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Universal Passes on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Scientology Movie

Deadline's Mike Fleming says that Paul Thomas Anderson is scrounging for $35 million to fund his upcoming Scientology movie (possible title: The Master) after Universal passed on it — not because they feared Xenu's wrath, but because the studio got spooked by the price tag (especially after Green Zone put them further into the red over the weekend). But don't worry! The film's moving ahead, with The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner in talks to star with Philip Seymour Hoffman (confirming earlier rumors), and River Road is reportedly close to picking up the full tab. When we think about it, though, $35 million is a little on the high side.

This isn't to say America's finest young director shouldn't be given all the money he needs to do the movie his way. But the epic There Will Be Blood was made for $25 million and the pop-song-filled Boogie Nights for only $15 million, so it's hard not to wonder what exactly about Master would be so costly — especially given how far other filmmakers are stretching $30 million these days (remember, there's another $30 million movie about a religion's beginnings right now, and its makers have to depict God's creation of the universe — in 3-D!). Basically, its price tag only serves to make us more excited to see The Master — what will PTA do with his second*-biggest-ever budget?

Here's a basic, spoiler-free synopsis of Anderson's movie from the Playlist's recent script review:


The Master is the story of a charismatic intellectual (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who hatches a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in America in 1952 called The Cause. The core dynamic centers on the relationship between The Master and Freddie Sutton, (would be absolutely perfect for Paul Dano) an aimless twenty-something drifter and alcoholic who eventually becomes the leader’s loyal lieutenant. As the faith begins to gain a fervent following, Freddie finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor.

According to that review, a "significant chunk" of the movie takes place on a boat. But not one that collides with an iceberg or sustains an octopus attack or anything, presumably. Though it seems to stretch "over a decade," the Playlist says it's a "low-key" film with "small stakes." So why so expensive? Will Anderson motion-capture Hoffman's performance to make his character look more (or less?) like L. Ron Hubbard? Is part of the budget a tithe to the Church of Scientology? Will the soundtrack feature all members of Radiohead this time, instead of just Jonny Greenwood? Does Xenu make an appearance? Your baseless speculation is welcome in the comments.

PTA Taking River Road On Religion Pic With Phil Hoffman And Jeremy Renner? [DHD]
An In-Depth Look At Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master' Religious Cult Screenplay [Playlist]

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