the master

The Master Blends Scientology, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman form an unlikely bromance in The Master | The Weinstein Co.

I kept reading over the weekend that Tom Cruise had seen The Master, and that director Paul Thomas Anderson said he and Cruise were “still friends — the rest is between us.”

So yeah, had to go check that one out, because I really hadn’t heard much about The Master, other than it’s one of the most anticipated films of the year. Clearly, with that nugget of info above, Scientology must be involved.

The Master is indeed based on the beginnings of the Scientology movement. After returning home from World War Two and witnessing many horrors during said war, a charismatic intellectual named Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) creates a faith-based organization to give his life meaning. He becomes known as “The Master.”

This character is based on L. Ron Hubbard, organizer of the  Scientology movement. In a weekend press conference at the Venice International Film Festival, Anderson claims that fact. “That’s not an elephant in the room,” he said. “This is a character that I created based on L. Ron Hubbard. There’s a lot of similarities to the early days of Dianetics … I don’t know a hell of a lot about Scientology today, but I know about the beginnings of that movement, and it inspired me to use it as a backdrop for these characters. I can’t be any more unambiguous than that.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman as the charismatic Lancaster Dodd in The Master | The Weinstein Co.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Dodd’s right-hand man, a former drifter who begins to question both the belief system and The Master as the organization grows and gains a fervent following. “I think we were just trying to tell a love story between these two guys,” said Anderson. “We had a lot of scenes that weren’t about that and we took them out.”

Meaning … there was an actual true love story? Or a non-romantic bromance? And is Freddie Quell based on David Miscavige? Yeah, I’m asking as many questions as I’m answering. If you’ve seen the film or know Scientology, feel free to drop clues in the comments. Anyway…

In the press conference, Hoffman referred to Dodd and Quell as “wild beasts … One of them has tamed it somehow and is trying to teach other people how to do that. But he just wants to be wild like Freddie is, and there’s this real attraction there.”

I think everyone — including Anderson — is thrilled to see Joaquin Phoenix on screen again. Based on the trailer below, he acts the heck out of this character. At the press conference, he stayed true to form and barely said a word, smoking a cigarette, offering a couple of mumbled replies, even leaving the room at one point.

Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell in The Master | The Weinstein Co.

Anderson wrote The Master with both Hoffman and Phoenix in mind, and was elated that the elusive Phoenix agreed to the role. “I”ve asked him to be in just about every other movie I’ve done, and he’d said no because it’s a little bit of a pain in the ass … But he said yes this time. And thank god he did.”

Ditto on that. With Anderson (who helmed There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Boogie Nights) in charge, and Hoffman, Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Laura Dern on screen — not to mention the controversy and buzz that’s already surrounding this film — The Master is a shoe-in for awards season.

The Master hits U.S. theaters on Sept. 21, 2012. It’s rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity and language. For film buffs, it’s the first motion picture in 16 years to be filmed entirely on 65mm format using Panavision’s System 65 camera.


4 responses to “The Master Blends Scientology, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman”

  1. StFual Avatar

    I notice again the media swarms around nutty Scientologist stories. I wonder why we never see the same kind of stories about Judaism, Islam, the Hindus, and apart from Roman Catholic abuse, the Christians.  
    The same kind of insanity exists with all of those religions, and yet somehow because they are older we are supposed to give them more respect or a wide berth.
    Do I think the Scientologists are insane? Yes I do. But I think all religions are insane. What I find grossly unfair is that Judaism, Islam ,Christianity and the various other traditional religions get a free pass in the media while the Mormon and Scientologists are laughed at and abused.   Check the rules for a Muslim or a Jew who wants to give up God, or marry somebody who is not of their religion. Then see how insignificant the news that Tom Cruise Tom Cruise once a few of his nutty friends to  interview his potential bride is .
    By the way it’s not just the Roman Catholics, abuse is widespread in any situation where blind faith in a higher power is required or supported by the community.

    1. Jane Boursaw Avatar

       @StFual You make a really good point. I mean, I’m a Christian – raised as a Methodist in Michigan farm country – and if you tell someone that Christianity is based on a guy who walked on water and turned one loaf of bread into a thousand loaves, well, that’s just nutty. Most religions have their unbelievable stories, and I guess that’s where faith comes in and what you choose to believe. 
      I think the thing that’s fascinating about Scientology is 1) You’re right – it’s fairly new and doesn’t have thousands of years of stories (or… does it?); and 2) There’s so much mystery surrounding it. You can read all about Christianity in the Bible, but who are these Scientologists? Why are they so ardent about their mission in life? And why can’t the rest of us know what it’s all about?
      And then you’ve got stories like over the weekend about the girlfriend/wife interview process, but that’s not much different than arranged marriages back in Bible days (or still happening on our planet today). Also the fact that high-profile people like Tom Cruise and John Travolta are avid followers, and anything celeb-related people fall all over (including me most times). 

  2. […] film beat out Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, a perplexing but visually beautiful movie that’s very much part of the Oscar chatter, […]

  3. […] But it’s such an odd movie, and I wonder if it just didn’t resonate with audiences, and maybe that’s why it didn’t do better during this past awards season. I have to admit, along with the great cast, I was also interested in seeing it for the Scientology connection. Director Paul Thomas Anderson even screened it for Tom Cruise. […]

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