So I’ve kept up with Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master pretty closely, and it’s definitely been a roller coaster ride of disappointment and excitement as the film was announced, poised to begin, collapsed, was triumphantly saved, has flirted with cast members, and now we can say for sure that the film will be his next, it has a distributor, and it starts shooting June 13th.
It’s also a different movie now.
Without getting too dramatic, Anderson has apparently rewritten the script in such a way that the film sounds less like a look into the creation of a cult formed around a vaguely sinister, charismatic figure, and more about the creation of a belief system as a reaction to the horrors of the world. Deadline describes the script as being about “a man who returns after witnessing the horrors of WWII and tries to rediscover who he is in post-war America. He creates a belief system, something that catches on with other lost souls.”
Those details could certainly fit within the old framework of the original synopsis, which revolved around “a charismatic intellectual who hatches a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in America in 1952” and his “lieutenant” that grew wary of the cult’s activities. That said, word is that the script has been “greatly overhauled”, so it would be silly to assume we’re talking about the same kind of story, even if we don’t know if it’s the plot, themes, or tone that has changed most drastically.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter- PTA has been empowered to tell a story he wants to tell, how he wants to tell it, and if he’s gravitated to something different with all of his new-found resources then we’ll probably be treated to a more pure vision. We know he’ll be working with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and now we also know that Joaquin Phoenix is a lock, so we’ll have an interesting return performance from him as well. Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Madisen Beaty, and Lena Endre are all actresses being eyed for parts, with no word what kind of roles need to be filled on the female side.
Changes be damned, this is the most exciting project in Hollywood.
In case you were curious, it was The Weinstein Company that won what was apparently a very competitive bidding war for the rights to distribute the film. Ironic, considering the film was housed at a major studio for a while before it got dumped- now everybody comes a’calling. The Weinsteins are on an upswing after years of struggling, with everyone and their cat ready to call the company’s time-of-death at the drop of a hat. One must admit that they thoroughly won last year, and did so through some seriously cunning, old-school Hollywoodin’. Nabbing this project ain’t a bad victory lap.
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