THERE WILL BE BLOOD: New P.T. Anderson Alert


WIKIPEDIA: The Master is an upcoming drama film written, directed, and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson. It was given the green-light in May 2011, and began filming in June. The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Laura Dern. The plot involves a religion called “The Cause” which has been compared to Scientology. A charismatic intellectual (Hoffman) launches a religious organization following World War II. A drifter (Phoenix) becomes his right-hand man but as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the drifter finds himself questioning the belief system and his mentor. Score by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood. The Master is scheduled for release on October 12, 2012. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: With “The Master” Mr. Anderson will tell a dual tale. The first is that of a boozy Navy veteran, played by Mr. Phoenix, who shares what Mr. Anderson’s associates say are accidental similarities with the filmmaker’s father, who died in 1997. The elder Anderson was a Navy vet who served in the Pacific during World War II, and, like Quell, was born about 90 years ago. The second story is that of Lancaster Dodd, who is eerily referred to in a screenplay Mr. Anderson initially wrote for Universal Pictures only as “The Master” or “Master of Ceremonies.” Played by Mr. Hoffman, he is the red-haired, round-faced, charismatic founder of that most Californian of phenomena, a psychologically sophisticated, and manipulative, cult.

Dodd was inspired by — though not entirely modeled on — Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard. “TRUST ME, IT’S NOT ABOUT Scientology,” Mr. Hoffman told the journalist Jeffrey Wells, when asked about “The Master” at a party last September. In a strict sense that is certainly true. The first Church of Scientology was incorporated in December 1953. Mr. Anderson’s story takes place in the preceding years, as Dodd spreads a philosophy that resembles Dianetics, which Hubbard developed before his church was formally founded.

As “The Master” took shape, Mr. Anderson, its writer and director, delved into the personalities behind cults and religious and pop psychology movements with roots in California. Those have included Aimee Semple McPherson, who used radio to evangelize in the 1920s; Werner Erhard, whose est movement swept California in the 1970s; and Jim Jones of San Francisco, whose followers drank the cyanide-laced Flavor Aid (not Kool-Aid) in 1978.

But a glance through the many photographs of Hubbard in the early ’50s — perched in western wear on a fence in Palm Springs, demonstrating his Electro-psychometer to a prone, high-heeled woman — reveals a telling likeness to Mr. Hoffman, who shares the same soft features, light hair and innate theatricality. In a version of the script that circulated as Mr. Anderson sought financing, Lancaster Dodd is described as being in his mid-40s; Hubbard was in his early 40s during the matching years. Both share a love of boats, and a near-paranoid suspicion of the American Medical Association. Hubbard’s followers hope to become “clear”; the Master’s followers work toward “optimum.” Psychological exploration by and with either involves ruthless interrogation. Both wrote their ultimate secrets in a book that is said to kill its readers or drive them mad. They are obsessed with motorcycles. Their tantrums are monumental. Each has a wife named Mary Sue. MORE

RED VINES & CIGARETTES: A cryptic note from P.T. Anderson

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