Philip Seymour Hoffman in ‘The Master’

Eye on the Oscar: The Actor - Supporting Actor Contender

Paul Thomas Anderson offered a succinct description of Philip Seymour Hoffman: “Phil’s always kind of money in the bank.”

It’s hardly a surprise that he holds that view. Before Hoffman wowed audiences in “The Master” with his mesmerizing turn as cultish leader Lancaster Dodd, he worked with Anderson on “Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia” and “Punch-Drunk Love.”

So the director is keenly aware of what he can withdraw from that particular bank. In fact, Anderson wrote “The Master” with Hoffman in mind and had him involved in the process from the start.

“As soon as Paul began writing, he discussed the role with Philip,” producer JoAnne Sellar says. “It took about four years.”

One of the more intriguing aspects of Dodd is the passion of his convictions, or seemingly so. That was a critical element to Hoffman’s performance, explains Sellar, who first began working with Anderson on “Boogie Nights” in 1997: He had to be convincing as someone who is skilled at convincing others, even though you’re never quite sure he’s sincere.

“He always blows me away as an actor, whatever he’s doing,” Sellar says of Hoffman. “Same thing with this. I thought he nailed the part of this charismatic character who you don’t know if he really believes what he’s saying or not.

“He manages to convey that. He’s the face of an organization, a man with a very strong woman behind him, but he has to sell what he’s saying in a very charismatic way.”

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