There Will Be Blood: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Most Ambitious Film

For some critics, “There Will Be Blood,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s fifth feature, is the most ambitious of the 37-year-old helmer, who qualifies as one of the youngest helmers to be nominated for a directing Oscar.

As inspiration for his loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s 1927 tome “Oil!,” Anderson looked to the “classic storytelling” of John Huston’s 1948 dramatic parable “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

“It was the economy with which that story is told, but at the same time, it’s very meaty,” he explains. “There’s no sides, there’s no mashed potatoes, there’s no greens, they just give you the steak, and that was what it was. Maybe my natural instincts don’t lead me there, so it was trying to practice that thing, direct and simple.”

His first short film, “Cigarettes and Coffee,” which played at Sundance Film Fest, was a stylish half-hour short that interwove three different storylines set in a Las Vegas diner.

The San Fernando Valley-born director folowed it with “Sydney” (later renamed against his wishes as “The Hard Eight”) and with two New Line productions, “Boogie Nights” (1997), in my estimate his most interesting work, and “Magnolia” (1999), both of which earned several Oscar nominations, including writing for Anderson.

Anderson sees the eight Oscar nominations for “There Will Be Blood” as “a testament to the cast and crew, who I am deeply grateful to, for their talent and collaboration.”

“I certainly remember after ‘Magnolia’ thinking, ‘I don’t want to do that again,'” Anderson says. “You don’t want to tell the same story twice. I certainly try not to, at least.”

And yet, from Las Vegas burnouts to L.A. porn stars, San Fernando Valley moguls and self-help gurus, to Daniel Day-Lewis’ greedy oil baron Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood” to a relationship-challenged Adam Sandler in “Punch Drunk Love,” Anderson continues to tell stories of fractured families, the conflicts between fathers and sons, and the emergence of surrogate families as substitutes or replacements of biological kinships.