Daniel Day-Lewis Plays Coy About His ‘There Will Be Blood’ Character

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The sold-out crowd at last night's 92nd Street Y screening of There Will Be Blood groaned when they heard the film's running time (2:40) but cheered to learn that writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Daniel Day-Lewis would appear after the film. (They didn't know this before paying $35 a ticket?) But mixed comments during the credits should be enough to cause concern for Paramount. Is this bleak, Über-masculine character study of a turn-of-the-century oil tycoon too much for even the indie-art crowd to stomach?

Day-Lewis, who retains his lavish, In the Name of the Father mane, dominated much of the Q&A, hosted by the erudite Dr. Annette Insdorf of Columbia University. (To give you an idea about how Insdorf thinks, she identified score composer Jonny Greenwood as "a commentator for the BBC and a member of the band Radiohead.") Was there a backstory to the Daniel Plainview character, she wondered. "You have to understand what has led that man to the place you find him," Day-Lewis conceded, though he declined to elaborate on what was clearly a marvelous Plainview biography in his brain. "It was enough for me to discover him in the middle of a hole with a pickax," Anderson said, suggesting a shrug. "I noticed Plainview was chewing a lot," Insdorf said to Day-Lewis. Did that, you know, mean anything? "If that’s what you saw…" replied the actor, with a wan smile. —Aileen Gallagher