This is one phantom thread we were not expecting.
Earlier this year, news emerged that Paul Thomas Anderson was unable to collaborate with his longtime cinematographer Robert Elswit on Anderson's latest project due to scheduling conflicts, and as a result, the writer/director would be assuming the role of DP on Phantom Thread. But now, according to Anderson, that's simply not the case.
Phantom Thread has no cinematographer.
"I know how to point the camera in a good direction, and I know a few things. But I’m not a director of photography."
Anderson clarified the situation in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly:
"That would be disingenuous and just plain wrong to say that I was the director of photography on the film. The situation was that I work with a group of guys on the last few films and smaller side projects. Basically, in England, we were able to sort of work without an official director of photography. The people I would normally work with were unavailable, and it just became a situation where we collaborated — really in the best sense of the word — as a team. I know how to point the camera in a good direction, and I know a few things. But I’m not a director of photography."
The film is being released with no director of photography credit. Instead, Anderson tries to spread the love while deflecting from himself:
"If you can give credit, Michael Bauman is the gaffer that I’ve worked with for many, many years on a lot of projects. I could veto Mike, I guess, but he held a lot of the keys. There was a camera operator, Colin Anderson, I’ve worked with, and Erik Brown, who was the first assistant cameraman and Jeff Kunkel, who was a grip. It was a real package like that. It was a really easy way of working. You have to be very, very careful because there are way too many good cinematographers that I would not put myself in that class for a second."
We can only speculate that Anderson wants audiences to focus on his work as a writer/director, not as a cinematographer, and not taking the director of photography credit means Anderson cannot be considered for cinematography awards for Phantom Thread. No one can.
Phantom Thread arrives in theatres with its phantom DP on December 25.