| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Oct 10 Since the release of director
Paul Thomas Anderson's new movie, "The Master", talk by
filmgoers and critics alike has spanned its link to Scientology,
themes of control and its Oscar hopes.
Much discussion has rested on the film's main performances
by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, who plays his
unhinged protege. Both actors split the top acting award at the
Venice Film Festival, where the film debuted.
Hoffman spoke to Reuters, dispelling suggestions that his
character of Lancaster Dodd was purely based on Scientology
founder L. Ron Hubbard and discussing the broader themes of the
Q. You seem to just roll from one great role to the next.
A. "Yes, it's going awful, I mean, Paul Thomas Anderson ...
giving me these opportunities. I just can't bear it."
Q. How did you create your character, Lancaster, and who did
you base him on?
A. "Ultimately it was just knowing what we didn't want to
do. I think most people have been interested about the
Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard stuff, and the thing is Paul used
that stuff to have a venue to write the story. And a lot of our
discussions early on were like, 'I don't want to play L. Ron
Hubbard because that would be very distracting because that is
not the movie.' So a lot of the choices had to do with how not
to be L. Ron Hubbard.
"It is pretty clear we made choices to make sure that the
way I behave, the way I talk, it is all very different from L.
Ron Hubbard ... One person's religion is another person's cult.
We know that. And so we didn't want to be too on the nose about
it ... Ultimately it was about creating a unique person that was
a piece of fiction."
Q. Perhaps fueling that fascination were mysteries about
Scientology to begin with?
A. "That's a worthy discussion, that is a worthy article to
write. People's feelings and what Scientology brings up for
people and how would you compare that to other movements of that
time and how would you compare that to religion or Catholicism?
That is very interesting because to me this guy is the head of
anything you want him to be. You know what I mean?
"We always talked about this film being a life-changing
moment for both of them, and things happen in your life to
change your life. After they happen you think, 'Did that
actually happen? Did I actually go through that?' Something that
is so profound is sometimes so elusive and so hard to nail down.
And it becomes a memory and an anecdote and some weird dream."
Q. People are fascinated by broader themes of what this film
is about. What are your thoughts?
A. "It is about an intense emotional connection between two
men and how they both need each other, and are both the mirror
opposite but ultimately very much alike. So I think all that is
very specific and clear in the movie and it creates a strong
emotional attachment that both of them are scared to walk away
from for fear of finding out they are nothing without the other
"I think that is what the movie is getting at. And then what
happens, that Paul does so brilliantly - that he doesn't do in
such a simple, banal or obvious way - is he brings in that time
period, post-World War Two. He brings in a movement that is
somewhat like Scientology, that time-warp kind of movement ...
It is about all those things and how they feed into the core
thing, which is this relationship."
Q. People also seem focused on the scene where your
character sings to Joaquin Phoenix. Can you shed light on that?
A. "I think it is beautiful. And it is not about ... sex. It
is about intimacy and obsession and wanting to control somebody,
because you are so scared to lose them. Anyone who has been in
love before understands that. Again, there is a lot of like,
well, it must be homoerotic. No. No, can't men love each other
like that, because they do. They really do."
Q. Was it difficult to establish your own presence opposite
A. "It's not an everyday occurrence, no, but when I see it I
am happy because it makes my job easier. He (Phoenix) is
actually playing the part, which is a guy who is obviously
"Lancaster isn't a walk in the park either. He is a bull in
a China shop too. There are a lot of similarities between them
if you look hard enough. But they are both pretty volatile guys,
but one realizes he wants to control it and the other one
Q. What do the Oscars mean to you now that you have one?
A. "I think it is important to respect the attention that
gets brought to something that everyone worked really hard on."
Q. Talking about respect, actors like Meryl Streep sometimes
joke about actors' current high stature. What do you think?
A. "No one wants to be pretentious about what they do or
take it seriously, because that is just weird. But I think, too,
you have to respect it and to realize where it can take you and
what power it can have, I think is important. But that is true
Q. Salman Rushdie said recently that movie stars have
replaced writers since the '50s in terms of their influence.
A. "I do feel that there are some really smart people, who
are doing that, who are actors. And I think they do it well, I
don't judge that so much."
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Dale Hudson)