P.T. Anderson on Secrets of 'The Master' in Superb Newsweek Profile

August 20, 2012
Source: Newsweek

PTA's The Master

The film community is abuzz right now with anxious anticipation for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. Ever since that surprise screening at the Aero in Santa Monica a few weeks ago, followed by the Chicago screening last week, everyone has been going nuts over PTA's latest soon-to-be masterpiece. Thanks to a tip by The Film Stage, there's a profile on Paul Thomas Anderson in Newsweek that is a must read for any cinephile or PTA fan. The piece, which reads half as a glowing review, features a few select quotes from PTA which shed some light on intriguing details of The Master, including confirming the Scientology connection.

The piece, titled "Secrets of The Master - inside director P.T. Anderson's 'Scientology movie'," does get the obvious question out of the way up front. "Anderson freely acknowledges that this flamboyant character—a self-described author, sea captain, physicist, and philosopher—was inspired by L. Ron Hubbard. Once word of this leaked out, The Master immediately got tagged as Anderson's 'Scientology movie.'" Journalists love that angle. PTA adds: "I was naive, I should have known that's what people would latch onto." However, PTA himself says he's "much more defensive and protective of [Scientology] than I would have thought."

The Master stars Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie, a young post-war drifter who comes to meet Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, a charismatic intellectual behind a faith-based organization in the 1950s. One of the other interesting details brought up is about his work process. Newsweek says when he first started writing, he "had no idea what it was, where it was going, or where it would end up." PTA gives us a brief gilmpse into his process: "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." He even hints at how unused ideas for There Will Be Blood ended up in The Master:

Kind of like the mixologist Freddie, who makes booze from whatever is at hand, be it guavas or paint thinner, Anderson gathered pieces for his movie from disparate sources. There were scenes he'd written early on for There Will Be Blood he'd never used. There were stories Jason Robards had told him on the set of Magnolia about his drinking days in the Navy during the war. Chunks of Freddie's experiences as a migrant field worker and wanderer were lifted from John Steinbeck's life story. There was his fascination with the larger-than-life Hubbard. "But I didn't want it to be a biography. It's not the L. Ron Hubbard story," Anderson says. He was inspired by a quote he read that the period after wars was a particularly fertile time for spiritual movements to start. "That was a hook you could hang your hat on."

The more I hear from Paul Thomas Anderson about The Master, or any of his work, the more anxious I get to just see The Master in full. With responses like "Do not ask me about the film. NEEDS thought and 2nd viewing," I know we're in for quite an experience. PTA explains how he originally wrote the role for Philip Seymour Hoffman, but it evolved. "'He was my first audience. I'd hand him chunks and hear what he responded to.' For the longest time Anderson wasn't even sure whose story it was. It was Hoffman who clarified it for him: 'This is Freddie's story.' He also had Phoenix in mind as he was writing, and he knew the actor would keep his writing from sounding too literary." I suggest reading the full Newsweek profile, as there's plenty more where that came from. The Master hits theaters this September. Can't wait to see it!

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