It's How You Wear It: An Interview with Vicky Krieps
Vicky Krieps is a name that even the most seasoned cinema-goer might fail to recognise, but her enchanting performance as Alma in Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread will surely announce her to an new and adoring audience. We spoke to Vicky about her role in the film, how it all started and what it was like to work alongside a soon-to-be retired Daniel Day-Lewis.
When asked how she became involved in Phantom Thread, Krieps astutely and modestly corrected the question to what she knows we really want to ask: "How did I, a relatively unknown actor, come to work with Paul Thomas Anderson. That's the real question." she laughs.
The first piece in the puzzle was a fairly mysterious email from a casting director, asking Krieps to send over an audition tape. Attached to that email was nothing but a monologue and a note about the project's period setting and its London location. Krieps felt an immediate affinity for the words on the page and the romance of 1950s London, and so recorded her audition and sent it back. "At this point, I still had no idea I was auditioning for a part in Paul Thomas Anderson's next project. I just recorded my audition and sent it off," she says. A script soon followed and it was at this point she realised who she was working with. "Paul had seen my performance in a film I did in Germany called The Chambermaid, because that's what he does, he's always looking and he finds things most people don’t see," and it was on the basis of that performance that Anderson contacted her. From there followed the offer, and Vicky became Alma.
The Creative Process
"Alma is a very strong willed person," Krieps explains "stronger in fact that I had expected her to be." The filmmaking process meant there was a certain fluidity to the formation of characters as they each learned to respond to one another. That spontaneity meant that Kreips put much of her own self into Alma. "I think I'm very strong willed, but I'm not so sure I could have tolerated Reynolds like Alma does,"
Krieps describes Day-Lewis as being "like a rock that is in your path and that you need to figure out how to get around," so determined was he in his total immersion of the character. "Daniel might walk across a room and just twitch a curtain, and I then have to figure out how to respond as Alma or, how to get a reaction from him," she describes, offering a hint at the challenges and experimentation at play on the set.
It's not what you wear, but how you wear it
Actors often talk about costume being an integral part of character creation, but in Phantom Thread Alma has dresses made for her and is at times 'dressed' by ‘The House of Woodcock’. "When I put these dresses on," she begins, "I felt as though I had lost my power, and so Alma has lost her power."
To illustrate her point, Krieps recalls a scene in the film where Alma prepares a surprise dinner for Reynolds, much to his disdain, and the two have a blazing confrontation across the dinner table ignited by the asparagus. All the while through this scene, Alma is wearing a red dress, made for her by Reynolds. "Under the table, out of shot, I wore a pair of bulky hiking boots on my feet. I needed to find some strength because this dress, it's beautiful but it's taken away my power. Alma needs to be strong in this scene and so I need to be strong, and so I wore these hiking boots to give me power."
Set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the centre of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock.
Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover.
Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love. With his latest film, Paul Thomas Anderson paints an illuminating portrait both of an artist on a creative journey and the women who keep his world running.
Phantom Thread plays on our screens now, including select 35mm presentations at Curzon Soho.
PHANTOM THREAD | THE CURZON FILM PODCAST
For more Phantom Thread, listen to our review of the film on the Curzon Film Podcast, which you can stream below now, or download it for later from iTunes.
Discussing the film are Irene Musumeci, Jake Cunningham and making his debut, writer for Little White Lies, BFI and The Skinny, Josh Slater-Williams