Making a Killing in Oil

I probably wouldn't have shot the movie if Daniel Day-Lewis had turned me down," says director Paul Thomas Anderson on the set of "There Will Be Blood" in July 2006. But it's not easy holding your own with an actor as formidable as Day-Lewis. Everyone on the set in remote Marfa, Texas—the place where "Giant" was filmed and now a stand-in for turn-of-the-20th-century California—seems a little in awe of him. "He's the most intimidating actor to work with," says Jim Downey, a "Saturday Night Live" writer whom Anderson has cast in a small part. Even the director admits that "he scares me sometimes." Working together, they discuss the little details of a scene, but never "the big issues" of the movie. "We just trust that we're on the same page." Knowing Day-Lewis's reputation for total immersion in a character—he's playing a ravenous oil baron named Daniel Plainview in "Blood" —I'm guessing he won't want to talk to a journalist during the shoot, but I'm wrong. He chats amiably between takes, charming and funny, the only trace of the misanthrope he's playing the deliberate, semi-aristocratic voice he's devised for the role and refuses to relinquish.

The one actor who seems totally unfazed by Day-Lewis's reputation is 10-year-old Dillon Freasier, a calm, poker-faced local boy with no professional experience. He's playing Day-Lewis's son, and the two seem to have developed the easy, playful rapport of co-conspirators. Dillon's parents (his father is a Texas Ranger) had never heard of the Oscar-winning actor, had no interest in Hollywood and figured they'd better do some research before allowing their kid to mix with movie people. So they rented "Gangs of New York." Big mistake. There was no way they were going to let their son work with Bill the Butcher. The producers were panicked, but they found a solution. A DVD of "The Age of Innocence" was rushed over to the Freasier household. Dillon got the job.