It was some nine months ago that P.T. Anderson was forced to put his new film (then titled The Master) on indefinite hold, due in some part to both creative and financial concerns. Things have changed since then and the There Will Be Blood filmmaker is now on a course to begin shooting his new period drama/allegory on location in Sacramento next month.
That means that casting for Anderson’s currently-untitled religious cult project is already well underway, so that principal photography can actually get going in a matter of weeks.
Variety says that the latest additions to the cast of Anderson’s next directorial effort are Friday Night Lights actor Jesse Plemons and veteran character actor David Warshofsky – who previously collaborated with Anderson on There Will Be Blood. Plemons will also appear next year in Universal’s big-budget Battleship movie, while Warshofsky recently signed on for a supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic.
Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman is still onboard to star in Anderson’s religion drama as “a charming intellectual” who begins a Scientology-inspired belief system that resonates with many an American in the wake of World War II. Joaquin Phoenix will play a recovering alcoholic who becomes Hoffman’s right-hand man (a part that Jeremy Renner was at one point set to tackle).
Anderson’s Scientology-based project was bound to attract controversy from the get-go; it doesn’t exactly read as a film with stellar box office potential, so its delay was not all that shocking. Back when he was still planning to star in the film, Renner had said that the project stalled because he, Hoffman, and Anderson “kept coming up against a wall that we couldn’t overcome. Or at least that Paul couldn’t overcome.” So that unspecified issue has (presumably) been settled at this point.
“Unorthodox” is perhaps one of the simplest terms you could use to describe Anderson’s collective filmography as a director. He’s been at the helm of two stylistically innovative period dramas – one about the California pornography industry in the 1970s (Boogie Nights) and the other about the U.S. oil industry in the late 19th/early 20th century (There Will Be Blood); an often surreal romantic comedy that stars Adam Sandler as an emotionally-damaged toilet plunger manufacturer (Punch-Drunk Love); and even a kaleidoscopic ensemble tale about the intersecting lives of troubled people – that culminates in a scene where frogs literally rain from the sky (Magnolia).
What exactly then can moviegoers expect from P.T. Anderson’s (for now) untitled religious cult film? If nothing else, something that makes for a fascinatingly unusual and memorable viewing experience.
Look to hear more about the project in the upcoming months.