There Will Be Blood: 4 Business Lessons From Daniel Plainview


Daniel Day-Lewis is an enormous talent. He’s arguably the best living actor today. The five-time Oscar nominee has already made history on more than one occasion in his ongoing lifetime. First and foremost of all by becoming the first person to ever win the best actor Oscar award three times.

Among other things, this man is famous for the extreme measures he takes in preparing for film roles. There are many stories about Day-Lewis’ Method. Every single one of them is more spectacular than the other.

I’ve read all I could find about his work and I still cannot believe that he learned to speak Czech for his role in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and that he had to be lifted around the set as he would never leave his wheelchair while filming My Left Foot. Also, I faced extreme difficulty in processing in my head that he spent eight weeks at a cerebral palsy clinic in Dublin, learning to speak as Brown spoke and to write and paint with his left foot, as Brown did. As if that wasn’t enough, he also insisted to be spoon-fed.

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Daniel Day-Lewis never breaks character. Never. When he commits to something, he sticks to it on and off screen.

For example, while filming Last of the Mohicans, Day-Lewis only ate food he hunted down and killed with his own two hands. That’s not all. He also lost 50 pounds to play Gerry Conlon in the film In The Name of the Father and spent a couple of nights locked in solitary confinement in the abandoned prison, without food or water. When he came on the Gangs of New York set, Daniel Day-Lewis caught pneumonia because he refused to wear a toasty modern coat, explaining that “it wasn’t in keeping with the period.”

Insane, right?

The list goes on and on. Each and every fact about his work is more impressive than the other. To call Daniel Day-Lewis a “method actor” is an understatement. This man is a professional who is dedicated to his craft like no other person on this planet. I have heard Mr. Day-Lewis talk about his work on numerous occasions. Listening to him describe the gravitational pull of another person’s life that he feels once in character, is truly something that you don’t hear everyday.

During his career, Daniel Day-Lewis has played a lot of interesting characters, but none quite interesting as Daniel Plainview, the notorious oil prospector from the movie There Will Be Blood. I have watched this film over 6 times and I have to say that, every single time I replay it, I see something more in it. I see Daniel Plainview as something more than just an antagonist in this story. I see him as a clever and success-driven businessman who kinda got a bit lost along the way. I think that his behavior and business tactics speak volumes, especially to those who are constantly looking to learn how to master their market and beat their competitors in their own game.

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For those who are not familiar with all the facts, Daniel Plainview is the protagonist in There Will Be Blood, a 2007 American epic drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. This film received 8 Oscar nominations, from which it won 2. There Will Be Blood was inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! which tells the story of a silver miner-turned-oilman on a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California’s oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

So, now that we got that clear, without further to do, here are couple of lessons I learned from watching Upton Sinclair Jr’s character come to life:

Determination – Nothing Must Stop You From Achieving Your Goals


From the very beginning of the film, Daniel Plainview is presented to us as someone who knows what he wants, someone who is willing to beat all the odds, no matter how hard or complicated they may be, in order to reach his goals.


In the opening scene of There Will Be Blood, we see Daniel, a single-minded prospector hacking away at the earthly ground, looking for something valuable. Without a single word spoken, without any dialog, we’re given a glimpse into this man’s mind. From the very start, we see Daniel for what he really is –  A man consumed by money and power.

Our protagonist has only one thing in his head: profit. Every decision he makes in this film is directly or indirectly related to his need to benefit from every possible scenario. Nothing can stop him. 

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Example: In the first 15 minutes of the film, our protagonist falls down and breaks his leg. What does he do? Does he stop? Does he cry? Does he ask for help? – No. He drags himself out of the well and into town to cash in all the silver he found digging in this wretched hole.

Although most people see this sort of behavior as disturbing, I tend to think of it as quite remarkable. Daniel is a really sharp businessman. He did his homework. He knows where he is, where he wants to be, and what he needs to do in order to get there.

Most of us say that we’re on a mission, that we’re determined to make our goals become reality, but as soon as things get hard – we give up. There are not many people in the world that can live like Daniel. This sort of focus and determination is something that we all should try to implement in our everyday lives. I know that many of you right now are saying that he’s a fictional character, but, before you go any further with justifying your actions and spirit, Plainview is based on the real-life oil tycoon Edward Doheny, a man who set off the oil boom in southern California in 1892.

Be Quick On Your Feet, Adapt and Focus on the Future

After discovering oil, Daniel’s destiny is set for the remainder of the picture. He assembles a small crew of hard-working man and begins pulling the black gold from the ground. As you probably remember if you have seen the movie, one of the man who was working with Daniel Plainview brought his kid with him. A little boy, about five or six years old. One day, while drilling down in the well, looking for the oil, an accident occurred and the man got killed.

Heartbroken by the outcome of the situation, Daniel decided to adopt the kid. This is something he did not have to do, but he did it anyway. Although some disagree with me, I like to think that this moment in the story shows that our protagonist isn’t quite the heartless, greedy monster as we built him up to be.
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Stuck now with a little boy, Daniel immediately started thinking of him as an asset. He started to ponder how this little person could help him on his never-ending quest for profit.

The answer was: PR.

Daniel used the kid to manipulate people into allowing him to drill on their land. By presenting himself as a “family man”, Plainview managed to relate to the townsfolk on a much deeper level. He analyzed his target audience, what they like, what they dislike, what their core values are, how to infiltrate their circle and become one of them.

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Some of you are probably thinking that he used the kid. Well, I disagree. Throughout the film, until the unfortunate accident (which I won’t spoil for you by presenting all the details), Daniel worked alongside the child, never minimalizing him, never trivializing him or exploiting his efforts. He did all he could to teach the kid about the business and how to run a big oil empire.

Help Your Clients Grow as Well

Although seen by many inexperienced movie-goers as a money-grabbing and selfish monster, if you have carefully watched the film, then you have probably figured out that Daniel Plainview is more than that. He truly cares about his community. Yes, he’s interested in money, but he also doesn’t want others to die in poverty.

There’s more than one scene in the film where Daniel and H.W. express their interest in sharing their wealth and prosperity with people who live in this small town. Mr. Plainview wants to bring water to the townsfolk, commerce, farming, and economic stimulation to the region along with wealth and prosperity. He is a businessman, so it’s quite normal that he’s interested in turning this ghost town into something more. He, like any other intelligent businessman, wants to protect his investment and help it grow as much as possible. In order to do that, first he must make it work for people who already live there. In order to get more people to join his cause and help him on his journey, he needs to help them provide for themselves.

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Building a strong community around your investment is quite an important thing. Look at companies like LEGO. Billund is basically a town built around the factory. As Ernst & Young and the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund stated in their study, 62% of small business owners say that giving back to their community has made their company more successful in the long run. It’s a bulletproof way to humanize your brand and present it as something more than just a business.

Never Follow False Prophets


It doesn’t matter if you agree with me here or not, but, in my opinion, Eli Sunday is the real villain in this story. He’s a false prophet and a charlatan who uses religion and his power in the community to feed on the less educated townsfolk by presenting himself as some sort of a healer.

Eli offers nothing to these people, no chance to better themselves or even find refuge from their daily troubles. He just takes from them what he can.

He is clearly a fraud, and Daniel, being a snake himself, sees right through his façade. From the very first moment these two characters meet, Daniel establishes a barrier. He sees Eli for what he is, and he doesn’t like it. The tension immediately starts to build between the two.

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In this day and age, especially in business, it’s quite easy to fall under influence of people who want to trick you and rob you out of your money. Everyone today presents himself as an expert, even though he clearly knows that’s not quite true. I’m not saying that all of these people are evil and schemers, I just think that they tend to get a bit carried away with their role.

Think of yourself as a small business owner. You need to advertise your company, but you’re not quite sure how to do so. Being an entrepreneur who has limited funds and cannot afford to blow cash testing out what works and what doesn’t, you hire an expert. Everything looks legit, the guys credentials seem to be in order, and then, one month later, you see that this person hasn’t really done anything for your business. In fact, he caused more harm than good. He spent your cash, and he hasn’t got anything to show for it.

A false preacher can be anyone in a position of power. It doesn’t matter if which industry you work. Be it web hosting, marketing, healthcare, insurance or even banking, there’s always someone out there who wants to get the best of you.

Wolves don’t often attack wolves, but they do go after sheep. If you’re not able to see through their scheme, you’re probably gonna end up with an apple in your mouth, served on someone’s dinner table.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have anything to add, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section below.

That’s it for now,
See you soon again.
Goran @ AltusHost B.V.

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