- Vicky Krieps plays Alma in “Phantom Thread,” the muse of Daniel Day-Lewis’ character, Reynolds Woodcock.
- Krieps didn’t meet Day-Lewis until their first day of shooting and said he was in character as Woodcock every day of production.
- Being in the movie was grueling for Krieps, not because of working across from the demanding Day-Lewis, she said, but because her schedule was six days of shooting a week and her off day consisted of constant dress fittings.
Luxembourg actress Vicky Krieps is a veteran of over 30 movies, but many will see her for the first time as the star of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” (currently playing in select theaters, opening nationwide on Friday).
Krieps plays Alma, the muse of renowned 1950s dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) who figures out an unconventional way to get him away from his work. Exploring obsessions and unconditional love, Anderson cast an incredible actress in Krieps to take on these themes opposite the all-consuming Method acting style of Day-Lewis.
Business Insider talked to Krieps about the experience of working with Day-Lewis and finding the strength to get through one of the most grueling shoots she’s ever been a part of.
Jason Guerrasio: So when you got an email about auditioning for this movie you didn’t realize it was a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, right? You’ve said at first you thought you were going out for a student film.
Vicky Krieps: That’s right. It was more of me making things up out of not knowing anything. I basically got this email from an American casting agent, who I didn’t know, and I certainly wasn’t expecting someone from America to write to me. But I’m always interested in projects. Whatever I do, I’m interested in the color of the material, I’m not interested in who’s making it. I’m more concentrated on the work. So I opened the email and scrolled to find not a script but just some text, really a monologue. So I did the lines on tape and sent it in.
Why I thought it might have been a student film was because I didn’t get a script, I thought maybe it wasn’t finished yet or this is for a short movie. I never thought I wasn’t getting it because of secrecy of the project and that it was in fact for a movie by a famous American director. [Laughs.]
Guerrasio: Looking back, are you happy you didn’t know who you were auditioning for? Perhaps you would have been more nervous?
Krieps: Perhaps. I think I always try to prepare the same. I don’t think I would have been different. But I think what was good was I was only relating and concentrating on the work, and that turned out to work well for me.
Guerrasio: When you realized what the movie was about and who you would be playing, did you do a lot of research on the era?
Krieps: I prepared mostly on London around World War II and after the war. My character had lost her mother. This isn’t in the movie, but Alma’s mother is dead. So that was my backstory. And I learned as much as I could about models in the 1950s. I found on YouTube how they walked back then in fashion shows. It’s very different in how models walk now. It’s more human. I also learned hand sewing. But everything else I couldn’t really prepare before shooting because I knew I wouldn’t meet Daniel until the first day of shooting.
Guerrasio: Oh, wow.
Krieps: He requested that we don’t rehearse and that we meet for the first time on the first day of shooting. So my big thing was to find a way not to be nervous. Really, for a lot of this I did the opposite of preparing. Guerrasio: So the first scene of Alma in the movie when you meet Reynolds in the restaurant, is that the first time you met Daniel Day-Lewis?
Krieps: Yes. [Laughs.]
Guerrasio: It’s funny because Alma stumbles coming from out of the kitchen and she has this embarrassed look, it’s really art imitating life.
Krieps: Exactly. I really blushed because I really tripped.
Guerrasio: Was it tough to act across from someone you barely knew?
Krieps: That’s the thing, of course I was scared, but there was nothing I could do. I knew we would be working together and I just stayed calm as much as I could. I was really in a meditative state of emptiness and forget everything I was researching for the character and just reacted to him. Working with him was rather wonderful. Because of how he works, I could really fall into this world of Reynolds Woodcock. I just concentrated on the moment. Each scene in the movie I was just in the moment. Just reacting to the person across from me.
Guerrasio: Can you say you even met Daniel while shooting this movie?
Guerrasio: So you were with Reynolds Woodcock.
Krieps: Exactly. I never met Daniel on set until we finished.
Guerrasio: So, as you said, you don’t overthink how he wants to work. This is the job. You just react.
Krieps: You go with it. I could only go with it.
- Focus Features
Guerrasio: The way he worked, did that bring you deeper into the Alma character than you would have if you worked across a different actor?
Krieps: I think the way I work is similar to how Daniel works, I just don’t call it Method acting. I don’t have the time and money to prepare the way he does. I have more projects to work on in a year, so it’s impossible for me to do it that way. But I definitely have the same dedication and I’m crazy enough to invent worlds around me. It becomes a reality and you are involved in what you invented.
Guerrasio: American audiences don’t know you as well as other parts of the world, but you’ve worked a lot in your career. Compare this job to what you’ve done in the past. Is this the most unusual production you’ve ever been on because of the way Daniel works?
Krieps: It definitely has been the most intense work I’ve ever done. It was also the only one where I was really struggling with my strength. In the middle of making this I said to myself, “Oh my god, I can’t see the end.” I felt that I would never get to it. “How can I find more strength in me to continue?” Because it was 16-hour days sometimes. We worked every day, except for Sundays. But on Sundays I had fittings of all the dresses that were made for me. It was endless fittings. So strength was the biggest challenge for me on this.
Guerrasio: With all that said, if Paul called tomorrow and said “I just wrote a part for you in my next movie,” do you say yes?
Krieps: Yes. [Laughs.]
Guerrasio: It’s worth the pain, so to speak.
Krieps: Absolutely. In a second I would do it again.
Guerrasio: A lot of the talk around this movie is that Daniel says it’s his final movie. What are your thoughts? Do you think he’s really quitting acting?
Krieps: I respect him enough to believe that if he says so then he will. But I also respect him enough to leave the door open if he wants to change his mind. If he’s determined to stop I understand. But if this is an emotional reaction and he changes his mind I would love that. I would be happy if he continued to be an actor. I just want him to get what he wants.