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Paul Thomas Anderson’s Scientology Movie and Inherent Vice Adaptation Close to Finding Financing

Good news, highbrow literary/cinema aficionados! Vulture is happy to report that billionairess Megan Ellison, the 25-year-old daughter of Oracle boss Larry Ellison, appears to be coming to the rescue of two high-profile Paul Thomas Anderson movies: a foundering untitled Scientology drama (which may or may not end up being called The Master), and Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 stoner detective novel, Inherent Vice.

Last December, this blog was the first to report that Anderson had written a treatment of Pynchon’s seventh novel, and was considering doing a screenplay. Now insiders confirm to Vulture that Anderson has, in fact, obtained the blessing of Pynchon and — in frequent consultation with the eremite novelist himself — has not only written a first draft, but is more than halfway done with a second. (For those unfamiliar, it tells the story of Larry "Doc" Sportello, a pothead private detective hired by a former girlfriend to investigate the disappearance of her wealthy lover in 1969 Los Angeles.) Robert Downey, Jr. is said to be interested in the lead role, and insiders point out that his recent detachment from Sam Raimi's Oz, the Great and Powerful, set up at Disney, leaves an opening in his schedule in the fourth quarter of this year.

What’s more, we’re told that Ellison is also in negotiations to co-finance Anderson's untitled religious drama (popularly known around the Internet as The Master), based on an original script about a disaffected disciple’s relationship with the founder of a new spiritual movement called the Cause — a not-so-thinly-veiled stand-in for Scientology — that examines the human need to believe in a Creator.

Anderson had been forced to shelve Master last September after Universal Pictures balked at its $35 million price tag; as a consequence of the delay, the film lost Jeremy Renner, who’d been attached to play the part of Freddie Sutton, an alcoholic acolyte of the Cause's founder who was to be played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Insiders say Renner, who’s buried in offers since his Oscar-nominated turn in Ben Affleck’s The Town, is no longer attached, but we’re told Hoffman is still keenly interested in doing the picture. It’s unclear which project Anderson would shoot first, but we’re heartened that either might be made this year.

Ellison, meanwhile, has clearly evolved considerably in recent years. While it’s true that she projected the image of a carefree party girl a few years ago, serious producers and top-level agents around town now say they take her very seriously, no doubt in part because she co-financed the Oscar-nominated, $150 million—grossing Coen brothers remake of True Grit with her brother David, but also because she seems to have great taste and an open-checkbook to pay for it: She's also co-financing The Wettest County in the World, an adaptation of Matt Bondurant's novel about a family of Depression-era bootleggers, with director John Hillcoat (The Road) directing Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf.

Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images