The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, has become a hot topic among movie buffs, who are anxiously awaiting his follow-up to There Will Be Blood. The forthcoming period piece is rumored to shine a light on the Church of Scientology, whose most prominent structure is smack-dab in Hollywood.
The highly controversial movement has been an integral part of Hollywood since long before Tom Cruise first became an Operating Thetan. Some believe there may be sinister workings behind the church, and very few artists have dared to use it as material.
Until now - we think. Still, outside of the chatter, very few hard facts are known about The Master, which is scheduled to open Oct. 12. Here are five things we do know about Anderson's risky cinematic venture.
1. It Looks Like An Origin Story Of A Fictional, Scientology-Like Religion. The plot centers on a religion known as The Cause, which echoes the controversial principles of Scientology. In Anderson's film, Philip Seymour Hoffman's character starts a movement based on newfound religious principles after World War II. By comparison, L. Ron Hubbard began promoting scientology in 1952 (seven years after World War II).
2. It Has An Impressive Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Laura Dern all have roles in The Master. For Phoenix, this will be his first on-screen appearance since the head scratching mockumentary I'm Not There, in which he took on the appearance of a Neanderthal and mumbled incoherently. Jeremy Renner, the thinking man's actor du jour, was initially cast in the film but dropped out. Rumor has it that Renner's creative relationship with notable Scientologist Tom Cruise had something to do with it. Renner stared in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol with Cruise and subsequently signed a deal to headline future Mission films.
3. The Film Almost Never Happened: The fact that Anderson has directed such distinguished films as Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood doesn't mean studios automatically back his projects. Universal Pictures passed on funding The Master, put off by the religious subject matter. Another chance to get it off the ground came from River Road Pictures, a smaller studio that was willing to risk making the contentious film. Yet before the ink was dry on the contract, Renner and his would-be co-star Reese Witherspoon dropped out of the production. The Legally Blonde star was reportedly in the middle of a deal with Will Smith's production company, Overbook Entertainment. According to Street Carnage, Witherspoon may have left The Master to avoid offending Smith - who is rumored to be a Scientologist but has never publicly acknowledged an affiliation with the church. Following the casting difficulties, it seemed the project would never be made. Then Megan Ellison, daughter of tech billionaire Larry Elison, decided to finance the entire film herself and assured that The Master was picked up by the Weinstein Company.
4. Anderson Remains Mum: Despite the buzz surrounding the film, Anderson refuses to comment on the project. In fact, he has seldom commented on any of his films. He offered some insight into this decision when he told the New York Times that directing is 50 percent of getting a film made. He said, The other 50 percent is this gene of protectiveness and parenting and evil that safeguards your movie.
5. Oscar Nominations Are a Possibility: The Master marks the respected director's sixth film. The majority of is previous work has been honored with Oscar nominations. There Will Be Blood (2008) received a whopping eight nominations, including Best Picture while Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (2000) earned three apiece. Based on Anderson's previous accolades, it's safe to assume that The Master may be a major part of Oscar season 2013.