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Peter T Chattaway

The Master (2012)

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Anderson working on 'Master'
"There Will Be Blood" writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson is working on his next project, a period drama to star Philip Seymour Hoffman as a founder of a new religious organization in the 1950s. The project is set up at Universal, which will make a decision about whether to greenlight the pic, with a $35 million budget, once Anderson delivers a finished script.
Hoffman, who has played supporting roles in most of Anderson's past films, this time will be at the center, playing "the Master," as in "master of ceremonies," a charismatic intellectual who hatches a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in America in 1952. The core is the relationship between the Master and Freddie, a twentysomething drifter who becomes the leader's lieutenant. As the faith begins to gain a fervent following, Freddie finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor.
The drama does not so much scrutinize self-started churches like Scientology or the Mormons, as much as it explores the need to believe in a higher power, the choice of which one to embrace and the point at which a belief system graduates into a religion. . . .
Variety, December 2

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With a different writer/director guiding the project, I would fear that the film wouldn't be interesting, but Anderson's one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers, and has shown remarkable growth. While the concept behind MASTER doesn't grab me, I know that Anderson has a talent for taking his stories to unexpected, interesting places. I'm also intrigued to see what Anderson has to suggest about the concept of faith and belief.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Sounds like a must see - thanks for highlighting it.

Matt

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Does anyone have confirmation that the title of the project is "The Master"? This Variety story doesn't say so. It just says that Hoffman is playing someone called "the Master." Drawing from the Variety story, Obsessed With Film says, "The Master, may very well end up being the title of the movie."

Just curious.

That said, when I discovered the news (on Twitter, thanks to Alissa Wilkinson), my heart rate went from 60 to about 130 bpm. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Anderson's my favorite American director. (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, it's Malick. I take Sunday's off.) To see him working with Hoffman again... that's just fantastic. Hoffman's character in Magnolia was one of the highlights of that film, and he's seems to have grown so much as an actor since then.

Edited by Overstreet

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While the concept behind MASTER doesn't grab me, I know that Anderson has a talent for taking his stories to unexpected, interesting places.

I felt the same way about "uhhh..oil tycoon" and it's in my top 5 of the decade.

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So This New Paul Thomas Anderson Movie Is Definitely About Scientology, Right?

We wonder if, to any degree, the idea for Master was inspired by Anderson's friendship with Jeremy Blake, the visual artist with whom he collaborated on 2002's Punch Drunk Love. As you'll recall, Blake and girlfriend Theresa Duncan took their own lives in 2007 under mysterious circumstances, with Duncan alleging they'd been harassed by Scientologists after the couple's friend Beck told them he was thinking about leaving the religion (Beck, of course, denied this). So we guess we probably shouldn't look for "Devil's Haircut" on The Master's soundtrack.

Vulture, New York, December 3

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Hadn't heard about Blake. That's really sad his work on Punch Drunk Love was incredible. It's in my top 5 of the decade.

Matt

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While the concept behind MASTER doesn't grab me, I know that Anderson has a talent for taking his stories to unexpected, interesting places.

I felt the same way about "uhhh..oil tycoon" and it's in my top 5 of the decade.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD is my #1 of the decade. A towering achievement.

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Both Punch-drunk and Plainview are in the top 10 of my list-in-progress, but I stil have too many heavy-hitters from 2009 to see yet.

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With a different writer/director guiding the project, I would fear that the film wouldn't be interesting, but Anderson's one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers, and has shown remarkable growth. While the concept behind MASTER doesn't grab me, I know that Anderson has a talent for taking his stories to unexpected, interesting places. I'm also intrigued to see what Anderson has to suggest about the concept of faith and belief.

Absolutely.

I felt the same way about "uhhh..oil tycoon" and it's in my top 5 of the decade.

Absolutely. Well, not Top 5 for me. But certainly one of the best.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Anderson's my favorite American director. (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, it's Malick. I take Sunday's off.)

Riiiiight, Jeffrey. Everyone here knows that every sunday you build an altar to LvT. You can run from the truth, but we know you ALL. Too. Well... :)

Edited by Persona

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Wells:

In its announcement story, Variety wrote that "the drama does not so much scrutinize self-started churches like Scientology or the Mormons, as much as it explores the need to believe in a higher power, the choice of which one to embrace and the point at which a belief system graduates into a religion."

That's a smokescreen statement. I was sent a copy of PTA's untitled script yesterday and while I haven't read all of it, it sure reads like a Scientology critique to me. I'm particularly thinking of a line near the end in which Hoffman's "Master" presents a contact that he wants Freddie to sign that stipulates he "will serve the Cause above all other laws and regulations in this or any other neighboring galaxy for three billion years." That sounds kinda Hubbardy...no?

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FWIW, I thought about linking to that Wells item too, but then I noticed that one of the comments claims it's a fake script. I guess we'll find out when the film comes out. (Assuming it isn't drastically re-written.)

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Was this Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test about Duncan and Blake, and van Sant's movie about them? [Edit: I guess not since he supposedly reffered to it as "funny" anyway]... But is it not true that van Sant is making a movie about them?

I'm still wondering how close Scientology and its role in "suicides" would be to Theo van Gogh and his movies about the Muslim community. I know it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that fundamentalist group killed Van Gogh only, what, six years ago? I guess I'm fearing for Anderson if he really is going through with this.

Edited by Persona

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FWIW, I thought about linking to that Wells item too, but then I noticed that one of the comments claims it's a fake script. I guess we'll find out when the film comes out. (Assuming it isn't drastically re-written.)

Fake, full-length scripts are hard to come by. They usually crop up for big, hyped blockbusters (like INDY IV, which had quite a few fakes, or the STAR WARS prequels, the MATRIX sequels, etc.). It's really rare for a film as relatively off-the-radar as Anderson's THE MASTER to inspire a fake script, especially since writing a fake screenplay is oodles of work. Nevermind that the commenter's allegation isn't really supported; it's just a token statement. My wager is that what Wells read was genuine.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Update:

EXCLUSIVE: After the disappointing box office returns on Paul Greengrass’s thoughtful but vastly expensive action polemic Green Zone, what’s gonna happen with a new Paul Thomas Anderson drama that won’t get made by Universal because of its $35 million budget?

I’m hearing talks are serious for Bill Pohlad’s River Road to fully finance a film that will star Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic intellectual who becomes the leader of a start-up religion in the 1950s that takes off like wildfire. The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner is circling the role of a young drifter who becomes his right hand man but begins to question his mentor and the whole belief thing.

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Reese Witherspoon Reportedly Offered Role in P.T. Anderson's Scientology Film

Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line") has reportedly been offered a role in Paul Thomas Anderson's untitled Scientology drama, according to the latest issue of Production Weekly.

When asked whether the actress is in talks to join the project, Witherspoon's representation at CAA told TheWrap "no comment."

Deal Central has read a very rough, 124-page early draft of Anderson's script, and the story, which appears to be loosely based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, centers on a charismatic intellectual dubbed The Master (Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote") and his relationship with a young, aimless, alcoholic drifter named Freddie Sutton (Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker") who eventually becomes The Master's right-hand man.

While there is no explicit reference to Scientology in the screenplay, it's not hard to see the numerous references. The Playlist's script review describes The Master as having created "a faith-based organization called The Cause that begins to catch on in America in 1952. As the faith begins to gain a fervent following, Freddie finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor."

Deal Central willfully speculates that if Witherspoon takes a role, she'll likely be playing Hoffman's much younger pregnant wife, Mary Sue, which was the name of L. Ron Hubbard's spouse. Although none of the women in this draft of the screenplay have particularly major roles, it's possible that characters have changed and/or been expanded, especially if Witherspoon is actually on board. . . .

TheWrap.com, May 27

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I hope Witherspoon is in this, I'd love to see her work in a serious role with PTA.

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If she'd be playing the part I think she'd be playing, it would be an interesting role for her. A bit edgier than anything I've seen her do to date.

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I hope Witherspoon is in this, I'd love to see her work in a serious role with PTA.

Kinda like what he did for Adam Sandler perhaps?

Matt

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Kinda like what he did for Adam Sandler perhaps?

Exactomundo.

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This quote is fairly interesting:

"I was really bummed about that," Renner revealed. "It really kind of stalled because when we were rehearsing — Phil, Paul and myself — we kept coming up against a wall that we couldn't overcome. Or at least Paul couldn't overcome."

I may be reading it wrong, but it seems that the reasons THE MASTER has stalled aren't financial, but creative. I hope this gets back on track. The script is pretty brilliant.

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