Day-Lewis as Plainview

An Amazon gift card from my sister turned into four awesome Blu-Rays: “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Gladiator,” and “There Will Be Blood.” Thanks, Little Sister.

The three best scenes in “There Will Be Blood” are—in my opinion and in descending order:

Number 3:
I’m gonna bury you underground, Eli.

Eli Sunday picks a bad time to ask for the $5,000 he wants from Daniel Plainview, whose son has just been struck deaf when the derrick in Little Boston finally gushed oil. Reeling with grief, Plainview responds to Eli’s blunt “When do we get our money, Daniel?” with a vicious face slap, and then several more. Eli screams pleas for the money as Plainview kicks his ass.

He kills Eli at the end of this movie, and we know what happens after that even if we don’t see. You can picture it: Old, drunk Plainview takes Eli’s body outside and buries it, just like he said he would as he was cramming mud into Eli’s mouth in our Number 3 scene.

This was the first time one of these two men hit the other.

. . .

Between Numbers 3 and 2 on this list is a scene in which Plainview tells his phony brother “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.”

A competition.

As we see in that wordless 20-minute opening, Plainview has worked incredibly hard to build his business and fortune. It makes him crazy when this squeaky preacher starts coming around whining for a handout.

From According to a 2007 interview with Paul Dano on the N.P.R. show “Fresh Air with Terry Gross”, the scene where Plainview is baptized by Eli (where Eli slaps him several times) was shot the day after the scene in which Plainview threatens to bury Eli (and slaps him around).

. . .

Number 2
Is there a sinner here looking for salvation?

Eli is preaching damnation for nonbelievers at his Church of the Third Revelation. He brings Plainview on-stage, forces him to kneel, berates and humiliates him. Plainview’s face pulsates with rage as he admits, after Eli’s brutally relentless prodding, that he abandoned his struck-deaf son. Then the slapping starts, and Plainview’s furious scowl turns into a smile. He takes the slaps with relish. He eggs Eli on, and Eli obliges by yelling louder, hitting harder, and pulling Daniel’s hair.

Eli pours holy water on Plainview, who shakes it off like a dog. Brrrrrrr!!!!!!! Plainview shakes Eli’s hand and says something we can’t hear. Probably “I’m going to make you say that God is a superstition, and then I’m gonna cave in your skull with a bowling pin.”


. . .

From New York Times magazine: Halfway through the 60-day shoot, Anderson realized that the second lead actor, who plays Plainview’s nemesis, was not strong enough. He was replaced by the versatile young actor Paul Dano, but three weeks of scenes with Day-Lewis needed to be reshot. During “Gangs of New York,” Day-Lewis would stay in character and deliberately glare at his co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, mirroring the contentious dynamic that these men had in the film. While DiCaprio withstood the pressure (and Dano thrived on it) there are reports that the first actor suffered from intimidation. “It just wasn’t the right fit,” Anderson explained diplomatically.

“I’d be very, very sorry if that were true,” Day-Lewis told LA Weekly about the same reports.

. . .

Number 1
I! Drink! Your! Milkshake!!!

“I am a false profit! God is a superstition!”

“Say it again. Say it like it’s your sermon.”

The ending of “There Will Be Blood” is so many things—timeless, funny, scary, belligerent, and the most spectacular example of sh*t talking I can recall ever seeing.

“Stop crying, you sniveling ass!” Plainview is poking Eli. “Stop your nonsense. You’re just the afterbirth, Eli, that slithered out on your mother’s filth. They should have put you in a glass jar on the mantlepiece. Where were you when Paul was suckling at your mother’s teat? Who was nursing you, poor Eli? One of Bandy’s sows?”

He throws Eli down the lane of his private bowling alley, screaming monstrous taunts. Then he bludgeons Eli’s brains out with a wooden bowling pin and says “I’m finished.”

. . .

When Day-Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar for “There Will Be Blood,” he called it “The handsomest bludgeon in town.” He continued: “I’m looking at this gorgeous thing that you’ve given me and I’m thinking back to the first devilish whisper of an idea that came to him, and everything since, and it seems to me that this sprang like a golden sapling out of the mad, beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson. I wish my son and my partner H.W. Plainview were up here with me, the mighty Dillon Freasier.”

He still missed the son he’d abandoned as Plainview.

He did not thank Paul Dano. Perhaps a part of him was still sweetly satisfied over Eli Sunday’s bloody end.


My wife says I can’t get a tattoo of this badass cross derrick

(For more Day-Lewis love, see previous post Day-Lewis as Lincoln. Or just scroll through past pieces, because his name comes up a lot on The Flip Side.)


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