Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson has screened his new film about a Scientology-like sect leader for Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most famous follower, in the hopes of heading off a conflict with the group, TheWrap has learned.
According to two individuals close to the movie, Anderson recently screened the film, loosely based on the life of Scientology-founder L. Ron Hubbard, for Cruise.
Both individuals said that Cruise “had issues” with some parts of the movie. Cruise starred in one of Anderson’s earlier movies, “Magnolia,” and the two remain friends.
The film is set to be released in October.
When reached by TheWrap, a spokeswoman for Cruise had no immediate comment.
A spokesman for the Church of Scientology told TheWrap they had not seen the film and could not comment on it.
The Church of Scientology, which vigorously defends itself from outside critics, has many followers among Hollywood stars, including actor John Travolta.
One of the individuals close to the movie told TheWrap that the Weinstein Company also intended to show the film to Travolta.
The movie has not yet been screened, so its full plot and tone is not yet known. Weinstein released the trailer from the Cannes Film Festival on Monday.
The church, long criticized for some of its practices, was the subject of an investigative article in the New Yorker last year that accused some leaders of physically abusing adolescent members and beating adults. The article included interviews with director Paul Haggis, a former Scientologist who has come out as one of the religion's fiercest critics.
Anderson, who is still completing the film starring Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, wrote and directed the story about a charismatic leader Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) – referred to as The Master – who creates a cult-like movement called The Cause.
The similarities to Hubbard include the post-World War II time frame and Dodd’s taking a trip on a boat during which he arrives at a new philosophy and creates a faith-based movement.
Phoenix plays a troubled drifter seeking a path who becomes Dodd’s right-hand man.
Both the director and movie distributor, the Weinstein Company, are debating how to approach the similarities with Scientology – whether to acknowledge them openly or keep the matter at arm's length.
The reaction of the group’s most prominent members will likely be a part of that decision.
The $42 million budget film was fully financed by producer Megan Ellison, daughter of Silicon Valley billionaire Larry Ellison, who took on the project after she learned that Anderson could not get financing anywhere.