“Really, [the title of the film] was just a process of elimination. In fact, the Internet actually gave it its title first. A version of my script got out online years ago and they referred to it as 'The Master,' even though it didn’t have a title on it or anything," Paul Thomas Anderson recently told the Vancouver Sun. "So we just ended up calling it 'The Master.' We never did find another title for the film.”
"I was kind of like in search of a story, in search of a kind of venue," PTA explained about his super early gestating ideas about the story. "I had a situation where he snuck on a boat — he ended up on some boat that he didn't belong on — I had variations on that. And there was this master of ceremonies who wondered, 'Why are you on my boat?'' Messing around. It was all kind of vague like that – I was just sort of messing around writing, and then about four or five years ago, I started becoming more specific, 'What is this? Where are these pieces going?'"
The backstory: In 2010 a very early sketched-out version of the script leaked online, however because the leakee wrote a rather confused review and synopsis of the film, focusing on the minute details, rather than the overarching story, its veracity came quickly into question (many thought it was a film about a drunkard who got onto a ship and met a strange man because of it, the scientology allusions and the grander story was all missed). Curious and eager to see for ourselves, we got our hands on the script and analyzed what was clearly a Paul Thomas Anderson script (albeit one in very rough form) and its similarities to the history and details of Scientology.
For the purposes of the article we referred to the script as "The Master," and well, apparently the name stuck. Who woulda thunk? What's fascinating is how similar that raw sketch was to the final film, even though it clearly grew and changed. But the fundamental basics — as you can tell by reading the original piece — are still there in the final product. "The Master," which just shattered the record for the strongest limited release debut in history, is in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles right now. It begins to expand wider this Friday.