On oil, acting and the Oscars

«Making movies is a crazy thing,» said Daniel Day-Lewis, among other things, at a press conference held in downtown Athens yesterday, ahead of last night’s sold-out charity premiere of «There Will Be Blood.» An epic drama on the business of oil in turn-of-the-century California, the film is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who also made the trip to Athens. The presence of both the director and leading actor in Greece owe much to the latter’s powerful ties with Cerebral Palsy Greece, a non-profit institution where 200 children and adults with cerebral palsy attend daily programs. Based on Upton Sinclair’s novel «Oil!» – a provocative work when it was first published in 1920 – «There Will Be Blood» tells the rags-to-riches story of Daniel Plainview, a silver miner who becomes an oil mogul. Born in Studio City, California, in 1970, Paul Thomas Anderson’s filmography includes «Boogie Nights» «Magnolia» and «Punch-Drunk Love.» For his most recent effort, the director was inspired by «Giant,» the 1956 saga of two Texas cattle rancher families, starring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. «It was a way to go ahead,» said the director of the adventurous spirit that characterized the early history of oil in California. Nominated for eight Oscars, including awards for best film, best director and best leading actor, «There Will Be Blood» has so far earned Day-Lewis a BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award. «It means the film playing three months longer in the United States – that’s the direct link,» said Anderson, when asked how winning one or more Oscars would alter the film’s course. As for Day-Lewis – the recipient of an Oscar in 1989 for his portrayal in «My Left Foot,» of Irish painter, poet and author Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy – winning the gold statuette may be a «sublime thing» but is also followed by a «cacophony of noise.» Time suspended London-born Day-Lewis’s career has been defined by his eclectic choices. Whatever role he decides to tackle, however, he is known to give body and soul. «The pure joy of any pursuit that allows for the loss of the self,» said Day-Lewis of the acting process. What does the actor enjoy in the process? «The suspension of time,» he said, adding his own definition of filmmaking: «It’s about a group of people sharing the same kind of insanity; of going out on a field and playing together.» The actor was quick to bring his Athens audience back to reality when asked about circulating stories of how he tends to stay in character during a movie’s shooting and doesn’t respond when called by his real name. He refuted the claims. «I don’t become somebody else, quite simply,» said the actor. «I am able, sometimes, to create the illusion that I do. To create the illusion that you occupy a different world.» For Daphne Economou, long-term president of Cerebral Palsy Greece, «the greatest love affairs are the ones that are mutual; they are also the ones that occur at first sight.» For more than three decades, Day-Lewis has been a passionate supporter of the association’s multifaceted activities. As the highly energetic organization celebrates 35 years in 2008, its president noted that it has opted for marking the occasion by honoring a group of individuals. Day-Lewis, said Economou, is right at the top of the list. She also shared a little story with the audience. Standing on the podium to receive his Academy Award in 1989, Day-Lewis carried with him a lucky charm given to him by the association’s children. Later on in the evening, his familiar voice woke up Economou with the good news: «Tell the children we won.»