Pretty much since day one, Paul Thomas Anderson fanboys, god bless their hearts, have been scrambling to turn over any breadcrumb clue they could find for further insight and details into PTA's upcoming untitled project, colloquially known as "The Master." First off, a very early, unfinished draft of the script leaked last summer (our in-depth look at it still seems to be the most authoritative piece on it out there).
Earlier this year PTA fansite Cigarettes & Red Vines confirmed that longtime collaborator and cinematographer Robert Elswit, who's lensed every one of Anderson's films to date, would not be working on the picture. No reason was given, but we expect scheduling was the problem -- Elswit is meant to be shooting "The Bourne Legacy" for Tony Gilroy in the next few months, and we expect the clash couldn't be resolved. Either way, this lead to weeks of "who is going to shoot this thing if Elswit is not?"
C&RV have answered their own question, and sources close to PTA's camp tell them that young Romanian DoP Mihai Malaimare Jr. will be the man behind the camera on "The Master." Malaimare Jr. broke through on the 2004 Ioan Carmazan flick "Lotus," before being selected by veteran director Francis Ford Coppola on his last three films, "Youth Without Youth," "Tetro" and the upcoming "Twixt Now And Sunrise." Coppola, having worked with names like Gordon Willis, Vittoria Storaro and Michael Ballhaus over the years, certainly knows how to pick cinematographers, and the work on those films certainly pays testament to Malaimare Jr. being someone to watch.
Indeed, in 2007, Variety named Malaimare Jr. one of the 10 cinematographers of the year. "The Master" is currently shooting on location in Vallejo, California. Producers on the film say they hope to release the film at the end of 2012 likely as an Oscar contender. The site also reports that, as whispers in the past have suggested, the film will be shot at least in part on 65mm film, suggesting that it'll truly be a feast for the eyes.
Meanwhile, we generally don't pay too much time to conspiracy theories in our comments section, but this recently dropped nugget is too hard to pass up.
Industry rumor has it that Will Smith won’t commit to the lead in Quentin Tarantino’s film due to the Weinsteins’ involvement with Paul T Anderson’s Scientology project. And the crew on Anderson’s project was told to publicly deny any similarities between the faith in the film and Scientology, or face losing their jobs. The “challenges” to this production are far from over.
After all, PTA's film went from being called "Untitled Scientology Project" to "Untitled Western Project," with a second, radically different logline being released, describing Hoffman's character 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,” which essentially scrubbed all references to religion and scientology from its description. Even producer JoAnne Sellar seems to be towing that line pretty evenly, calling it "a World War Two drama." Now, we're not one for big, broad rumors and theories like this one, but do we think Anderson's project has radically changed to the point that it is no longer a thinly-veiled story about hubris, megalomania, cults and a L. Ron Hubbard-like stand in? We do not.
Rememeber, in August 2008, PTA put on a top secret play at Largo that starred his wife, Maya Rudolph and her SNL co-star Fred Armisen, a series of vignettes, with one in particular focusing on a couple, "getting to know each other over a complicated personality test." What many people didn't realize at the time is that personality test questions were taken from what is known as the Oxford Capacity Analysis, a free personality test that is given by the Church of Scientology, so it's clear that Anderson has an interest in the religion, and we can't see that disappearing overnight.
This is all scuttlebutt at this point, of course, and Smith's involvement in Scientology isn't necessarily that close (he's donated to certain causes connected to the religion, but isn't believed to be a member himself), but it's certainly a plausible story, although it's also worth noting that these conspiracy theories rear their head every time something faintly connected with Scientology crops up, so they should be taken with a pinch of salt. We imagine the truth will emerge down the line, but don't expect it to be any time soon. In the meantime, "The Master" is at least rolling, and with Malaimare Jr as director of photography: below is a behind the scenes clip from "Tetro," with Francis Ford Coppola talking about the young DP.