As many of you already know, I’m a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, and his upcoming film The Master. It is the most anticipated film of the year for all major film buffs and is released in the US in about 3 weeks. It has already been popping up in surprise screenings across the country in Santa Monica, Chicago, and New York. In fact it’s screening in San Francisco’s Castro Theatre tonight (Tues 21st Aug) – You lucky bustards! In the UK, we will have to wait until mid October for our first peek. But I’m hoping a few art house cinemas, like my local Watershed Cinema in Bristol, screen it earlier.

The hype built up around this film can be attributed to the subject matter, which at one time formed the working title: The Paul Thomas Anderson Scientology Film. It’s no secret that the characters in The Master closely resemble the lives of key Scientologist, from its earlier days. If you know a little bit about Scientology and their practices, you can hear the auditing process taking place in the background of both trailers. What we’re led to interpret from these is that the film is a critique of the Scientology religion, albeit a fictional stand-in known as The Cause. In There Will Be Blood, we saw a critique of religious charlatans, which could indicate that PTA is putting together a directorial trilogy of films revolving around religion.

But as you’d expect, no one attached to the film is admitting the Scientology link, and for good reason. The Church of Scientology is well known for its policy of playing dirty with regards to people being critical of its practices. This is probably why PTA invited Tom Cruise to a private screening, a few months ago. Perhaps as a courtesy to Cruise, seeing as the two worked together on PTA’s Oscar winning film Magnolia. Reportedly, Cruise was not particularly happy with the scene where it’s implied that the religion is ‘all made up’.

In a recent interview with Newsweek, PTA spoke to David Ansen, about his writing process and how he will implement some unused scripted scenes from There Will Be Blood in the Master.

“I was first writing scenes that didn’t have a home. I do that a lot, and then finally they come together. I like to write every day and keep working and not wait around for something to happen. Richard LaGravenese [the screenwriter] once said that writing should be like ironing a shirt: you keep going over the same spot, and you go a little deeper and a little deeper.”

As well as using scenes from There Will Be Blood, Ansen reported that PTA will also incorporate some real-life drinking stories, told by Magnolia actor Jason Robards, about his naval service during World War 2, as well as parts of John Steinbeck’s life story. I’m assuming the first trailer which shows the protagonist, played by Joaquin Phoenix, getting into scraps with fellow seamen and stealing alcholol from the ships hold, is the result of this. With regards to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as the master himself, Lancaster Dodd, Ansen states:

“The Master may be a fraud and a fabricator, but he’s no villain. He genuinely wants to heal his flock, and his belief in his own benevolence gives him power.”




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