New York Times finally joins the party....Filmmaker’s Newest Work Is About ... Something
Paul Thomas Anderson Film May Be About Scientology
New York Times. 18th april 2012http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/movie ... ed=2&_r=1#
Somewhere in Los Angeles Mr. Anderson, 41, is now finishing what will be his sixth feature film. Fiercely protective of his process, he has declined to speak publicly about the movie. But the details suggest a story inspired by the founding of Scientology, and that has provoked industry whispers. With that church’s complicated Hollywood ties and high-profile adherents like Tom Cruise, a film even loosely based on it will guarantee discussion upon its release, on Oct. 12, by the Weinstein Company.
With “The Master” Mr. Anderson will tell a dual tale. The first is that of a boozy Navy veteran, played by Mr. Phoenix, who shares what Mr. Anderson’s associates say are accidental similarities with the filmmaker’s father, who died in 1997. The elder Anderson was a Navy vet who served in the Pacific during World War II, and, like Quell, was born about 90 years ago.
The second story is that of Lancaster Dodd, who is eerily referred to in a screenplay Mr. Anderson initially wrote for Universal Pictures only as “The Master” or “Master of Ceremonies.” Played by Mr. Hoffman, he is the red-haired, round-faced, charismatic founder of that most Californian of phenomena, a psychologically sophisticated, and manipulative, cult.
Dodd was inspired by — though not entirely modeled on — Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard.
“TRUST ME, IT’S NOT ABOUT Scientology
,” Mr. Hoffman told the journalist Jeffrey Wells, when asked about “The Master” at a party last September.
In a strict sense that is certainly true. The first Church of Scientology was incorporated in December 1953. Mr. Anderson’s story takes place in the preceding years, as Dodd spreads a philosophy that resembles Dianetics, which Hubbard developed before his church was formally founded.
As “The Master” took shape, Mr. Anderson, its writer and director, delved into the personalities behind cults and religious and pop psychology movements with roots in California. Those have included Aimee Semple McPherson, who used radio to evangelize in the 1920s; Werner Erhard, whose est movement swept California in the 1970s; and Jim Jones of San Francisco, whose followers drank the cyanide-laced Flavor Aid (not Kool-Aid) in 1978.
But a glance through the many photographs of Hubbard in the early ’50s — perched in western wear on a fence in Palm Springs, demonstrating his Electro-psychometer to a prone, high-heeled woman — reveals a telling likeness to Mr. Hoffman, who shares the same soft features, light hair and innate theatricality.
In a version of the script that circulated as Mr. Anderson sought financing, Lancaster Dodd is described as being in his mid-40s; Hubbard was in his early 40s during the matching years. Both share a love of boats, and a near-paranoid suspicion of the American Medical Association. Hubbard’s followers hope to become “clear”; the Master’s followers work toward “optimum.” Psychological exploration by and with either involves ruthless interrogation. Both wrote their ultimate secrets in a book that is said to kill its readers or drive them mad. They are obsessed with motorcycles. Their tantrums are monumental. Each has a wife named Mary Sue.
The Church of Scientology has a reputation for being dogged about policing its image. When the screenwriter and director Paul Haggis quit the church in 2009, he told The New Yorker, 9 or 10 members showed up in his yard to remind him of the damage that might be caused by a prominent member’s resignation. But associates of Mr. Anderson say those making the film have not been contacted, officially or otherwise, by representatives of Scientology.
Asked in March about the church’s awareness of “The Master,” Karen Pouw, a Scientology spokeswoman, said by e-mail: “Thank you very much for your inquiry. The Church only knows about the film what it has read in the press.”
Asked if that meant Scientology had no concerns about the movie, Ms. Pouw indicated that the church would wait and see. “We have not seen the film, so can’t say one way or another,” she said.
To wonder how Mr. Anderson first became fascinated with Hubbard and his thinking might lead nowhere. Having lived in Los Angeles for more than 40 years, he has almost certainly had his share of encounters with Scientology.
In 1999 he worked with Mr. Cruise, Hollywood’s best-known Scientologist, on “Magnolia.” Three years later he used artwork from Jeremy Blake in “Punch-Drunk Love,” that was said in news reports to have figured — though it is unclear how — in a chronology compiled by Mr. Blake of alleged harassment by Scientologists before both he and his girlfriend, Theresa Duncan, committed suicide in 2007.
One close associate of Mr. Anderson — who, again, spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect relationships — brushed aside speculation that Mr. Blake’s death was an impetus to “The Master.” “It’s been in his head for years and years and years, probably 12 years,” this friend said.
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