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VENICE: 'The Master' Press Conference; Cruise & Anderson Still Friends

Photo of Matt Mueller By Matt Mueller | Thompson on Hollywood September 2, 2012 at 10:56AM

Despite an enthusiastic reception as he entered the room, Paul Thomas Anderson held up his reputation as elusive prey at "The Master" press conference in Venice, and his two stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix were happy to fall in step behind him. In fact, Phoenix barely said a word, dragging on a cigarette, offering a couple of mumbling replies and even leaving the room for a spell. But there were still nuggets to be gleaned.
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Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix & Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix & Paul Thomas Anderson

Despite an enthusiastic reception as he entered the room, Paul Thomas Anderson held up his reputation as elusive prey at "The Master" press conference in Venice, and his two stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix were happy to fall in step behind him. In fact, Phoenix barely said a word, dragging on a cigarette, offering a couple of mumbling replies and even leaving the room for a spell. But there were still nuggets to be gleaned.

Queried about "The Master"'s elliptical narrative, in which Phoenix's feral drifter Freddie Quell comes under the spell of Hoffman's intellectual prophet Lancaster Dodd, Anderson said, "I think we were just trying to tell a love story between these two guys. We had a lot of scenes that weren't about that and we took them out."

The inevitable Scientology-laced questions emerged, with Anderson revealing that he had already shown the film to Tom Cruise and that "we're still friends – the rest is between us." On how much the film's narrative draws on Scientology and the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the filmmaker said, "That's not an elephant in the room. This is a character that I created based on L. Ron Hubbard, there's a lot of similarities to the early days of Dianetics... I don't know a hell of a lot about Scientology today but I know about the beginnings of that movement and it inspired me to use it as a backdrop for these characters. I can't be any more unambiguous than that."

This article is related to: The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Venice Film Festival


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.