Scientologists v The Master: Church takes on Weinstein film
Film-makers reportedly 'beefed up' security at last night's NY premiere after barrage of complaints
SCIENTOLOGISTS are reportedly planning a campaign against Paul Thomas Anderson's controversial new film The Master.
The movie explores the early days of a self-help religion called The Cause, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Church of Scientology. Joaquin Phoenix plays a Naval veteran who returns home from war feeling uncertain about his future until he is drawn into the religion by its charismatic leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Anderson has downplayed the Scientology connection but has admitted Hoffman’s character was based on the religion’s founder L Ron Hubbard. “There's a lot of similarities to the early days of Dianetics,” he said. “I don't know a hell of a lot about Scientology today but I know about the beginnings of that movement and it inspired me to use it as a backdrop for these characters. I can't be any more unambiguous than that."
The Master received critical acclaim at the Venice and Toronto film festivals this month, with five-star reviews and talk of an "Oscars shoe-in". At Venice, it won the Silver Lion for best direction and the Volpi Cup prize for best acting, shared by Hoffman and Phoenix.
According to US reports, however, Scientologists are not happy and are planning a publicity drive to undermine the film when it is released in the US on Friday.
According to the New York Post, supporters of the Church have been inundating the distributor – owned by Harvey Weinstein - with calls, emails and letters objecting to the film. Sources have told the newspaper that Scientology is countering the film's marketing by running its own adverts promoting its message in places where ads and stories about The Master appear.
As a result Weinstein is said to have beefed up his personal security, as well as security at the film’s premiere in New York City last night.
As for Scientology’s most famous advocate, all seems to be forgiven. When Anderson was asked in Venice if he had shown the film to Tom Cruise, who starred in his 1999 film Magnolia, the director said: "Yes, I have shown him the film, and yes, we are still friends."