Guitarist Jonny Greenwood steps outside his day job with the indie-rock giants to provide the aural atmosphere for the new Paul Thomas Anderson film

By Chris Willman
Updated November 05, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
There Will Be Blood
Credit: Francois Duhamel

There Will Be Blood sounds like the title of a slasher film. And if you were to listen only to its unhinged orchestral score, almost entirely composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, you might actually assume that’s what it is. In fact, there are minimal amounts of spilled hemoglobin in Paul Thomas Anderson’s fifth film, about a misanthropic oilman (Daniel Day-Lewis) making money and enemies in California. ”But sometimes Paul would describe it as close to the horror genre,” says Greenwood, who set aside his rock guitar for string quartets, piano trios, and an 80-piece orchestra. ”We talked about how The Shining had lots of Penderecki in it. We figured the instruments should be contemporary to the turn of the last century, but not period music. Even though you know the sounds you’re hearing are coming from very old technology, you can do things with the classical orchestra that unsettle you, that are slightly wrong, that have some kind of slightly sinister undercurrent.” Anderson adds: ”I guess when you have a title like that, the music better be a little bit scary.”

The first portion, in which Day-Lewis investigates desert-oil prospects, is dialogue-free, alternating between silence and screeching strings in extreme dynamics rarely heard since Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. ”I had a dream about making a movie that had no dialogue, just music and pictures,” says Anderson. ”I got close with the first 20 minutes here.” It marks a big departure from Anderson’s talkier, more Altmanesque pictures like Magnolia — which is why the director brought in fresh collaborators, calling on Greenwood rather than his usual composer, Jon Brion. ”It’s really thrilling just to hear different sounds coming out of a film you’ve made,” says Anderson. ”I worked with a production designer and other people I’ve never worked with before. It’s nerve-racking and exciting and…you have to be more polite,” he laughs.

There Will Be Blood

  • Movie
  • R
  • 158 minutes
  • Paul Thomas Anderson