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Joaquin Phoenix in talks to join Anderson pic

Paul Thomas Anderson religious drama would be actor's first since 'retiring'

Exclusive: Joaquin Phoenix, who hasn’t acted since his “retirement” that precipitated “I’m Still Here,” is in early talks to join Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson’s untitled religious drama.

Anderson is directing from his own original script, which chronicles a disaffected disciple’s relationship with the founder of a new faith that closely mirrors Scientology.

Hoffman will play Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic intellectual known as The Master, while Phoenix would play Freddie Sutton, an alcholic drifter who becomes his right-hand man only to begin questioning his manipulative mentor.

Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures is looking to co-finance the period pic, which Universal was previously considering funding before having second thoughts about its mid-range budget.

Anderson and his longtime producing partner JoAnne Sellar will produce through the former’s Ghoulardi Film Co., along with Ellison.

Phoenix has stayed out of the spotlight since starring in pal Casey Affleck’s faux-documentary “I’m Still Here,” a time-consuming vanity project that went on to gross only $698,000 worldwide. His last feature role was in James Gray’s 2008 drama “Two Lovers.”

Anderson is also developing an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s detective novel “Inherent Vice,” which is slated to star Robert Downey Jr.

Phoenix is repped by WME, while CAA reps Anderson.

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