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
that continues into the 21st Century. Young men returning home from the
darkness of war forged a shiny new world of consumerism and optimism. Yet, many
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
story inside this atmosphere of spiritual yearning on the cusp of 1950. The film
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
Freddie will ultimately become a surrogate heir to its flamboyant leader: Philip
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
struggle of wills.
The first feature film shot using 65mm film stock in several decades, THE
brought to life by a devoted cast and crew who have crafted a visually alluring
provocative portrait of three people pursuing a vision of betterment.
Paul Thomas Anderson, a multiple Academy Award nominee, has set each of his
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
workers who construct an unconventional family; MAGNOLIA, an interwoven tale of
crises that connect on one magical night in the San Fernando Valley; and
LOVE, a beguiling romantic comedy about a lonely businessman's flummoxing
love and terror. His most recent film, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, journeyed into
California for the epic tale of a prospector who transforms himself and an
through the pursuit of oil.
With THE MASTER, Anderson became intrigued by the birth of a new kind of
American family that arose out of the upheaval of World War II: those of
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
visions of human potential.
"It was fertile ground for telling a dramatic and engaging story," 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.
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
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 spiraling
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
its darkest animal nature. With Freddie at its center, the story turned deeply
his twisting and turning path through The Cause, a path at once rebellious and
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
since BOOGIE NIGHTS, remembers watching the project go through a creative
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
looking for answers, and the way that led to the formation of these new
Dianetics among them, really fascinated Paul. Of course, Paul 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," Sellar continues. "In a sense, Freddie is the
who comes into a community and changes it - and what results is a kind of tragic
between Freddie and Master. Freddie longs to be part of something bigger than
can't commit. And Master yearns for Freddie to be the son he never had, yet
can't quite make
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
dichotomies of rivalry and love, aspiration and confusion within its main
"When I look at the film now, I see Freddie and Master as two people who are
to stay together and connect with each other," remarks 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
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,
and connection -- unfolding in a never-before-seen setting. Says producer Daniel
Lupi, who has
worked on all of 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
kind of family."
While the creative elements percolated, further support arrived in the person
Megan Ellison, who founded Annapurna Pictures to champion director-driven films
distinctive visions like Anderson's. "Megan Ellison appeared like an angel who
swooped in and
said 'I love this project and let's do it,'" recalls Sellar. "That's when things
really began to
At the heart of THE MASTER's drama lies Freddie, who returns from Naval
World 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
Dodd and an apprenticeship he could never have anticipated. As Freddie's
friendship with 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
brings out the raw, animalistic drives in Freddie that both confound and attract
Anderson watched him sink his teeth into the role and take it to the nth degree.
"While working on the script, Joaquin kept coming to mind as Freddie,"
"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
immediately compels Freddie with his palpable contradictions. Though he has
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.
these shadings into the mix of this one-of-a-kind character is Philip Seymour
Oscar winner for CAPOTE who has collaborated with Paul Thomas Anderson
BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA.
Says Anderson: "Phil and I are always looking for ways to continue working
other. We worked together as I was putting the script together. Phil made a very
contribution to the screenplay."
Adds JoAnne Sellar: "It was always planned for Phil to play The Master. He
lot of input as Paul was writing."
While Lancaster Dodd becomes the face of The Cause, behind the scenes there
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
for her roles in the indie drama JUNEBUG, the screen adaptation of John Patrick
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.
Anderson says: "Amy can do no wrong by me. I've felt that way from CATCH ME
YOU CAN to ENCHANTED to THE FIGHTER. She's one of our new greats. Phil has
with her multiple times and enjoyed her very much, so it was a simple choice.
Again, I'm very
happy she said yes. "
"Amy plays Peggy Dodd as a kind of Lady Macbeth," observes Sellar. "She's the
Though THE MASTER is wholly fictional, Paul Thomas Anderson set out to
world of The Cause with a visceral and transporting realism. To capture both
details and the imagined environs of The Cause on sea and land, he worked with a
crew, many of whom have forged a kind of family of their own, reuniting again
and again on his
One major, if entirely intuitive, decision immediately set the film off on a
course: Anderson's choice to shoot THE MASTER with the now exceedingly rare 65mm
stock. From the start, he knew he wanted a distinctive period look - and after
in the vibrant tones and textures of such 50s cinematic classics as VERTIGO and
NORTHWEST, 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
and light at play within the characters, 65mm seemed a perfect match for the
broad contours of
There was a time when 65mm stood at the very apex of cinematic processes, but
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
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,
SIDE STORY, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, LORD JIM, MY FAIR LADY and 2001: A SPACE
ODDYSEY 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
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
entirely on 65mm have been Kenneth Branagh's 1996 HAMLET and Ron Fricke's
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.)
Anderson says the choice started as an exploration, but became a commitment
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
He goes on: "We started shooting with a 65mm Studio Camera and everything we
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
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
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
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
cameras that have largely gone unused for decades. At times we had a guy from
staying with us, just so he could handle technical issues with the cameras."
Throughout filming, Anderson would project the dailies using a 65mm projector
"I think it's a large of his creative process, watching the dailies and
conforming his vision to that,"
explains Lupi. "He has a very organic process."
The filmmakers are gratified that some audiences will get a chance to see the
70mm projection. "In an ideal world, audiences can enjoy the film in 70mm. There
theaters playing 70mm films, thank goodness. Long may they wave," says Anderson.
As THE MASTER unfolds Freddie's journey, the narrative jumps through time,
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
Pennsylvania house - with each locale adding layers to his shifting relationship
and Peggy Dodd.
In his usual manner, Anderson began thinking about the design of the film
early on via
found images that he collected. "Paul spent a lot of time looking through old
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. "
Anderson then began exchanging ideas with production designer Jack Fisk - his
frequent collaborator who received an Academy Award nomination for his work on
WILL BE BLOOD - along with partner David Crank, who also contributed to the art
THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Fisk read a draft of the script 18 months before production
which allowed ideas to percolate.
"Right away, I was excited by Paul's enthusiasm for this story," recalls Fisk.
me is the most important element of creativity."
He and Anderson began looking at a variety of locations a year before filming.
for locations with Paul is a very creative act," notes 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 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."
Fisk's aim was for Freddie's world to feel instantly organic and lived in. "I
challenge of film design in a natural film such as THE MASTER is to make it
designed in a sense. You want to eliminate any unnecessary elements that would
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
The film's many boat sequences - Freddie and Master find a link in their shared
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,
The USS Potomac, a historic vessel that formerly served as Franklin Delano
Presidential Yacht from 1936-1945. The yacht was later purchased by Elvis
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
"It was a totally metal ship because FDR was very scared of a fire on a boat,"
"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 and Philip."
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 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, Fisk and Crank found the sprawling Philadelphia house where Freddie
home with The Cause, albeit one that is always a powder keg of conflicting
emotions for him.
Fisk looked for a somewhat traditional house, inside of which unseen drama goes
"I love the idea of us not knowing what is going on behind the doors of many
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, Fisk kept in mind the
underlying the entire movement. "I am aware of how profoundly people seek
answers in their lives," he says. "We scouted several buildings occupied by
groups, just to get a sense of them, and I was struck by their similarities to
Other key locations included the vintage movie palace where a prodigal Freddie
of a call from The Master. This was shot in the Los Angeles Theatre, a late
emporium that remains standing in downtown Los Angeles, retaining the sumptuous
another age. "It was one location that worked absolutely beautiful just the way
we found it,"
Having worked multiple times with Anderson before, Fisk characterizes their
as built of three essential elements: "Humor, hard work and mutual trust." Those
elements have kept costume designer Mark Bridges, who has collaborated on all of
Thomas Anderson's films, returning to his productions. Though each has been a
turnabout from the previous - taking 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 was so excited about creating this
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
The setting of the film right in the year 1950, on the edge of a new decade and
imminent changes in fashion and culture, was especially compelling for Bridges.
recreating transitional periods, where things are shifting," notes the costume
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."
Bridges utilized a lot of the research that Anderson had collected, as well as
his own and began poring through vintage clothing to forge the look of each
Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the signature pieces became a natty green suit
Dodd sports the first time Freddie meets him. "We wanted him to seem very much
like a writer,"
Bridges explains. "That green suit worked with Phil's coloring but it also shows
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
important to me in thinking about how he dresses."
Another of Bridges' favorite ensembles for Dodd is his flashy pair of red
"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
Freddie has a very different sensibility, having come from the conformity of
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
coats that were from 1943," elaborates Bridges, "that had these huge broad
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
By the time he meets Lancaster Dodd as a stowaway, Freddie has shed that
"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,"
Bridges continues. "But, as he rises through the ranks of The Cause, his
Some of Bridges' most interesting finds came in the 1940s maternity dresses he
up for Amy Adams as Peggy Dodd - dresses that draw attention away from the body
entirely to the face. "We found some pieces that were just dead-on for who Peggy
is and Amy
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, Bridges enjoyed costuming a wide variety of
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 summarizes, "and each
person and place
has its own character. But Paul does such complete research that it is always a
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
pacing. McNulty did a first cut and then Jones, who previously received an ACE
her work on Anderson's PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, came on board. She was taken right away
with the footage.
"Peter 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
She spent the next six months working closely with Anderson to chisel the final
"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," 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. Jones explains: "I rarely made a
between the two formats while viewing the footage. Nor were editing
based on the 65mm format. It wasn't until picture was locked and we began
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
likes to do a film finish we were cutting negative and timing photo chemically,
so it was very time
Nevertheless, concludes JoAnne Sellar: "For all the complications of using 65mm,
for Paul it was well worth it. It's an attempt at saving the beauty of real
Meanwhile, the final touches were being put on the film's score by Jonny
the Radiohead guitarist and composer who garnered widespread accolades for his
haunting score for THERE WILL BE BLOOD. That same contrapuntal synergy between
Anderson's bluntly resonant imagery and Greenwood's lush dissonance emerged on
MASTER, but in new and different ways.
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, Greenwood and Anderson talked about the music of Otto Leuning,
in the 1950s became one of the early pioneers of electronic music, discovering
sounds by playing tricks with magnetic tape and microphones. "Some of the film's
was recorded with similar technology," notes Greenwood, "playing around with
directions and unlikely microphone techniques."
Greenwood also took inspiration from 50s jazz and classical music. "There's
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, Greenwood and Anderson worked in their own distinctive way that the
director says winds up more like an open-ended exchange of ideas. "Jonny will
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
Anderson. "But then I realize, 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 conceptualizing the characters from Anderson's
"One thing Paul pointed out to me is that the character Freddie is, despite his
boozing, quite loveable. 'Don't forget the sweetness of Freddie' was one comment
he sent me,"
Greenwood recalls. "Paul puts a lot into the music, has lots of ideas about what
often expressing them in terms that aren't musical - which helps and frees me up
In summing up his experience on the film, Greenwood echoes many, concluding:
you work with Paul, there's a combination of excitement, enthusiasm and hunger
possible. It's an unusual combination of light-hearted fun and dedicated,
Home | Theaters | Video | TV
Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.
© 2017 41®, All Rights Reserved.