With newbie arthouse loving and totally loaded financier Megan Ellison giving fresh legs to Paul Thomas Anderson‘s long gestating Scientology flick back in February, and after Universal balked and dropped the $35 million drama, it looks like it’s now sputtering back to life, hoping to get a cast assembled for the film.
With Jeremy Renner now very busy in franchise world, Variety reports that talks have now begun with Joaquin Phoenix to take on the part of Freddie Sutton, a former alcoholic who becomes the apprentice to Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic leader of the The Cause, a not so thinly veiled Scientology-esque cult.
And while this sounds like a potentially amazing, career reviving turn that Phoenix can do to counter the negative buzz he got following the whole “I’m Still Here” mockumentary thing it’s not a done deal yet. Phoenix has been courted for a lot of roles recently — “Big Shoe” from “Secretary” director Steven Shainberg, and James Franco‘s adaptation of “As I Lay Dying” among them — with none them amounting to anything yet. But fuck, we hope it happens.
There are also some either key roles to fill including that of Mary Sue, the Master’s wife which was reportedly offered to Reese Witherspoon last year, and also the daughter Elizabeth that the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Emma Stone and Deborah Ann Woll were apparently considered for as well.
Our review of an early, early script was certainly impressed with PTA’s writing and described the story as “the battle for Freddie’s soul which has been seduced by the dark charms of the master, but even that is far too simple a description of this layered, mysterious and at times very ambiguous tale.” That said, PTA does need to get casting into place for this to happen and he’s also got the Thomas Pynchon adaptation “Inherent Vice” — also backed by Ellison with Robert Downey Jr. circling — on his plate, and back in February the director was already halfway through a second draft of the film and it could potentially go first (once RDJ wraps “The Avengers” he’s pretty much free for the rest of year, having dropped out of “Oz The Great And Powerful“).
And while both projects sound great, we know which one we want to go first. So fingers crossed Phoenix comes aboard and gets the ball rolling.