The Master Cast
: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams Director
: Paul Thomas Anderson Genre
: MARunning Time
: 137 minutesSynopsis
: A striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post-World War II America, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master unfolds the journey of a Naval veteran, Freddie (JoaquinPhoenix), who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future until he is tantalised by The Cause and its charismatic leader, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Amy Adams plays Dodd's wife, Peggy.Release Date
: November 8th, 2012
About the Production
In the wake of World War II, a restless America emerged. It was a time of unprecedented national growth and aspiration, but also of rootlessness and lingering disquiet - and the combustion of these contrasting elements sparked a culture of seeking and questing that continues into the 21st Century. Young men returning home from the incomprehensible darkness of war forged a shiny new world of consumerism and optimism. Yet, many longed for to find more from life, longed to grasp onto something larger than themselves, something to halt the anxiety, confusion and savagery of the modern world.
Paul Thomas Anderson's sixth feature film, The Master, unfolds a vibrantly human story inside this atmosphere of spiritual yearning on the cusp of 1950. The film follows the shifting fortunes of Freddie, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, a volatile former Naval officer unable to settle down into everyday life, and the unpredictable journey he takes when he stumbles upon a fledgling movement known as The Cause. Coming to The Cause as an itinerant and outsider, Freddie will ultimately become a surrogate heir to its flamboyant leader: Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd. And yet, even as The Cause probes the mastery of human emotions, the camaraderie between Freddie and Dodd will mount into a fierce and intimate struggle of wills.
The first feature film shot using 65mm film stock in several decades, The Master is brought to life by a devoted cast and crew who have crafted a visually alluring and emotionally provocative portrait of three people pursuing a vision of betterment. The Story
Paul Thomas Anderson, a multiple Academy Award® nominee, has set each of his films to date at the edge of emotional, familial and historical frontiers. His first film Hard Eight followed a hard-bitten pro Las Vegas gambler who takes a hard-luck loser under his wing with unforeseen results. This was followed by Boogie Nights, about a group of adult film industry workers who construct an unconventional family; Magnolia, an interwoven tale of personal crises that connect on one magical night in the San Fernando Valley; and Punch-Drunk Love, a beguiling romantic comedy about a lonely businessman's flummoxing encounters with love and terror. His most recent film, There Will Be Blood, journeyed into turn-of-the century California for the epic tale of a prospector who transforms himself and an entire town through the pursuit of oil.
With The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson became intrigued by the birth of a new kind of patchworkAmerican family that arose out of the upheaval of World War II: those of alternative spiritual factions and newly established religions. From Eastern asceticism to Dianetics, the early 1950s became a time when many began to build grass roots communities devoted to realising grand visions of human potential.
"It was fertile ground for telling a dramatic and engaging story," Paul Thomas Anderson says of his fascination with this time of cultural upheaval and spiritual adventurism. "Going back to the beginning of things allows you to see what the good intentions were; and what the spark was that ignited people to want to change themselves and the world around them. Post-World War II was a period when people were looking forward to the future with great optimism but, at the same time, dealing with quite a lot of pain and death in the rear view mirror."
He continues: "My father came out of World War II and was restless his whole life. It's been said that any time is a good time for a spiritual movement or religion to begin, but a particularly fertile time is right after a war. After so much death and destruction, people are asking 'how come?' and 'where do the dead go?': two very important questions."
That propulsive "why?" drove the creation of Freddie, who is adrift in his life and spiralling into an intoxicated, lusty oblivion when he first encounters Lancaster Dodd, a Navy man himself who believes he has uncovered some compelling answers about how humankind can overcome its darkest animal nature. With Freddie at its centre, the story turned deeply personal, tracking his twisting and turning path through The Cause, a path at once rebellious and loyal, hopeful and destructive, uncertain and passionate, and rife with dreams and fantasies that began to pierce through the realism of the narrative.
Producer JoAnne Sellar, who has collaborated on all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films since Boogie Nights, remembers watching the project go through a creative evolution. "Paul Thomas Anderson was very interested in the idea of what war does to you - and how by 1950, you have all these men coming home who have to find their way in the world again. It was a time of lost souls looking for answers, and the way that led to the formation of these new spiritual groups, Dianetics among them, really fascinated Paul Thomas Anderson. Of course, Paul Thomas Anderson was not interested at all in making a non-fiction film - that's not his point of view. His creation of The Cause may have been inspired by his research, but the story took him entirely in another direction from there."
"It became Freddie's tale," JoAnne Sellar continues. "In a sense, Freddie is the classic outsider who comes into a community and changes it - and what results is a kind of tragic love story between Freddie and Master. Freddie longs to be part of something bigger than himself, yet can't commit. And Master yearns for Freddie to be the son he never had, yet can't quite make that work."
Paul Thomas Anderson says he did a lot of historical reading from the period, from Steinbeck to L. Ron Hubbard, but notes "unless you are making a non-fiction film or biography, hopefully the line gets blurry between research and imagination."
Indeed, as the script went through multiple progressions, imagination took over and The Cause came to life as its own distinctive entity, a proxy family that finds itself vulnerable to all the powerful forces and tricky dynamics of blood relations. Each scene was rife with the dichotomies of rivalry and love, aspiration and confusion within its main characters.
"When I look at the film now, I see Freddie and Master as two people who are desperate to stay together and connect with each other," remarks Paul Thomas Anderson of the pair. "I think they see strength in each other and also feel a desire to help pick up the other's weaknesses. I see both as generous men with very different ways of communicating what they have to give."
As the final script came into view and then to life on the set, it became a kind of fever dream of post-war themes - themes of searching for an authentic sense of family, faith, success and connection -- unfolding in a never-before-seen setting. Says producer Daniel Lupi, who has worked on all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films from the beginning of his career: "This script reminded us a lot of Boogie Nights, because while that film might be set in the porn industry, it's really about the relationships between the members of an unusual family. The Cause also is a complicated kind of family."
While the creative elements percolated, further support arrived in the person of producer Megan Ellison, who founded Annapurna Pictures to champion director-driven films with distinctive visions like Paul Thomas Anderson's. "Megan Ellison appeared like an angel who swooped in and said 'I love this project and let's do it,'" recalls JoAnne Sellar. "That's when things really began tohappen." The Cast
At the heart of The Master's drama lies Freddie, who returns from Naval service inWorld War II in a haunted, derelict state of sheer wildness -- an aimless drifter unable to latch onto a direction for the future or even the most basic self-control. Though he tries to kick off a career as a photographer, he cannot hold a job, or his creative liquor concoctions, and winds up a migrant stow-away on a wedding party boat, precipitating his fateful meeting with Lancaster Dodd and an apprenticeship he could never have anticipated. As Freddie's friendship with Lancaster Dodd grows, he will become a test case for his methodologies, an alluring alter ego and ultimately his right hand man in The Cause.
Joaquin Phoenix, Oscar®-nominated for his roles as the darkly driven Emperor Commodus in Gladiator and the legendary outlaw artist Johnny Cash in Walk The Line, brings out the raw, animalistic drives in Freddie that both confound and attract The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson watched him sink his teeth into the role and take it to the nth degree.
"While working on the script, Joaquin Phoenix kept coming to mind as Freddie," recalls Paul Thomas Anderson. "I've been asking him to be in my films for 12 years and he's always had a reason not to do it. I'm just thankful he said yes this time."
Lancaster Dodd, the leader of The Cause and the author/philosopher behind its ideas, immediately compels Freddie with his palpable contradictions. Though he has charisma, intelligence, erudition and confidence to spare; at the same time, there are streaks of mischief, paranoia and neediness that flash from under his flamboyant, seductive surface. Bringing all these shadings into the mix of this one-of-a-kind character is Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Oscar® winner for Capote who has collaborated with Paul Thomas Anderson previously on Boogie Nights and Magnolia.
Says Paul Thomas Anderson: "Philip Seymour Hoffman and I are always looking for ways to continue working with each other. We worked together as I was putting the script together. Philip Seymour Hoffman made a very large contribution to the screenplay."
Adds JoAnne Sellar: "It was always planned for Philip Seymour Hoffman to play The Master. He brought a lot of input as Paul Thomas Anderson was writing."
While Lancaster Dodd becomes the face of The Cause, behind the scenes there is another powerful force who is equally behinds its growth: his seemingly demure but steely wife Peggy. Subtly revealing Peggy's potent influence is Amy Adams, a three-time Oscar® nominee for her roles in the indie drama Junebug, the screen adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt and as boxer Micky Ward's gritty girlfriend in The Fighter. Once again, she does a 180 with a role unlike any she has taken before.
Paul Thomas Anderson says: "Amy Adams can do no wrong by me. I've felt that way from Catch Me If You Can to Enchanted and The Fighter. She's one of our new greats. Philip Seymour Hoffman has worked with her multiple times and enjoyed her very much, so it was a simple choice. Again, I'm very happy she said yes. "
"Amy Adams plays Peggy Dodd as a kind of Lady Macbeth," observes JoAnne Sellar. "She's the story's true believer." The Photography
Though The Master is wholly fictional, Paul Thomas Anderson set out to present the world of The Cause with a visceral and transporting realism. To capture both authentic period details and the imagined environs of The Cause on sea and land, he worked with a devoted crew, many of whom have forged a kind of family of their own, reuniting again and again on his productions.
One major, if entirely intuitive, decision immediately set the film off on a very individual course: Paul Thomas Anderson's choice to shoot The Master with the now exceedingly rare 65mm film stock. From the start, he knew he wanted a distinctive period look - and after immersing himself in the vibrant tones and textures of such 50s cinematic classics as Vertigo and North By Northwest, Paul Thomas Anderson hoped to mirror that supersaturated lushness, merging it with his own signature style of stark lyricism. With imagery spanning from the roaring sea to the shadows and light at play within the characters, 65mm seemed a perfect match for the broad contours of the story.
There was a time when 65mm stood at the very apex of cinematic processes, but today it has been relegated mostly to the making of IMAX® and other large-format films. In the heyday of Hollywood's wide-screen epics, companies such as Todd-AO and Panavision hailed 65mm as giving audiences the crispest, clearest images, from the most panoramic vistas to the most personal close-ups. Numerous 60s classics including Lawrence of Arabia, West Side Story, Mutiny On The Bounty, Lord Jim, My Fair Lady and 2001: A Space Odyssey revealed the power of the film stock to deliver that ineffable extra punch of vitality.
But by the 1970s the increasingly high cost of the film stock caused a rapid decline. A brief resurgence in the 1980s saw such films as Brainstorm, Tron and The Black Cauldron reviving the format, but that was short lived. More recently, the only films shot entirely on 65mm have been Kenneth Branagh's 1996 Hamlet and Ron Fricke's non-narrative films Baraka and Samsara. (Christopher Nolan's Inception and The Dark Knight and Terrence Malick's The New World include some 65mm footage and special effects sequences, but were shot primarily in 35mm.)
Paul Thomas Anderson says the choice started as an exploration, but became a commitment once he saw the fit with the storytelling of The Master. "The idea was something initially suggested by Dan Sasaki, Panavision's lens technician, after I'd inquired about Vista Vision Cameras from the 50s, just to play around with and figure out how some of these 50s films created their look," he explains.
He goes on: "We started shooting with a 65mm Studio Camera and everything we were seeing started to feel very right. It gives you a wonderful, strong image, but more than the resolution or anything like that, it simply seemed to suit this story and these characters.
Things could feel antique without feeling precious or a re-enactment of a particular style. It's hard for me to describe it other than to say, it felt right."
JoAnne Sellar felt similarly. "It was so fitting for a film like this with so much visual texture," she says. "But it was also a real learning process because a lot of the knowledge of working with 65mm has been lost. There were considerable challenges involved. We were only able to find three Panavision cameras, so it was challenging when they broke down, and the lab process is also very complicated."
Daniel Lupi adds: "Panavision went totally out of their way to service us in using cameras that have largely gone unused for decades. At times we had a guy from Panavision staying with us, just so he could handle technical issues with the cameras."
Throughout filming, Paul Thomas Anderson would project the dailies using a 65mm projector as well. "I think it's a large of his creative process, watching the dailies and conforming his vision to that," explains Daniel Lupi. "He has a very organic process."
The filmmakers are gratified that some audiences will get a chance to see the film in 70mm projection. "In an ideal world, audiences can enjoy the film in 70mm. There are still theatres playing 70mm films, thank goodness. Long may they wave," says Paul Thomas Anderson. The Design
As The Master unfolds Freddie's journey, the narrative jumps through time, taking him from his youth in working-class Massachusetts to the vet-populated beaches of Guam to a San Francisco wedding yacht and the early headquarters of The Cause in a seemingly traditional Pennsylvania house - with each locale adding layers to his shifting relationship with Lancaster and Peggy Dodd.
In his usual manner, Paul Thomas Anderson began thinking about the design of the film early on via found images that he collected. "Paul Thomas Anderson spent a lot of time looking through old photographs to really establish his sense of place and time," says Daniel Lupi. "Ultimately, we shot most of the film in California, both in the Bay Area and in the deserts of Southern California, with a trip to Hawaii for the beach scenes that bookend the story. "
Paul Thomas Anderson then began exchanging ideas with production designer Jack Fisk - his frequent collaborator who received an Academy Award® nomination for his work on There Will Be Blood - along with partner David Crank, who also contributed to the art design for There Will Be Blood. Fisk read a draft of the script 18 months before production began, which allowed ideas to percolate.
"Right away, I was excited by Paul Thomas Anderson's enthusiasm for this story," recalls Jack Fisk. "Passion for me is the most important element of creativity."
He and Paul Thomas Anderson began looking at a variety of locations a year before filming. "Looking for locations with Paul Thomas Anderson is a very creative act," notes Jack Fisk. "It's sort of like finding the pieces of a puzzle, each piece relating to the other, until the film begins to take shape - and I try never to get locked into ideas until I know all of our options. Since Paul Thomas Anderson had created such real and nuanced characters in this story, it pushed us to create settings that would be equal to the writing and acting."
Jack Fisk's aim was for Freddie's world to feel instantly organic and lived in. "I believe the challenge of film design in a natural film such as The Master is to make it appear not designed in a sense. You want to eliminate any unnecessary elements that would take away from the audience becoming immersed in the relationships," he comments. "That being said, I really had fun re-creating such locations as a 1940s department store." (The team created the store from the ground up inside a vacant insurance title building in downtown Los Angeles.)
The film's many boat sequences - Freddie and Master find a link in their shared Naval background - led the production to the city of Vallejo, just Northeast of San Francisco and to Mare Island, the nearby peninsula with a storied Naval history of its own. Standing in for Lancaster Dodd's boat, on which Freddie starts out a stow-away, was The USS Potomac, a historic vessel that formerly served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht from 1936-1945. The yacht was later purchased by Elvis Presley, who donated it to charity, after which the vessel was pressed into the drug trade before being sunk and finally raised by the U.S. Navy. Today, it is a museum in Oakland's Jack London Square.
"It was a totally metal ship because FDR was very scared of a fire on a boat," notes Jack Fisk. "We were able to re-dress the main room multiple times to serve as several different rooms in our ship and then we built a portion of the interior on a soundstage in Los Angeles for the intense first scenes between Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman."
He continues: "Our first concern was to make sure the soundstage sets worked seamlessly with the scenes on the real ship in the waters of San Francisco and that there was enough room for Paul Thomas Anderson to work with the camera. We debated gambling the set so that it could move independently and give us a motion similar to a real ship at sea, but in the end we found it was very simple to match the construction of the original ship -- and the power of the scenes trumped any effects we might have incorporated."
In Vallejo, Jack Fisk and David Crank found the sprawling Philadelphia house where Freddie finds a home with The Cause, albeit one that is always a powder keg of conflicting emotions for him. Jack Fisk looked for a somewhat traditional house, inside of which unseen drama goes on. "I love the idea of us not knowing what is going on behind the doors of many houses we see daily," he says. "We used a house on Mare Island that was originally built for Navy Admirals and constructed in a very East Coast style, which made it great for our purposes. With some painting and dressing we were able to present it as a convincing Philadelphia house. This very normal, traditional home was a beautiful contrast to the new, experimental ideas of The Master."
In thinking about The Cause's first headquarters, Jack Fisk kept in mind the aspiration underlying the entire movement. "I am aware of how profoundly people seek meaning and answers in their lives," he says. "We scouted several buildings occupied by small religious groups, just to get a sense of them, and I was struck by their similarities to our story's headquarters."
Other key locations included the vintage movie palace where a prodigal Freddie dreams of a call from The Master. This was shot in the Los Angeles Theatre, a late 1930s movie emporium that remains standing in downtown Los Angeles, retaining the sumptuous glamour of another age. "It was one location that worked absolutely beautiful just the way we found it," says Jack Fisk.
Having worked multiple times with Paul Thomas Anderson before, Jack Fisk characterises their relationship as built of three essential elements: "Humour, hard work and mutual trust." Those same elements have kept costume designer Mark Bridges, who has collaborated on all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films, returning to his productions. Though each has been a complete turnabout from the previous - taking Mark Bridges from disco wear to turn-of-the-century dungarees - the costume designer found The Master was instantly intriguing.
"I was very excited about it because Paul Thomas Anderson was so excited about creating this whole world of changing thought after World War II, when there were these grass roots movements to make sense of the world," he says. "It's a subject that no one has ever dealt with on screen."
The setting of the film right in the year 1950, on the edge of a new decade and massive, imminent changes in fashion and culture, was especially compelling for Mark Bridges. "I love recreating transitional periods, where things are shifting," notes the costume designer. "1950 was right in the middle of a lot of changes, so you still have a lot of style elements from the early 40s, with vestiges of shoulder pads, but fashion is just knocking on the door of the 50s. Overall, we wanted the look to be very accessible and authentic but with a light touch."
MarkBridges utilised a lot of the research that Paul Thomas Anderson had collected, as well as diving into his own and began poring through vintage clothing to forge the look of each character. For Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the signature pieces became a natty green suit that Lancaster Dodd sports the first time Freddie meets him. "We wanted him to seem very much like a writer," Mark Bridges explains. "That green suit worked with Philip Seymour Hoffman's colouring but it also shows that there's something different about this person. He puts on a bit of a businessman front, he's got a younger wife but there's also something uncomfortable about him - and all these ideas were important to me in thinking about how he dresses."
Another of Mark Bridges' favourite ensembles for Dodd is his flashy pair of red pajamas. "There's something so intense about them - he could be the devil, he could be the messiah, and whatever he is, that scene where he talks to Freddie is very emotional," he observes.
Freddie has a very different sensibility, having come from the conformity of military uniforms into a drifter's existence. His first job as a department store photographer sees him in his most stylish clothing, but he is palpably ill at ease. "We found some very eccentric sports coats that were from 1943," elaborates Mark Bridges, "that had these huge broad shoulders and made with that thick wool that there's nothing like any more. They were perfect for Freddie in that moment because you can sense him chafing at these clothes and his need to get out of them."
By the time he meets Lancaster Dodd as a stowaway, Freddie has shed that persona. "When Freddie first joins The Cause, we wanted him to really feel like a vagabond and the idea was that he would probably just wear clothing that other members pooled together to give him," Mark Bridges continues. "But, as he rises through the ranks of The Cause, his clothing becomes more refined."
Some of Mark Bridges' most interesting finds came in the 1940s maternity dresses he hunted up for Amy Adams as Peggy Dodd - dresses that draw attention away from the body and entirely to the face. "We found some pieces that were just dead-on for who Peggy is and Amy Adams wore it so well. She was a really good sport and had a great attitude about it," he comments. "It was a real switch for both us after working together on The Fighter."
In addition to the main characters, Mark Bridges enjoyed costuming a wide variety of worlds through which Freddie traverses - from the Navy to 5th Ave., from farms to desert to British pubs. "It was a lot of different types of clothing," he summarises, "and each person and place has its own character. But Paul Thomas Anderson does such complete research that it is always a real collaboration. It's a back and forth of me bringing him ideas and suggestions and seeing what he finds interesting."
As principal photography of The Master came to a close, Anderson worked with editors Leslie Jones and Peter McNulty to weave the imagery with his distinctive rhythms and pacing. Peter McNulty did a first cut and then Leslie Jones, who previously received an ACE nomination for her work on Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, came on board. She was taken right away with the footage.
"Peter McNulty did a beautiful first cut of the film and I was impressed with the complexity in both Freddie and Master's characters as well as the depth in their relationship. I was surprised at how the love story between these two men so gracefully became the focus of the film," shecomments. She spent the next six months working closely with Anderson to chisel the final narrative.
"The primary challenge in editing was to focus the relationship between Freddie and Master, and to connect Master's teachings with the struggles that Freddie experiences in his life - his experience of always running from something," Leslie Jones explains. "We found ultimately that the more invested we were in Freddie's experience the more we believe his attraction and need for a 'Master.' And, at a certain point, it became less about the characters as individuals but more about these two men and their attachment to one another."
While the 65mm photography had no impact on the editing, it became a distinct challenge as the release prints were prepared. Leslie Jones explains: "I rarely made a distinction between the two formats while viewing the footage. Nor were editing considerations made based on the 65mm format. It wasn't until picture was locked and we began working with Fotokem on release prints that we felt the impact. We had to prepare the finished film for both a 70mm and 35mm release, which was like working on two separate movies. And because Paul Thomas Anderson likes to do a film finish we were cutting negative and timing photo chemically, so it was very time consuming."
Nevertheless, concludes JoAnne Sellar: "For all the complications of using 65mm, I think for Paul Thomas Anderson it was well worth it. It's an attempt at saving the beauty of real film." The Music
Meanwhile, the final touches were being put on the film's score by Jonny Greenwood, the Radiohead guitarist and composer who garnered widespread accolades for his memorably haunting score for There Will Be Blood. That same contrapuntal synergy between Paul Thomas Anderson's bluntly resonant imagery and Jonny Greenwood's lush dissonance emerged on The Master, but in new and different ways.
Jonny Greenwood responded right away to the story. "I responded to the optimism of the period: this charismatic figure, the notion that there were new ways to heal the 'sick,' and all these enthusiastic followers," says the composer. "There is something sweet about it -- all these middle class Americans in on the start of something new and strange. And in the middle of it all Freddie standing there with his hands in the small of his back, trying to make sense of it all."
For inspiration, Jonny Greenwood and Paul Thomas Anderson talked about the music of Otto Leuning, who in the 1950s became one of the early pioneers of electronic music, discovering never-beforeheard sounds by playing tricks with magnetic tape and microphones. "Some of the film's music was recorded with similar technology," notes Jonny Greenwood, "playing around with tape speeds, directions and unlikely microphone techniques."
Jonny Greenwood also took inspiration from 50s jazz and classical music. "There's something a bit like the piano-less trios of the period - yet playing in some of the modes more used by classical composers of the period," he explains.
Throughout, Jonny Greenwood and Paul Thomas Anderson worked in their own distinctive way that the director says winds up more like an open-ended exchange of ideas. "Jonny Greenwood will provide some basic ideas that I'll respond to one way or the other and then we just start going back and forth.
It's like the 'touching the wall' scene in the movie. I think I'm Master and he's Freddie," muses Paul Thomas Anderson. "But then I realise, I'm Freddie and he's Master and suddenly there's all this amazing music that's mine to sort out."
Most important to Greenwood was conceptualising the characters from Paul Thomas Anderson's POV. "One thing Paul Thomas Anderson pointed out to me is that the character Freddie is, despite his violence and boozing, quite loveable. 'Don't forget the sweetness of Freddie' was one comment he sent me," Jonny Greenwood recalls. "Paul Thomas Anderson puts a lot into the music, has lots of ideas about what might work, often expressing them in terms that aren't musical - which helps and frees me up a lot."
In summing up his experience on the film, Jonny Greenwood echoes many, concluding: "When you work with Paul Thomas Anderson, there's a combination of excitement, enthusiasm and hunger for what's possible. It's an unusual combination of light-hearted fun and dedicated, obsessive work."