt drawn into the world that he’d created, out of respect for him I’d have said: ‘Get somebody else, because I can’t help you here.’ But I was very drawn to the idea of working with him.”

3. DANIEL PLAINVIEW'S DARKNESS WAS PART OF WHAT ATTRACTED DAY-LEWIS TO THE CHARACTER.

Daniel Day-Lewis in 'There Will Be Blood'
Paramount Home Entertainment

Day-Lewis isn’t known for playing happy-go-lucky types and admitted that it was the darkness within the character of Daniel Plainview that further attracted him to the part.

“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 told NPR. "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."

4. ANDERSON FOUND INSPIRATION IN THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.

It’s been widely reported that Anderson watched John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre every night before filming began on There Will Be Blood, but the director told Filmmaker Magazine that while the amount of times he watched the film before production “has gotten completely exaggerated,” he did find inspiration in the film.

“What was nice about that movie was that it's kind of a play wrapped up in the clothes of an adventure film,” Anderson said. “It's essentially a dialogue, a dynamic between these three guys. [The film's] traditional straightforward storytelling was what I was influenced by, and it was something that seemed to apply when trying to make a big story on a limited budget.”

5. DAY-LEWIS DID NOT BASE PLAINVIEW’S MANNERISMS ON JOHN HUSTON.

Another part of the There Will Be Blood/The Treasure of the Sierra Madre connection that seems to have been exaggerated is that Day-Lewis based the mannerisms of his character on John Huston, who wrote and directed the 1948 film and made a small cameo in it.

“A few people have asked me if I modeled [Daniel’s] voice on John Huston,” Day-Lewis told Time Out. “I didn’t. But I did listen to some tapes of Huston’s voice, among others. And there was something about the vigor of Huston’s language that appealed to me.”

6. DAY-LEWIS PUT A LOT OF THOUGHT INTO WHAT PLAINVIEW’S HAT SHOULD LOOK LIKE.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Dillon Freasier in There Will Be Blood (2007)
Paramount Home Entertainment

In an interview with The Washington Post, costume designer Mark Bridges explained that hats were extremely important to both the character of Daniel Plainview, and Day-Lewis for finding the character. “Leading up to the first time we see that hat, his hats kind of echo or inform what’s going on with his career and life,” Bridges said.

“Daniel Day-Lewis felt the hats were very important to his character,” Bridges continued. “There were three choices that were all good, and he took them and lived with them for days. He sort of creates mini worlds, and so he took them, just took them for a spin, so to speak, and settled on that one as what he felt most comfortable with and most represented in his mind the character he was creating. And it took on a kind of magic where he would be Daniel Day-Lewis, but you knew he was Daniel Plainview once the hat went on. So that was very rewarding to me.”

One more thing about that hat: “The sweat stains are real,” Bridges admitted. “It was worn day in and day out and has been much loved by all who’ve come in contact with it.”

7. PAUL AND ELI SUNDAY WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE TWINS.

In the film, Paul Dano plays twins Paul and Eli Sunday, but the brothers weren’t written as twins. Dano was originally cast in the smaller role of Paul Sunday, who visits Plainview to tell him about the oil under his family’s property in Little Boston, California. Another actor, Kel O'Neill, was cast as Eli and spent several weeks shooting before Anderson decided it just wasn’t working. As all of O’Neill’s scenes would need to be reshot, Anderson approached Dano about taking on the role—leaving him with just four days to prepare. (Dano received a BAFTA nomination for his work.)

Though rumors swirled that O’Neill departed the project because he was intimidated by Day-Lewis, all of the parties in question have gone on record to state that this was not the case.

“Filmmaking is so alchemical that sometimes certain factors don’t add up,” O’Neill told Vulture. “Some directors I’ve worked with—who very few people would say are better directors than Paul—just had a way of making me feel comfortable. For some reason, even though every other actor I know had a relationship with Paul that was super positive and where they did their best work, that just didn’t happen with me. I would attribute that primarily to a failure on my side: An actor should, with every ounce of their humanity, be attempting to give the director what he or she wants. And I recall going in and out on whether I could really do that.”

“It’s the only occasion in my life that, during the course of a piece of work, we had to re-cast and re-shoot stuff which I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” Day-Lewis told IndieLondon. “Paul [Dano] was already contracted to play the part of Paul, and we’d all considered him for Eli already, so it seemed like an obvious choice … He came out on a Friday evening and we were shooting scenes on Monday with him. And I swear to God on set that day he was a recognizable, fully formed character. I dare say he was slightly unsettled in himself, but you wouldn’t have guessed it. He was just right there.”

8. PAUL DANO DIDN’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM DAY-LEWIS.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano in 'There Will Be Blood'
Miramax

When asked about what it was like to work opposite Day-Lewis in such an intense, antagonistic way, Dano told Collider that there were “definitely some moments where, you know, I was going, ‘Holy s**t.’ … Because we didn’t really rehearse and so sometimes, I didn’t know how big something that was going to come out of him was going to be, because he’s so powerful. And I don’t really want to say specific instances. I think you can probably imagine hearing some of the lines from that ending scene on the page but then, you know, the real deal is just a whole [other] level.”

9. DILLON FREASIER, WHO PLAYED HW, HAD NEVER ACTED BEFORE.

Anderson and his team had a bit of trouble casting the role of HW, Plainfield’s son. Though they looked at a number of professional child actors, Anderson realized that “we needed a boy from Texas who knew how to shoot shotguns and live in that world.”

So casting director Cassandra Kulukundis contacted a number of schools around Marfa, Texas, where they were shooting, and asked for their help. According to the Los Angeles Times, Kulukundis was asking for "a child who didn't play with GameBoys but worked outside," while Anderson described the ideal actor as "a man in a young boy's body."

One of the boys recommended to Kulukundis was Dillon Freasier, whom she met, did some improv with, and was impressed by. “[H]e just stayed in my mind, so I called [his mother] at home and asked if it was all right if I could come over that night," Kulukundis explained.

That same day, while heading to another school to meet with some additional kids, she got lost and was running late and driving at triple the speed limit. That’s when she got pulled over by a state trooper, who looked down at her license and said: "I think you're coming to my home tonight." The officer was Dillon’s mom, Regina. (Who let Kulukundis off with a warning.)

10. FREASIER’S MOM WAS NERVOUS ABOUT LETTING HER SON WORK WITH DAY-LEWIS.

While things clearly worked out well for Dillon Freasier, even after that little traffic stop incident, his mom wasn’t very familiar with Day-Lewis’s work. Before agreeing to let her son spend so much time with a man she knew nothing about, she decided to watch one of his films.

“Dillon’s mom thought she’d go and rent a movie with that fella Daniel Day-Lewis,” the three-time Oscar winner told The Mercury News. “So she went and got Gangs of New York and was absolutely appalled. She thought she was releasing her dear child into the hands of this monster. So there was a flurry of phone calls and someone sent her The Age of Innocence and apparently that did the trick.”

When Day-Lewis won a Best Actor Oscar for his work in There Will Be Blood, he thanked his young co-star in his speech. But Freasier missed it; he was already asleep.

11. THE FAKE OIL WAS MADE FROM THE SAME LIQUID MCDONALD’S USES IN ITS MILKSHAKES.

Daniel Day-Lewis in 'There Will Be Blood'
Miramax

When discussing the production design for the film with Entertainment Weekly, Anderson explained how they had to build an 80-foot oil derrick and fill it with fake oil. The recipe for that oil, according to Anderson, included “the stuff they put in chocolate milkshakes at McDonald’s.”

12. A PYROTECHNIC TEST PROVED PROBLEMATIC FOR THE COEN BROTHERS.

When awards season rolled around, There Will Be Blood and the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men went head-to-head for a number of the year’s biggest accolades. Oddly, the two films also ended up shooting in the remote and tiny town of Marfa, Texas at the same time. But Anderson ended up creating a bit of a problem for the Coens. While conducting a pyrotechnic test, Anderson and his team accidentally created a billow of smoke so large that it could be seen by the Coens’ cameras, leading them to have to cancel shooting for the day.

13. BEYOND READING, DAY-LEWIS DIDN’T DO MUCH PREP.

While Day-Lewis is known for going to some pretty far lengths to prepare for his roles, his prep for There Will Be Blood mainly consisted of reading. “I read the book [Oil!]. The first 150 pages or so introduce you to the world of the oilfields at that time, and there's a lot of great detail about the world of the drillers and the prospectors,” Day-Lewis told IndieLondon.

As for any special preparations he made to play such a devilish character, the actor admitted that he didn’t really have to do much. “I don’t know what that says about me, I wish I could say there was some monstrous … well, there are a couple of monstrous members of the family that I suppose I could have modeled him on, but in this case I didn’t. There was no model.”

14. NO, DAY-LEWIS DID NOT BUILD AN OIL RIG IN HIS BACKYARD.

Ever the Method actor, many outlets reported that to prepare for his role, Day-Lewis actually built his very own oil rig. Those stories were false. “It was rumored apparently that I’d built a derrick in a field behind my house in County Wicklow,” Day-Lewis told IndieLondon, “and I must say when I read that I thought: ‘That’s not a bad idea, I might try that!’ But we were a bit short on help at the time. Considering the way that I work very often, I do feel I’ve been soundly misrepresented so many times that there’s almost no point in even talking about it, but people tend to focus on the details of the preparation, the practical details in this clinic or that prison and so on and so forth … But for me as much as that work is a vital part of it and always fuel to one’s fascination, one’s curiosity, the principal work is always in the imagination. That’s where it’s going to happen if it’s going to happen anywhere at all.”

15. IT’S ANDERSON’S MOST PROFITABLE MOVIE.

Though Anderson’s latest film, Phantom Thread, is getting stellar reviews, There Will Be Blood remains the six-time Oscar nominee’s most profitable movie, with an estimated $40.2 million gross. It’s a far cry from the $26.4 million that his second most profitable movie, Boogie Nights, made.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Facts About The Blue Lagoon On Its 40th Anniversary

Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields star in The Blue Lagoon (1980).
Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields star in The Blue Lagoon (1980).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Brooke Shields was just 14 years old when she filmed The Blue Lagoon, the infamously sexy and slightly salacious island-set romance that capitalized on burgeoning hormones in a big way. The film was shocking when it debuted on July 5, 1980—but even 40 years later, it can still make jaws drop. Here’s a look at some of its more compelling tidbits, complete with undiscovered iguanas and a nifty trick to cover up nudity.

1. The Blue Lagoon is based on a trilogy of books by Henry De Vere Stacpoole.

Although the film closely follows the events of the first book in Henry De Vere Stacpoole’s series, also called The Blue Lagoon, the film’s sequel (1991’s Return to the Blue Lagoon) breaks with the storyline presented in the 1920s-era trilogy to essentially re-tell the original story (read: more tanned teens falling in love on a tropical island). Stacpoole’s books were far more concerned with the culture of the South Seas population, particularly as it was being further influenced by the arrival of European cultures.

2. The Blue Lagoon was adapted into a film twice before.

In 1923, director W. Bowden crafted a silent version of the story. More than a quarter-century later, British filmmaker Frank Launder made a very well-received version for the big screen in 1949, starring Jean Simmons and Donald Houston. The film was immensely popular, becoming the seventh-highest grossing domestic film at the U.K. box office that year.

3. The Blue Lagoon's costume team came up with a clever trick to keep Brooke Shields covered up.

Brooke Shields was just 14 years old when she filmed The Blue Lagoon, which led to some challenges for the production team, especially as Shields’s Emmeline is frequently topless. So the costume designers hatched an ingenious (and, really, just kind of obvious) way to keep her covered up at all times: they glued her long-haired wig to her body.

4. Brooke Shields’s age was an issue for a long time.

Even after The Blue Lagoon was long wrapped, completed, and released into theaters, issues related to Shields’s age at the time of filming still lingered. Years later, Shields testified before a U.S. Congressional inquiry that body doubles—of legal age—were used throughout filming.

5. The Blue Lagoon was nominated for an Oscar.

Cinematographer Néstor Almendros was nominated for his work on The Blue Lagoon. And while he lost out to Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet for Tess, he already had one Oscar at home for his contributions to Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978). The skilled DP, who passed away in 1992, was also nominated for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Sophie’s Choice (1982).

6. A new species of iguana was discovered when it appeared in The Blue Lagoon.

Parts of the film were lensed on a private island that is part of Fiji, one of the habitats of the now-critically endangered Fiji crested iguana. The iguana appeared throughout the film, and when herpetologist John Gibbons caught an early screening of the feature, he realized that the animal that kept popping up on the big screen wasn't a familiar one. So he traveled to Fiji (specifically, to the island of Nanuya Levu), where he discovered the Fiji crested iguana, an entirely new Fijian native.

7. The Blue Lagoon won a Razzie.

Despite its stellar source material and Oscar-nominated camerawork, The Blue Lagoon wasn’t beloved by everyone: The Razzies foisted a Worst Actress award on Shields. The actress won (lost? hard to tell?) over an extremely mixed bag of other nominees that somehow also included Shelley Duvall for The Shining. Come on, Razzies.

8. The Blue Lagoon director Randal Kleiser hatched a plan to get his stars to like each other.

Because the chemistry between the two leads was vital to the success of The Blue Lagoon, director Randal Kleiser (who also directed Grease) came up with the idea to get star Christopher Atkins feeling a little lovestruck with Shields by putting a picture of the young starlet over Atkins’s bed. Staring at Shields every night apparently did rouse some feelings in Atkins; the duo had a brief romance while filming. "Brooke and I had a little bit of a romantic, innocent sort of romance in the very beginning of the film," Atkins told HuffPost. “It was very nice—we were very, very close friends."

9. Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins's affection didn’t last for long.

Despite their early attachment, Shields and Atkins soon began bickering nonstop. “Brooke got tired of me,” Atkins told People in 1980. “She thought I took acting too seriously. I was always trying to get into a mood while she would be skipping off to joke with the crew.” Still, Kleiser even capitalized on that, using the tension to fuel the more frustrated scenes, lensing the tough stuff while his leads were tussling.

10. The Blue Lagoon's film shoot basically took place on a desert island.

Kleiser was desperate to capture authenticity for the film, going so far as to live like his characters while making it. "To shoot this kind of story, I wanted to get as close to nature as possible and have our crew live almost like the characters," Kleiser said. "We found an island in Fiji that had no roads, water, or electricity, but beautiful beaches. We built a village of tents for the crew to live in and had a small ship anchored in the lagoon for our camera equipment and supplies. This filming approach was quite unusual, but it just seemed right for this project."

This story has been updated for 2020.