When there’s enough controversy, enough rumors, and plenty of reason to take either as fact, you sometimes just accept. Such is the case with The Master and its reportedly harsh-on-Scientology bent, which most of us have, for years, bought because we (probably) didn’t have any resources to acquire Paul Thomas Anderson‘s screenplay. And when you, again, hear a whole lot and always have “anonymous sources” backing up as much? It’s really all part of the fun.
But people, such as our own, have started to see the film and, any of their opinions notwithstanding, it’s pretty evident that The Master is not just “about more than Scientology,” but isn’t even really about that in the first place. Some don’t even appear to know what the thing’s about at all.
Count your lucky stars that a Newsweek profile sees the modern American master speak out on his new epic, even in the most in-depth manner yet. To be perfectly frank: I kind of wish I had skimmed this a bit more when first giving a gander, as the report — a pretty excellent one, in all fairness — shares details on sequences, characters, and whatnot that I might have been better off not knowing beforehand. Such is the risk of my life.
So, let’s get right to the essentials. First, Anderson did admit that Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s titular character, Lancaster Dodd, is inspired by L. Ron Hubbard — no surprise there — though that could really be as far as it goes. Their story warns that Scientologists probably won’t be thrilled with what The Master presents, yet the director’s typical themes of fractured protagonists and “families” take over; the main idea, of civilizing a scarred being, is said to actually bring A Clockwork Orange . If anything, he’s now found himself “much more defensive and protective of [Scientology] than I would have thought.”
Although Kubrick isn’t such a bad place to get your inspiration from — i.e., if such a thematic crossover is even intentional — some of Anderson‘s prior work even comes back around in unexpected ways. Read this little section for an idea:
“Anderson gathered pieces for his movie from disparate sources. There were scenes he’d written early on for There Will Be Blood he’d never used. There were stories Jason Robards had told him on the set of Magnolia about his drinking days in the Navy during the war. Chunks of Freddie’s experiences as a migrant field worker and wanderer were lifted from John Steinbeck’s life story.”
Although the Of Mice and Men author doesn’t exactly connect, save for the California roots of either artist, it’s fascinating to consider how his last and soon-to-be-current pictures have any sort of crossovers. Sadly, that needs to be saved for another time: when I see it. Then, that discussion should be a good time.
The Master will open on September 14th.
Do you think Anderson and Scientology need not be enemies? What are your thoughts on these connections to his prior work?