‘How do you meet someone like him?’ Vicky Krieps wondered when we spoke about her new film
Vicky Krieps had heard about Daniel Day-Lewis’s technique of immersing himself in any character he plays. But she revealed that, if anything, she underprepared for her role opposite the Oscar-winner, as a waitress in a seaside town who is catapulted into the post-war world of high fashion.
‘How do you meet someone like him?’ Krieps wondered when we spoke about her star- making turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s sublime film Phantom Thread, which features Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, a gifted but highly-strung designer who runs a Belgravia salon with his sister Cyril (played with aplomb by Lesley Manville).
‘You can’t outdo him,’ she sighed, of her co-star.
Krieps, a native of Luxembourg, is a big name in German-speaking cinema and has appeared in English-language films A Most Wanted Man and Hanna, but is still a relative unknown in Britain.
The director and Day-Lewis wanted a ‘clean face’ for the role of Alma, who bewitches Reynolds when she successfully serves him his (complicated) breakfast order in a tea room.
‘Making the movie was the best education on England,’ Krieps told me. ‘Learning about all the tea drinking; and what you eat; and what you don’t eat; and what you wear!
‘The England of the Fifties is really a study of the English traditions.’
She had to learn to sew, too; taking lessons in how to handle fabrics and working alongside the real-life seamstresses featured in the picture. ‘That was fascinating,’ she said, ‘because I was never into fashion in my life!
A perfect fit: Vicky Krieps and co-star Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, which will be released later this month
‘I made Alma as prim and proper as possible; and also I tried to be as blank as a sheet of white paper,’ she explained. The idea was to free herself from any contemporary trappings.
Krieps also wanted to try out a few of the dishes her character serves Woodcock. ‘I did do a Welsh rarebit. I so wanted to know what it is! I found a recipe; I made it; I ate it; and I liked it,’ she told me, adding that she found Worcestershire sauce a revelation.
She and Day-Lewis are breathtaking in Phantom Thread; and I was gripped by the battle of wills that develops between them. ‘Alma tames the dragon,’ she said.
The first time they met was on set. I observed that her cheeks are flushed in the tea room scene. ‘The first time I saw him in the eye was in the restaurant and yes, you see me going red. It was nerves.’
She said making the film was ‘emotionally intense’, but she became good friends with the seamstresses. ‘It was like a gift, talking to those women.’
Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting after the film was shot (‘it was a surprise to me,’ she said).
But Ms Krieps looks like she’s got a long career ahead of her. She’s appearing in a television mini-series based on the acclaimed German U-boat film Das Boot; and is also being bombarded with Hollywood scripts.
A musical to put a smile on your face
New British musical The Grinning Man started previewing in London’s West End last night, just two weeks after another home-grown show — Everybody’s Talking About Jamie — opened at the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, to cracking reviews.
Based on Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs, The Grinning Man started out at the Bristol Old Vic under the watchful eye of artistic chief Tom Morris — who, with Carl Grose, Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, began developing it five years ago.
It tells the story of Grinpayne, a misfit (played by Louis Maskell) whose face was savagely disfigured in infancy.
Handy work: Sanne den Besten and Louis Maskell at ‘The Grinning Man’ rehearsals, Vauxhall
With the help of his childhood best friend Dea (played by Sanne den Besten) Grinpayne tries to piece together the fragments of his — and her — past. The pair create a travelling show, which uses puppets to depict their younger selves.
I was transfixed when I watched a rehearsal at an old youth centre in Vauxhall. The eclectic score featured a very hummable, soaring ballad; and a sultry, bluesy soul number.
Funds from theatre owner and producer Howard Panter were used as seed money during The Grinning Man’s inception.
More from Baz Bamigboye for the Daily Mail…
‘Musicals are famously slow to develop, and each one is different,’ Morris told me.
Panter’s generosity enabled the creative team to take its time and build ‘the story’s world’.
But he feared few others would have his courage or that of Nica Burns, who saw Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible in Sheffield and knew at once that she simply had to bring it to London.
The key to ‘really helping’ the British musical to survive and flourish is patience, Morris said: ‘Be patient and develop them.’
I think he could be on to a winner at Trafalgar Studios with The Grinning Man.
The show has a humanity that audiences in Bristol warmed to; and during its West Country run, Maskell became a bit of a local hero, with teens copying Grinpayne’s bandaged look. They knew the words to his songs and sent him drawings and paintings.
Readers of my column alerted me to Maskell’s matinee idol status and said they intended to scoot up to London to cheer their man on.
I believe they will find the show improved, with some re-writing of the book and new choreo-graphy by Lynne Page to augment the movement work that Jane Gibson did in Bristol.