‘The Master’ director Paul Thomas Anderson skirts Scientology question at TIFF
In "The Master" Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a charismatic leader of a new religious group in post-WWII America. Even though the Internet is buzzing as to whether the group’s unconventional methods are based on Scientology, director Paul Thomas Anderson wouldn’t bite when asked the question at a TIFF press conference Saturday.
“Is this what we’re talking about?” asked a reporter.
“Good. OK,” replied a cryptic Anderson.
“The Master,” which also stars Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams, is already generating a ton of hype and just took home two awards at the Venice Film Festival. The film scored Best Actor (for Hoffman and Phoenix combined) and the Silver Lion Award (a prize for directing) for Anderson. The film was originally awarded the top honour, the Golden Lion Award, but rules state a film can only receive two awards so the jury was forced to re-deliberate and award it to South Korean film “Pieta.”
But Johnson, who is best known for his films “Boogie Nights,” “Punch-Drunk Love” and “There Will Be Blood,” isn’t upset in the least.
“I’m thrilled with whatever they want to hand over,” he says.
“The best part is they gave it to both of the boys, which is so cool.”
In the movie Phoenix (who was noticeably absent from the press conference) plays Freddie Quell, a war veteran with a violent streak who has trouble keeping a regular job following his time served. One night, in a drunken stupor, he stumbles onto the boat of Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), who allows Freddie to stay and be his “guinea pig” for testing his methods of delving deep into the unconscious.
Even though Freddie quickly falls under his “master’s” spell, Anderson doesn’t consider the faux religion in the movie as a cult.
“The story after the war is like food and drink to me in terms of a lot of good stuff to tell a story. There's a mix of a tremendous amount of optimism but an incredibly large body count behind you,” says Anderson.
“I guess that creates situations where people want to talk about past lives, about what happens after you die and those kinds of ideas,” he continues. “‘The Master’ is putting forward that time travel is possible, accessing things that have happened to you in other lives are possible.”
Phoenix and Hoffman go head-to-head throughout the movie in a series of raw, revealing scenes but Anderson says there wasn’t any power struggles between his two male leads.
“They’re really strong hitters but they’re also team players,” he says.
Adams, who plays Dodd’s seemingly meek wife, also really enjoyed going head-to-head with Hoffman.
“It was fun to get to go toe-to-toe with him as a person of power. In the past roles I’ve been a bit more submissive so it was great to get to overpower Philip because that’s the only time that’s ever going to happen in my life,” she says with a laugh during the press conference.
With top film awards already under its belt and buzz mounting by the day, Anderson doesn’t know what to say when asked why “The Master” is resonating with so many people.
“I’m not sure what’s going on. It’s kind of amazing how people are responding to it,” he says.
“It’s a film you really, really have to think about,” adds producer JoAnne Sellar. “I think people want to see films like that and I don’t think there’s a lot of them around at the moment.”