Making a film once every couple of years, Paul Thomas Anderson has firmly established himself as a director uninterested in Hollywood glitz and glamour. His films, which delve into the seedy underbelly of human nature and reveal both its good and bad sides, are something of a rare commodity because of their frequency (or lack thereof). That’s why his most recent film, The Master, has fallen under so many microscopes, and why every word Anderson says in regards to the film is scrutinized.
Among Anderson’s most choice statements about The Master is his claim that the character of Lancaster Dodd, played by frequent collaborator Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is based on L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. From there readers drew simple connections between Anderson’s comments, and the subject of his film – troubled WWII vet Freddie Sutton (Joaquin Phoenix) joins Dodd’s ‘religion’ and, in addition to comfort and love, comes upon a lot of questions – which caused many to wonder whether The Master was an expose bent on revealing Scientology as a fraud.
In his promotional tour for The Master, Anderson has revealed he never intended for such connections to be drawn, and has since discovered he has become “much more defensive and protective of [Scientology] than [he] would have thought.” It was Anderson’s naivety about the Hollywood press shining through, and now he’s being forced to divorce people’s perception from the film’s reality.
In addition to defending the Scientology connection, Anderson has been spending a lot of his press tour letting audiences into his process, which relies heavily on the director’s past experiences and encounters. There are even scenes from Anderson’s previous movie, There Will Be Blood, that after a little tweaking fit perfectly in The Master.
Connections to There Will Be Blood don’t stop there, either, as Anderson compares Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in this film with Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Daniel Plainview, a role for which he won an Oscar.
“At a certain point, Joaquin is just incapable of faking it. He’s like Daniel [Day-Lewis], his level of concentration. He just got in character and stayed there—for three months he didn’t stop. Joaquin is very unpredictable. A lot of the time I didn’t know what he was going to do.”
Regardless of reworked scenes, a connection to Scientology, or even similar thematic material across Anderson’s three previous films, The Master stands as a serious Oscar contender and one of the most anticipated films releasing in the latter part of 2012. It’s because of the director’s proclivity for secrecy and his ability to create brutally real characters, that audiences are chomping at the bit to see the film.
The Master releases September 14, 2012.