Film news

Daniel Day-Lewis and locals worked intimately in a London townhouse for Phantom Thread

22nd December 2017

Daniel Day-Lewis moved into Camden’s Fitzroy Square for 20 film days to shoot Phantom Thread, which opens on Christmas Day.

Day-Lewis now says this was his last acting role, following the demanding shoot. Certainly the intensity of the process and attention to gorgeous detail has been captured in the final cut.

Day-Lewis plays a controlling fashion designer for the cream of London society in the 1950s, living and working from the opulent townhouse in Fitzroy Square. The square features from the first scene in the trailer, take a look here.

Local residents and businesses made the shoot welcome, despite the difficulties and the production very kindly made generous donations to local charities.

According to The Knowledge, director Paul Thomas Anderson wanted to pursue the intimacy of working in fashion houses of the era, but the plan proved enormously challenging.

“It was awful,” said Day-Lewis of the filming experience. “We had hoped to find that way of working again where we would be self-contained, beholden to no-one, and uninterrupted. We built a world we could create and just stay in and no one could get into it. But in this townhouse, which was very beautiful, it was a nightmare.

“We were living on top of each other. It was an enormous unit. There was no space. The way it works if it’s helpful is that these rooms belong to you.

“But of course these rooms for us become storage spaces. You work in a room, then you have to move all that shit into another room, and that space becomes a storage space. That entire house was like a termite nest.”

Roberto Kouyoumdjian dealt with the production on behalf of local residents and businesses, to make the filming in Fitzroy Square possible. He has worked in the square for 12 years.

“Phantom Thread was a very special case because it involved about 20 film days on and off between December last year and April, with a large proportion of the film being shot inside a townhouse on the square.

“I have mixed feelings about the whole thing because on one-hand it was a thrill to meet and have to work with the director Paul Thomas Anderson. I’m a big fan, it was a joy to have him and Daniel Day-Lewis here, and I was fascinated by the filmmaking process.

“But I was representing local businesses and residents, and it was tiresome and difficult to make this shoot possible.

“I completely understood that Anderson and Day-Lewis wanted to inhabit the townhouse on the square where they were filming, to smell it, and make every frame feel real. I think that caused its own issues – having to act around cabling and equipment.

“And I understand that filming is a fluid process. The locals were very willing to help out. For those of us working and living here, it felt like a long time, although the location manager and all the crew were brilliant and really got along with everybody.

“Because it was such an especially long shoot, the production made an extremely generous donation to the Fitzroy Square Frontagers’ & Garden Committee. The committee is solely responsible for the upkeep of the gardens, which they open to the public in the summer. They spend donations on this work.

“The committee also asked the production to make a donation to the local charity Fitzrovia Youth in Action – and they very kindly did.

“When I first began working here, about 10 per cent of the square was residential, but now that figure would be around 40 per cent.

“It has always been popular with filmmakers. Some of the locals are taken by the glamour of filming and see it as a fun instagram opportunity. But certainly as more residents began to move in, the impact began to be felt.

“So it makes sense that about five years ago we got together and developed filming guidelines, creating special terms and conditions. In fact we’ve found that productions welcome the guidelines because they make what’s possible very clear. Everyone knows where they stand and whether a planned shoot might be possible.

“The guidelines determine the hours of filming, how many film days are possible for one production, and where on the square productions may and may not film, amongst other things.

“It isn’t always plain sailing. What we’ve done is accept that this is a popular location for filming, and we’ve decided to manage it, so we can handle it well.”

FilmFixer manages the film office service for Camden Council, along with other boroughs filmed, including Lambeth.

FilmFixer director Karen Everett says, “About 65 cast and crew were involved in the lengthy Fitzroy Square filming, which was a great example of locals working together with a director to make a location available.

“The production also filmed in Gordon Square Gardens, a scene where the couple is talking on a park bench.

“A car chase was filmed along Chancery Lane, Carey Street, Serle Street, Bell Yard, Star Yard and Portugal Street.

“The Day-Lewis character entrusts his sporty maroon roadster to a garage in Grafton Mews.

“And Lambeth’s St Mary’s Gardens saw eighty cast and crew to film Day-Lewis pulling up in his car outside two houses there, for a chat with residents.”