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Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master


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For my money he is the best American director working today so I'm always looking forward to what he will do next.

From Variety:

<!--quoteo--><div class="quotetop">QUOTE </div><div class="quotemain"><!--quotec-->“There Will Be Blood” writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has found religion, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, for his next film.

<b>Anderson has written an untitled period drama that is set up at Universal. Hoffman, who has played supporting roles in most of Anderson’s past films, would this time be the centerpiece.

Hoffman will play “The Master,” as in “master of ceremonies,” a charismatic intellectual who hatches a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in America in 1952.

The core is the relationship between The Master and Freddie, a twenty-something drifter who becomes the leader’s lieutenant. As the faith begins to gain a fervent following, Freddie finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor</b>.

Anderson's treatment of religion was cynical in "There Will Be Blood." Here, the scrutiny isn't specifically directed toward faith-based movements like Scientology or Mormonism that are newcomers compared to established religions. Anderson explores the need to believe in a higher power, the choice of which to embrace, and the point at which a belief system graduates into a religion.

Universal, which has become very selective about green lighting adult dramas, won’t make a decision on Anderson’s <ccc style="font-size: inherit; background-color: yellow; " title="">£22.11</ccc> million budget pic until he delivers his finished script. His hope is to make the picture next year, sources said.

Anderson’s frequent collaborator, JoAnne Sellar, is the producer.

Hoffman made his breakthrough in the cast of Anderson’s “Boogie Nights,” and has also appeared in the Anderson-directed “Hard Eight,” “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Magnolia.”<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

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  • 3 months later...

Not a great deal of news but I'd thought I'd bump this hugely popular topic anyway.

From /Film:

In December of last year Paul Thomas Anderson started to reveal plans for his next feature. The script is being called The Master (provisionally, perhaps, and that may well not be the actual or final title) and follows a man who creates a ‘faith-based organization’ that mushrooms into an empire in the ’50s. So: a Scientology tale, more or less, and not so thinly disguised.

Anderson quickly cast Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role, and has been casting about for an actor to play Freddie, the young man who is first the Master’s lieutenant before having second thoughts about the organization. The film was set up but not greenlit at Universal, but the studio has now passed. Anderson is now looking for new financing, and has Jeremy Renner eyeing the role of Freddie.

Deadline reports that Universal passed, speculating that the $35m budget is part of the reason, though that actually seems like a reasonable outlay for a film that we can reasonably expect to be sumptuously detailed and, very likely, an earner in the long run. No, it’s not the sort of movie Universal makes now (especially after Green Zone) but the pass is notable. Stepping in to help finance is River Road, which paid for much of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. Bill Pohlad, the man behind River Road, is also a financier and partner with Apparition, which suggests that The Master could end up distributed by that label.

Meanwhile, the fact that Renner is considering the role has been one of those big open secrets (we’ve mentioned it before) and the fact that he’s still circling it, along with the new financing deal, makes me wonder if in fact he’ll end up taking it. Freddie is written to be younger and more frail than Renner, and supposedly Anderson wasn’t convinced, in large part because of the age difference. Has he re-written, did Renner do something to convince him, or would this be strictly an agency/financing package that puts them together?

Regardless, I suspect that Renner could nail this, and I’m wild about the notion of him working with PTA. More info on The Master soon, hopefully.

In summary: Universal have passed on the film. Speculation is due to the budget ($35m) but more likely to do with subject matter. River Road are now helping with finance (they are bankrolling Malick's latest, The Tree of Life). Jeremy Renner is circling the role of Freddie.

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  • 4 weeks later...

This is moving forward now and looks like it is shooting in June.

From /Film:

Paul Thomas Anderson is truly getting back to work. We’ve known that he is prepping two scripts, one based on the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice, and the other a slight reworking of PTA’s own original ‘religious drama’ that has been said to be influenced by Scientology and once went by the title The Master.

Now we know that The Master is definitely going to be his next film. (Though ‘The Master’ is almost certainly not the final title, I’m going to use that to refer to the film here.) Harvey Weinstein has purchased worldwide rights to the film, which is already financed by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Productions. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix are confirmed for the two key roles, and the film will shoot starting June 13. Celebrate after the break.

Deadline says that the old script for The Master has been somewhat reworked, and offers this new recap:

Hoffman stars as a man who returns after witnessing the horrors of WWII and tries to rediscover who he is in post-war America. He creates a belief system, something that catches on with other lost souls.

That sounds like a deliberate step away from the much more overtly Scientology-influenced earlier draft. (And, remember, part of the reason that Universal pulled out of financing that version was that the script at the time was said to have some problems.) We’d previously reported that Philip Seymour Hoffman would be Lancaster Dodd, “a charismatic intellectual” and the guy known as The Master, while Joaquin Phoenix was likely to play Freddie Sutton, “an alcholic drifter who becomes right-hand man [to The Master] only to begin questioning his manipulative mentor.” Are those character descriptions still accurate? To be honest, we don’t know. If you’ve got the latest, significantly reworked draft of the script, we’d love to read it.

Madisen Beaty and Amy Adams are mentioned as possible actress options, as are Laura Dern and Lena Endre. Obviously, Harvey Weinstein will be triumphantly touting this one at Cannes, where it will doubtless attract more actors. We’ll know more soon, but for now just enjoy the fact that a new PTA film will be shooting in five weeks.

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  • 5 months later...

The synopsis: Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (the acclaimed director of, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Boogie Nights), this story stars Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and Academy Award-nominee Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line). Set in America in the years following World War II, a charismatic intellectual (Hoffman) launches a faith-based organization and taps a young drifter (Phoenix) as his right-hand man. But as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the onetime vagabond finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor. A truly one-of-a-kind drama, which promises magnetic virtuoso performances, the film marks the fifth collaboration between Anderson and Hoffman, following Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch Drunk Love.

And an amazing poster:


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Rope of Silicon discussing some footage shown at Cannes:

The Master made the strongest impression on me and for those of you that have already watched the teaser I've included here to the right, this was how the footage I saw began although, while using the same voice over, different footage from the film was shown instead.

It's still Joaquin Phoenix's character, Freddie, a drunken Naval officer speaking with his superior, but one shot in particular is a long dolly shot, rolling in closer and closer to Freddie as he approaches a bulletin board. He stops and begins writing on a piece of paper, finishes and heads back down the hallway, the way he came, as the camera continues dollying forward and past what he's written. "Gone to China."

The footage not seen in the teaser includes co-star Amy Adams and lead actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, the titular "master", a man claiming to be many things including writer, doctor and philosopher and he has attracted Freddie's attention. Dodd is a man who's witnessed the horrors of World War II and tries to rediscover who he is in post-war America and creates a belief system, something that catches on with other lost souls.

Freddie is one such soul and Adams' character, playing Lancaster's wife Mary Sue, doesn't necessarily trust him. Dodd, however, wants to help, but as the footage closed Adams says something along the lines of, "Maybe he's beyond help." I will say this, he definitely appears to have his issues as one snippet showed him masturbating on the beach. Not normal as far as I know.

A lot can be taken away from the small amount of footage that was shown, which must have totalled somewhere around four minutes. For starters, the performances look excellent. If this film is as good as this trailer leads me to believe it will be, we may be talking about three Oscar nominations for acting alone. Jonny Greenwood, who scored Anderson's There Will be Blood, is also back for this one and his music suits the mood beautifully.

Along with the dolly shot mentioned above, I found several of the shots to be interesting as Anderson and his cinematographer, Mihai Malaimare Jr. (Tetro), seem to focus heavily on close-ups, particularly a nearly hypnotic moment featuring Adams speaking directly into camera saying, "Look into my eyes."

Finally, while there have been denials that this film has anything to do with Scientology, I'm not really buying it, particularly based on Hoffman's introduction as Dodd.

Overall, the themes it looks like this film will be exploring will run deep with plenty to chew on as you walk out of the theater.

Sounding good.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I like the look of this a LOT.

The trailer makes the film look like it was made a few decades ago, and I mean that in a good way: the unusual subject matter, the atonal music, the lighting/framing of the scenes.

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