At times it seemed like it would never happen, but “The Master” is almost (finally) here. Paul Thomas Anderson’s long-in-the-works pseudo-Scientology story, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, is set to hit theaters in limited release on September 14th (following a string of secret screenings, an official world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and an appearance at TIFF). In anticipation of the film’s release, the usually cagey Anderson is on the press circuit, and in a lengthy and fascinating interview with the Village Voice, talks about how he singlehandedly created the marketing for the movie and what it was like working with the sometimes controversial Harvey Weinstein.
We first got a glimpse of “The Master” thanks to a series of odd, elliptical trailers released online. It turns out those were from Anderson himself, who was fed up with the struggles of trying to get his ideas into the marketing of a movie. (Something he faced to a great degree with New Line Cinema on the marketing of “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights” and to less of a degree with Paramount Vantage on “There Will Be Blood.”) He says he’s just now starting to “get” the marketing process for his movies and, according to the Village Voice report, “he has simply done everything himself, creating his own teasers for the movie and uploading them immediately to the Internet—and yes, even screening the film publicly without the approval of his new distributor, Harvey Weinstein.”
Anderson heaps lots of favorable attention on Megan Ellison, the heiress daughter of billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who came to the rescue of “The Master” after Universal Pictures had cooled on the idea of financing it. He describes her intervention as, “Suddenly, like an angel out of the sky came Megan Ellison with wings on her back, basically saying, ‘Let’s make a movie.'”
But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love Harvey Weinstein, the former Miramax bigwig (in that capacity, he helped finance Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” in conjunction with Paramount Vantage) and now head of the Weinstein Company, who famously wriggles his way into the editing bay. (One of his many nicknames is “Harvey Scissorhands.”)
“I showed him the film, and I sort of underestimated that he really knew the script inside and out, and he did,” Anderson told the Village Voice. “There was stuff missing from the film in the cut I showed him because we were still messing around with it, and he remembered things, started asking, ‘Where’s that scene?’ And he was right. I was showing him a version where I was experimenting with what could possibly not be in the film, and he knew what was missing.” Anderson was positively tickled with the process. He said: “It was like having P.T. Barnum come into your editing room and say: ‘What the fuck is going on? Where’s the dancing girl?’ I’ve learned so much from him, just in the past couple of months that we’ve been dealing with each other. I love him.” Sounds like this could be the beginning of a beautiful partnership…
“The Master” looks for converts starting on September 14th