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.”
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.
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.