Paul Thomas Anderson has finally given audiences a look at his next picture "The Master," a sure-to-be-controversial look at the origins of a religion that sounds a whole lot like Scientology.
The sneak peek features a zonked-out Joaquin Phoenix being grilled by a naval officer about his misbehavior while off-kilter music plays on the soundtrack. The whole thing is mighty unsettling.
Phoenix, who is seen drinking from a torpedo and wrestling on a beach, comes off like a more unhinged version of Daniel Plainview, the demented oil baron who loomed large over Anderson's previous film "There Will Be Blood" (2007).
In earlier press reports, Phoenix has been listed as playing disciple to Philip Seymour Hoffman's religious leader. However, the "Gladiator" star dominates this early look at the film with nary a glimpse of Hoffman.
Is Phoenix's character's messy naval career a nod to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's own dicey armed forces experience? Although Hubbard boasted that he was a decorated World War II veteran, a Los Angeles Times investigation into Navy and Veterans Administration revealed that his military career was a checkered one marred by damning "fitness" reports and questionable claims about injuries.