The Scientology parable by "There Will Be Blood" director Paul Thomas Anderson, tentatively titled "The Master," has been "postponed indefinitely," according to would-be star Jeremy Renner.
Anderson's 124-page script follows Freddie Sutton (Renner), an alcoholic drifter who falls under the influence of the titular charismatic intellectual (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Hoffman's characater is in the midst of establishing The Cause, a faith that shares several similarities with the L. Ron Hubbard-created religion, Scientology.
While the script never uses the term "Scientology" outright, it can certainly be read as a parable for the birth of that religion.
The Playlist points out that Renner revealed the disappointing news in the new issue of Total Film.
"I was really bummed about that," the Oscar-nominated actor told the magazine. "It really kind of stalled because when we were rehearsing — Phil, Paul and myself — we kept coming up against a wall that we couldn't overcome. Or at least Paul couldn't overcome."
The Playlist recently sat down with Hoffman during press rounds for his feature directorial debut "Jack Goes Boating," and the Oscar-winning "Capote" star said, "I don't have any new information. I really mean that, I'm not being obtuse. I don't quite know what that is at the moment, but hopefully I will and hopefully I'll be part of something soon. It would be great to work with him again."
Production was reportedly set to begin in August, but clearly the targeted start date has come and gone with no forward progress on the project.
An anonymous commenter and self-described conspiracy theorist notes at The Playlist that CAA packaged PTA's project, and the agency also represents two of Hollywood's biggest stars — famed Scientologist Tom Cruise (who recently tapped Renner to join his "Mission: Impossible" franchise, of which Hoffman is a veteran) and Will Smith, who is not a known Scientologist but has made sizable charitable donations to groups associated with Scientology in the past.
I seriously doubt that either A-List actor played a role in this project's inability to get off the ground, but when you're dealing with millions of dollars, powerful egos — and especially Scientology — anything is possible.
Another anonymous commenter points out that "on at least two previous PTA films, the first few weeks of shooting were scrapped, redone or re-conceptualized based on issues with cast, story or tone," so perhaps the problem doesn't involve a lack of financing for a sure-to-be-controversial film about religion, but a creative obstacle that Anderson simply wasn't able to overcome.
Having said that, when TheWrap contacted River Road, which was previously reported to be financing the film, the company said it was not involved with the project and would not be backing Anderson's latest picture.
CAA did not immediately respond to TheWrap's request for comment.
Regardless of what actually happened, we're rooting for PTA to put this project together. There's no filmmaker better suited to explore this material than Anderson, so here's hoping some brave financier is willing to step up to the plate and support his vision.