Some pieces of the puzzle have lately come together for Paul Thomas Anderson's next project, a film that was previously best known as The Master. The key stars have recently been set, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix set to take the roles of a man who invents a "belief system" and one of his disciples. This is the picture that everybody has been calling a story about Scientology, and I'm sure that, on some level at least, that's just what it is.
Earlier in the week, Deadline listed some actresses that Anderson was looking at for roles in the picture:
Madisen Beaty, Amy Adams, Lena Endre, Laura Dern.
Sounds like they were being considered for the daughters of "The Master", Philip Seymour Hoffman's character. If this is a film about Scientology or something like it, then he's the L. Ron Hubbard figure .
In the same report, Deadline suggested that Anderson's script for the film has been heavily reworked (since when?). They describe it like this:
Hoffman stars as 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.
I thought the Phoenix character was the protagonist – maybe it's that shift of emphasis that brought about the rewrite? I mean, I'm just guessing…
Now, anyhow, none of that plot blurb sounds like prime material for a Western, does it? It's surprising, then, that the film is now going by the handle Untitled Western Project.
This is according to a new Backstage article, largely about the appointment of Anderson's regular casting director Cassandra Kulukundis for this film.
So, is this working title just a smokescreen, something to keep Kulukundis' long line of actors off the scent? Or does this film somehow fit within the Western idiom and earn the label?
Think Western and you might thing big open plains, wide panoramas and, very possibly, a good reason to be shooting in 70mm.
This could certainly be very interesting. I'm not sure I can quite imagine a film that's a) set in post-war America b) fulfills the generic requirements of a Western and c) tackles a constructed religion made in the image of Scientology. A curious weave.
Of course, there's another alternative… that Anderson is about to make a different film, a Western but nothing to do with "Masters" or Dianetics or any such bunk. Seems like a long shot, but I still wouldn't be surprised.