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Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners

Posted March 01, 2012 to photo album "Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners"

Mike Mills poignant portrait of a father and son relationship inspired us to look back at how films from Chaplin to Beginners have handled this paternal subject.

Being Flynn
Beginners (2011)
The Kid (1921)
The Champ (1931)
I Was Born But... (1932)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Rebel without a Cause (1955)
Bigger Than Life (1956)
The Godfather (1972)
The Great Santini (1979)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
At Close Range (1986)
A Bronx Tale (1993)
In the Name of the Father (1994)
The Sum of Us (1994)
Billy Elliot (2000)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Finding Nemo (2003)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

While There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, focuses on the greed of tycoon Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), the subplot involving his son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), provides one of the more poignant relationships in the film. At a young age, H.W is injured by a gigantic oil derrick explosion, losing his hearing in the process. During the blast, his father is given a choice to run towards his injured son or try to save his burring oil fields. When he turns to salvage his precious crude, the bond between father and the son is forever damaged. After H.W. sets his father’s bed on fire, Daniel Plainview abandons his son to a school for the deaf. Casting the son proved a challenge to the filmmakers. After testing a number of young child actors, the filmmakers finally found their H.W. in a non-actor living close to Marfa, Texas, where the film was being shot. The producer JoAnne Sellar told the New York Times, “Paul’s always been very much into casting real people…He really wanted a kid who’d grown up around ranches and horses rather than someone coming in and trying to fake that.” Day-Lewis, who grew very fond of Freasier, actually found it difficult to tap into his emotional relationship with his father in creating the role because of his feelings for Freasier. As he told Time Out London, “In later years, reassessing what might have been a relationship with my father, that’s where the complexity is, I suppose, because we all to some extent measure ourselves – if we’re men – against our fathers. I would hope that none of my experiences as a father would have fed the relationship Plainview has with H.W. I would hope. In fact, it probably worked against me a little bit, because I felt so protective of that wonderful young man.” When Day-Lewis later won the Best Actor Oscar for There Will Be Blood, he announced, “I wish my son and my partner H.W. Plainview were up here with me, the mighty Dillon Freasier."