Paul Thomas Anderson, the director of such brilliant films as There Will Be Blood and Magnolia, has announced his next film. Tentatively titled The Master, the period drama will focus on a “master of ceremonies” or a charismatic intellectual who creates his own religion in 1952.
The great Philip Seymour Hoffman is set to star in the Universal-produced project, re-teaming with Anderson after supporting roles in four of his films, including Punch-Drunk Love and Boogie Nights. As if I needed another reason to be pumped about PTA behind the camera, PSH is in front of it.
The story focuses on the relationship between the Master and Freddie, a twentysomething drifter and his second in command when establishing the religion. As the faith grows in popularity, Freddie questions his Master and the belief system. The right hand man is uncast.
Variety deliberately points out the film does not 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 interesting because it sounds exactly like Anderson is targeting Scientology, even if the studio is not willing to admit it. 1952 is a very specific date and happens to be the same year sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard started his outrageous organization.
To rephrase, that’s when one insane person began convincing other crazy people that humans were brought here on space ships by Xenu, the alien ruler of the Galactic Confederacy. A year later, Hubbard incorporated Scientology and started holding out his hand for donations. Now the cult has enough Tom Cruise and John Travolta dollars for their own cruise ship, where lucky (wealthy) imbeciles can reach OT level VIII.
NY Magazine blog Vulture wonders if Anderson’s friendship with Jeremy Blake has anything to do with the subject matter. Blake was part of the art department on 2002′s Punch-Drunk Love, and in 2007 committed double suicide with his girlfriend Theresa Duncan. She claimed the couple was being harassed by Scientologists after they indicated a desire to leave the “church.”
Anderson took off five years between his last two films, and hopefully we won’t have to wait until 2012 to see this in theaters. Universal is waiting on a final draft before giving the green light to the $35 million budget, presumably to look over what could be a controversial and scathing look at belief systems in general.