Attending a recent special screening for "The Master" at the 2012 Venice Film Festival, director Paul Thomas Anderson took some time to discuss the theme of his highly-praised movie. While it was previously denied that that the film was related to Scientology, Anderson finally acknowledged its connection with the much-talked-about belief.
Anderson admitted Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard became the inspiration for the film's title. Still, the filmmaker insisted that the drama wouldn't focus solely on the Scientology subject, but it would follow the relationship between a charismatic spiritual leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his troubled devotee (Joaquin Phoenix).
"The narrative is just driven by these two guys, and their love for each other," Anderson said, as quoted by The Associated Press. He opened up that the fact that Hoffman's character was actually influenced by Hubbard "is not an elephant in the room."
He continued, "I really don't know a whole hell of a lot about Scientology, particularly now. But I do know a lot about the beginning of the movement and it inspired me to use it as a backdrop for these characters."
Furthermore, the 42-year-old director stressed that the idea of making the movie didn't come up from his friendship with Tom Cruise, stating, "We are still friends. I showed him the film, and the rest is between us."
Set in America in the years following World War II, "The Master" follows a charismatic intellectual who launches a faith-based organization and taps a young drifter as his right-hand man. However, as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the onetime vagabond finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor.
Hoffman explained that his character and Phoenix's actually shared a lot of things in common. "They're both wild beasts I think ultimately," said the Oscar winner. "One of them has just tamed it somehow and he's trying to teach other people how to do that, but ultimately that's where the doubt and the whole reluctant prophet thing comes in. Ultimately he wants to be wild like (Phoenix's) Freddie is, so there's this real attraction there over that. "
"The Master" has been generating positive buzz due to its theme. Previously, Harvey Weinstein, whose studio distributed the film, insisted that the film was not about Scientology. "Paul says to me the movie is about a journey for soldiers after World War II - my own dad was one of those guys - and, you know, one of the things that happens to this soldiers is he goes to a cult," the movie mogul explained.
"Look, I mean, whatever, people are going to draw their own conclusions, and right now there are heated conclusions, and the Tom [Cruise] and Katie [Holmes] situation has exacerbated that. It's going to be a controversial movie. But it's a tour de force. I hope what doesn't get lost is how wonderful the filmmaking is."