Paul Thomas Anderson is a great filmmaker. So when the world heard that his latest movie, The Master, was about a cult-like religion people (including me) got giddy. The film finally debuted a couple weeks ago and has gotten rave reviews. In fact, it swept the awards at the Venice Film Festival.
Things aren’t all rosy for the movie though. Producer Harvey Weinstein said there’s been some pressure against the movie. He doesn’t outright say it, but hints that it was Scientology and Scientologists trying to stop them from making the movie. Harvey Weinstein to the BBC:
“We’ve had pressure and we’ve resisted pressure. Originally, people said to me, ‘Don’t make it.’ Lots of pressure. And then, as we were making it, we had pressure to change it. Paul’s not doing that and I didn’t think he chose me (to work with) because I was going to acquiesce either.”
And the New York Post is reporting that as the film rolls out Scientologists will take out its own ads to counter those of The Master. Not only that, but that there has been a blitz of calls into Weinstein’s office. In fact, Weinstein has hired extra security just in case. Apparently, someone is also trying to blackmail him over the movie. It sounds scary, but I’m going to venture out and say that it’s an excellent publicity stunt.
In an interview with the Washington Post, director Paul Thomas Anderson doesn’t seem all that stressed. And he definitely doesn’t seem like he’s out on a murdering spree against Scientology. In fact, he’s kind of positive about the whole thing. From the Washington Post:
“I probably felt like a lot of people feel, and I probably had a huge misunderstanding and was probably more dismissive than I’d like to have been,” he says. “Which I think is pretty common when it comes to Scientology. . . . The more that I sort of learned about the things that I did learn about, [the more] I sort of felt more invested. You sort of find ways to enjoy or love something that you don’t understand or are curious about. It’s not worth pursuing making a film in an effort to be nasty about something.”
Makes sense if you ignore the terrible side of Scientology and focus on the beliefs (which is probably exactly what he did). Then again, is he scared of Scientology? Is he afraid of hurting the feelings of his BFF Tom Cruise? Well, no. As he outlines, he’s not out to make a movie about how evil or terrible Scientology is or could be. He’s out two make a movie about two guys. He explains to the Washington Post that the movie is ultimately about “two guys just desperate for each other, but doomed. Sadly doomed.”
Meanwhile, Slate extensively goes into how much Scientology inspired the religion in the film. And that ultimately, L. Ron Hubbard’s life was the genesis for Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character.
In the end, it’ll depend on how the audience sees PTA’s take on a Scientology-like religion. The film is definitely an Oscar contender, and it’ll be interesting to see how this affects the race. [New York Post, Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News, Slate]