Most cinema fans believe that Paul Thomas Anderson‘s masterpiece movie is There Will Be Blood, the 2007 epic starring Daniel Day-Lewis, even though Quentin Tarantino still insists his best offering is Boogie Nights. But for many, it’s hard to look beyond the spectacle of Daniel Plainview out in the oilfields of California in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
When it comes to Anderson’s inspirations for the movie, we know he was greatly influenced by John Huston‘s 1948 western The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, starring Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt as two down-on-their-luck men who fall in with an old prospector in the hunt for gold in Mexico.
In a feature with DGA Quarterly, Anderson once spoke at length about Huston’s film. “When I watch this again, all of life’s questions and answers are there in the movie; the way to make movies, live your life, get along, everything,” he said. Quite high praise from the off from the director.
Anderson also explained that he was in particular admiration of the way that Sierra Madre approaches its narrative and admitted that he used that approach of simplicity when making There Will Be Blood. “I was trying to find something that was 100 per cent straightforward, old-fashioned storytelling,” he said.
“I definitely tried to mimic that approach,” the director continued. “My natural instincts as a writer may be more scattered, so in an effort to be more traditional, I used a book, just like they did. Sierra Madre is as direct as you can get—nothing clever, nothing structurally new or different—and I mean that as a high compliment. It’s harder than anything else to be completely straightforward.”
In fact, Anderson was so taken aback by Huston’s movie that he watched it every single night before bed for an entire week whilst he was preparing for the production of There Will Be Blood to begin. “The films I love the most are, for the most part, very traditional in their structure,” he noted.
Anderson added, “So, when I was getting ready to make There Will Be Blood, I put on Sierra Madre before going to sleep at night for a week, just trying to get it to soak into my head and help me approach storytelling in a more old-fashioned way. I suppose I kept looking at it as a film I wished I knew how to make.”
Check out the trailer for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre below.