By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 22, 2012 at 7:21PM
Since rumors started to fly about Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, "The Master," which was said, and has now pretty much been confirmed, to be about the much-mocked religion of Scientology, there's been one question on the back of many our minds: what does Tom Cruise think about the whole thing? The megastar is, after all, both an Oscar nominee for his supporting turn in Anderson's 1999 film "Magnolia," and a leading light in, and often public spokesman for, the Church of Scientology, the very subject which his former director was tackling with his latest film.
Both Anderson and The Weinstein Company have been at pains to avoid publicly connecting the film with the religion, but it was clear from anyone who saw the footage unveiled at Cannes yesterday what the writer-director is up to with the project. Well, according to The Wrap, 1) Cruise and Anderson are still friends, and in touch, and 2) the filmmaker has actually screened a cut of his film for the actor. And what did Cruise think? Well, he's not exactly been tweeting his reaction or anything, but according to The Wrap's sources, he "has issues" with it. Which is probably to be expected. At the same time, he doesn't seem to have kicked off, or threatened legal action, or defriended Anderson on Facebook, or killed the director with his Xenu mind powers or anything. The implication is it's a kind of agree-to-disagree response.
Even if it's not, it's clear that the Weinstein Company and Anderson are being pretty transparent with the Scientologist community: Harvey W apparently wants to screen the picture to Hollywood's other exponent of the religion, John Travolta. Possibly while giving him a back rub. Supposedly, it's in part to determine whether the studio should avoid mentioning Scientology in their campaign, or play it up. We can't imagine the leadership would be too keen on the latter.
To be honest, we find the whole thing a bit overblown. It's clear at this point that Anderson used founder L. Ron Hubbard as a starting-off point for his film, but it's also unlikely to be a full-on depiction of Scientology (and if he's happy to show it to Cruise, then it's probably not a straight attack, either). And the idea that Harvey Weinstein needs to bow down to the Scientology overlords is laughable; Scientology is bonkers, and secretive, and not necessarily a force for good in the world, but the same can pretty much be said for... well, every religion, and when you start to ascribe conspiratorial powers to them, it's you that starts to look like the crackpot. Anyway, "The Master" hits theaters on October 12th, with or without the Church of Scientology's seal of approval.