Anderson, cast discuss Scientology-inspired pic

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” made a big splash Saturday on the Lido, as the highly anticipated drama inspired by the early days of Scientology had its world preem with the helmer and key cast members Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in tow.

While Anderson confirmed that the titular character, played by Hoffman, is “based on L. Ron Hubbard,” he sought to downplay that aspect of the film, which he described as “a love story about these guys” set in the 1950s, in the post-war era when there was “a tremendous amount of hope but a lot of bodies in the background.”

Anderson also confirmed he has shown the film to well-known Scientologist Tom Cruise. “We are still friends,” he said. “Yes, I showed him the film and the rest is between us.”

Hoffman, describing the dynamic between his character — named Lancaster Dodd — and the bond he establishes with the violent, sex-obsessed, alcoholic navy veteran named Freddie, played by Phoenix, said: “They’re coming from different places, but I think they were born the same thing. They’re both wild beasts. One of them has just tamed it and he’s trying to teach other people to do that.”

But ultimately Dodd wants to be wild, like Freddie, Hoffman added.

“We all wake up every morning and think: fuck, why can’t I walk naked through the street of Venice? Why can’t I have sex with everybody I see and have that be OK,” Hoffman went on to elaborate, prompting a burst of laughter at the packed presser.

Besides touching briefly on what inspired “The Master” in terms of story, Anderson also elaborated a little on his choice of shooting the pic in 70mm format.

“We were just messing around with cameras at Panavision,” the helmer said. “They recommended this big huge camera that gives you great depth. We tried it, it looked great.”

But, he added, “we didn’t really think it through because the camera broke all the time and made a lot of noise.”

In some scenes that noise was eliminated by using fan sounds, Anderson said.

The high-quality visual aspect of the pic was among the fest’s big talking points.

“The Master” will go out Sept. 21 Stateside via the Weinstein Co. Lucky Red will release the film in January in Italy.

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