- Published on Tuesday, May 22 2012
- Written by Katie Marzullo
For a while now, we’ve been hearing the vaguest mumblings about the latest project from one of my favorite directors, Paul Thomas “P.T.” Anderson, The Master. The man who showed no shame in bringing us such auteur, in-your-face flicks like Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood, is allegedly tackling a subject which is sure to ruffle many feathers in the Hollywood community – Scientology.
It’s no secret that the offbeat religion created by L. Ron Hubbard enjoys immense popularity and a high-profile following in this town. So much so that local courtrooms are filled to the brim with lawsuits brought on and upon its congregation, approximately 99% of them by Tom Cruise . For that reason alone, it’s not a wonder this film has been shrouded in secrecy. Even the teaser poster is nothing but a black slate with the words “The Master” in a plain white font. But while people assume it’s about Scientology (the main character is a charismatic man whose pseudo-religion becomes a craze in the 1950s), Anderson himself has neither confirmed nor denied the connection. The idea of the “cultist” is not a new one for films, for sure, and nothing from the available information about the film can be used as concrete evidence that Scientology was indeed what P.T. had in mind.
We at least had hoped that the first teaser trailer for the film would provide some clues…
Nope. A no-go there too.
Not that it isn’t insanely riveting. The trailer focuses solely on Joaquin Phoenix, who plays a “drifter” named Freddie Sutton who falls into this religious sect and becomes the right-hand man of its leader, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman – a perfect casting choice, if you ask me). Joaquin is being questioned by an officer (oddly enough, in a very similar manner to the infamous Free Personality Test conducted by Scientologists), evidently about some sort of crime he can’t seem to recall… Or can he? The camera, focused on Phoenix’s face, lingers on a grotesque, twisted grin as he calmly answers (or not) the officer’s probing questions in a gravelly drawl and chilling detachment. Even as he laughs at the officer's statements, his eyes remain cold and humorless. Hard to believe this is the same fella who pranced in fancy armor like a little Roman weenie in Gladiator.
Yes, this trailer tells us nothing… except that I want MORE MORE MORE! Check it out for yourself below:
What we do know for certain is, this film marks two comebacks for two remarkable and sorely missed talents – Misters Anderson and Phoenix. With 4+ years of laying low in the biz now out of their systems, one can only imagine what sort of creative volcano might be erupting in the very near future… Can’t wait!
The Master opens October 12 and also stars Amy Adams, Laura Dern, and Rami Malek.
UPDATE: I just got word that P.T. Anderson has screened a cut of the film exclusively for Tom Cruise, presumably to allay any hard feelings. (Cruise was one of the stars of Anderson's Magnolia and they are apparently friends in real-life). No word yet from Cruise's camp as to his reaction to the film. Additionally, The Weinstein Company, who is distributing the film, plans to hold a screening for another top-tier celeb Scientologist, John Travolta. From what I understand, these screenings are to help Anderson and the Weinsteins determine whether to publicly embrace the Scientology comparisons or keep them under wraps. The Church itself has declined to comment based on their having not yet seen the film. So, it seems like everyone is sort of tip-toeing around each other for some reason. We'll see how this pans out...
- Katie Marzullo, YH Staff Editor
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