Whoa: PTA Says 'The Master' Title Originally Came from the Internet
Say what? It's the year of PTA, meaning we've got a new Paul Thomas Anderson film, with plenty to talk about. PTA himself has been out doing interviews around the world, mainly with notable newspapers and other high class media. However, one of my favorite quotes was caught by our colleagues at The Playlist, who are going to be in the spotlight of attention now. In an interview with Katherine Monk of the Vancouver Sun, PTA was asked directly about the title of "The Master", his new film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, and his response: "In fact, the Internet actually gave it its title first."
I love his very frank answer to the question of how he chose the title The Master: "You know, you're the first journalist to ask me about the title. Really, it was just a process of elimination. In fact, the Internet actually gave it its title first. A version of my script got out online years ago [that story below] and they referred to it as The Master, even though it didn't have a title on it or anything. So we just ended up calling it The Master. We never did find another title for the film." The rest is history. Especially with it already setting per-theater-average limited opening records. I guess I always assumed the title was something he had come up with, but The Playlist goes on to take credit and explains what happened for those catching up. Recap:
"I was kind of like in search of a story, in search of a kind of venue," PTA explained about his super early gestating ideas about the story. "I had a situation where he snuck on a boat -- he ended up on some boat that he didn't belong on -- I had variations on that. And there was this master of ceremonies who wondered, 'Why are you on my boat?'' Messing around. It was all kind of vague like that - I was just sort of messing around writing, and then about four or five years ago, I started becoming more specific, 'What is this? Where are these pieces going?'"
The backstory: In 2010 a very early sketched-out version of the script leaked online... Curious and eager to see for ourselves, we got our hands on the script and analyzed what was clearly a Paul Thomas Anderson script (albeit one in very rough form) and its similarities to the history and details of Scientology.
For the purposes of the article we referred to the script as "The Master," and well, apparently the name stuck. What's fascinating is how similar that raw sketch was to the final film, even though it clearly grew and changed. But the fundamental basics -- as you can tell by reading the original piece -- are still there in the final product.
How crazy, but amazing, is that story? It's a good title anyway. I've been hearing rumors that The Weinstein Company has had nothing to do with the marketing of the film, and may have even been angry at the way PTA is running his own show, including hosting his own impromptu 70mm screenings. Take that thought and combine it with this news that the title itself was a creation of the internet rumor-mill, which later stuck because, why not, it's insane to think about. This is why I love PTA, he's a genius through simplicity. And this is why I love that his film is making truck loads of money. Fine with me if it works for the audience, too.
"I don't really enjoy the fruits of my labour," PTA quips later in the interview. "I'm much more interested in the labour... but I really can't complain. I love my job." Read the complete interview on Vancouver Sun for more. This title situation is similar to Cloverfield, too. While quotes from co-writer Matt Reeves initially claim the name was their creation as an early fake-company project name, the title Cloverfield later ended up being used just because it was the title everyone kept referring to it as. J.J. Abrams explains a similar situation: "By that time [Comic-Con], the name Cloverfield had already leaked out, and the fans already knew it by that name, so we just decided to stick with that." Same with The Master - why not? It works well.
Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is currently playing in 5 select cinemas in New York and Los Angeles now, expanding into even wider release this weekend. Catch the grand 70mm experience while you still can!