The subject of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master isn’t immediately obvious from the recently released teaser trailer, but that’s only because it was a brilliantly cut piece of promotion that did exactly what it should; tease. The only things clear from it? Anderson hasn’t lost his touch in the five years since There Will Be Blood, and wow are we thrilled that Joaquin Phoenix didn’t actually quit acting to become a rapper.
The film is about a cult leader (who is played by Philip Seymore Hoffman, not Phoenix) who rises to prominence in the 1950s and, while fictionalized, was highly influenced by the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. In fact, Hubbard was such an influence that Anderson felt the need to show the film to Scientology poster child (and personal friend; remember, he starred in Magnolia) Tom Cruise before anyone else in the hopes that he could suss out any conflict with the new age religious group before the film releases later this year.
The Wrap has the exclusive info about the peace offering/screening, but unfortunately it’s not particularly detailed. Their sources have made it clear, however, that Cruise has “issues” with the film, though they aren’t able to go as far as to specify what exactly his problems are. They’ve also learned that the distributor behind the film, The Weinstein Company, has plans to show the film to other famous Scientologists like John Travolta.
There’s no indication that these screenings are taking place because The Master needs their approval before it can come out, and we find it hard to believe that a true artist and perfectionist like Paul Thomas Anderson would alter his film because it upsets actual Scientologists, but it certainly has us even more curious to see the film. After all, if it’s going to bother the most famous member of the religion it’s targeting, clearly The Master is doing something right, right?