Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master cast was recently confirmed, as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Jesse Plemons, David Warshofsky, Laura Dern, Lena Endre, Rami Malek, and Madisen Beaty have all signed on for the story about the charismatic Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) – an L. Ron Hubbard-like figure – who returns home from World War II and starts a new religion, while mentoring former alcoholic Freddie Sutton (Phoenix). In a related, real-life Scientology connection is a rumor coming from The Playlist (they're skeptical, but have shared an interesting tidbit from their comments section) that actor Will Smith is refusing to commit to Quentin Tarantino's western epic, Django Unchained, because the Weinstein's are also producing Anderson's controversial religious group film.
All narrative connections between the religion – based on the work of Dianetics author Hubbard – and PTA's movie appear to be pretty obvious, but all involved seem to be steering things in another direction. Producer JoAnne Sellar, who recently spoke to the Vallejo Times-Herald, confirmed that the production is already underway and that the film is expected to open in late 2012 (just in time for the Oscars), but avoided any religious associations by saying, "It's a World War II drama. It's about a drifter after World War II."
An early draft of the script that made the rounds last year had dubbed the work in progress as "Untitled Scientology Project," but Anderson has adjusted things since then – supposedly changing it to an "Untitled Western Project." The plotline also took on a more generalized tone about "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."
As The Playlist points out, Anderson's 2008 Largo play about a couple who try to connect over a series of personality tests (similar to the ones the Church of Scientology issues) might further confirm the director's interest in Scientology, but nothing's ever been made official. The same goes for Will Smith, who that same year created a bit of a stir when he helped fund a school in Los Angeles that used some part of the church's programs. He's denied any connection to the religion, but the year before that, there was a giant spread in Men's Vogue where the actor said, " I’ve studied Buddhism and Hinduism and I’ve studied Scientology through Tom … "
Smith's talking about friend Tom Cruise of course, who has been quite public about his beliefs and connection to the church. Smith also said he felt that "98 percent of the [Scientology] principles are identical to the principles of the Bible." This of course should all be taken with a grain of salt, and hopefully several more Django and The Master stories later we'll finally find out what's really going on with both highly anticipated projects.
Can we stop playing conspiracy theorist now, and get back to reaffirming how excited we are to see PTA's latest? There Will Be Blood is amazing, but 2007 was a long time ago. The Master cast is looking more than interesting, and with Tetro's Mihai Malaimare Jr. shooting the controversial story in part on 65 mm (another rumor, but one you should be more interested in), there's a lot to look forward to.