Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Tom Cruise given advance viewing of Scientology-inspired film

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Director Paul Thomas Anderson could be set
to ruffle a few Hollywood feathers with his
Scientology-inspired film The Master
Beyond the summer blockbusters, one of this year's most anticipated films is The Master, from There Will Be Blood and Magnolia director Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, and due out in October, The Master will tell the story of a charismatic leader launching a new religious movement in the years following the Second World War, in what is widely expected to amount to a critical take on the origins of the Church of Scientology (Hoffman plays the L Ron Hubbard-alike).

Telling such a story is a risky and controversial move for a leading director to make, given that Hollywood is the spiritual home of Scientology, and ever since The Master was announced critics have wondered how the movement's high-profile followers might respond to a perceived attack from one of their own.

One such follower is Tom Cruise, and if Hollywood rumours are to be believed, it appears that Anderson may have taken measures to head off a public row by providing the actor with a special advance viewing of The Master. The Chicago Tribune reports that sources close to film say that Anderson recently screened it for Cruise, adding that the actor "had issues" with some elements.

If the rumours are true and Cruise has indeed been shown the film, what could it mean? Was Anderson simply showing it to him as a courtesy to an old friend (the two worked together on Magnolia), or could changes be made as a result of the screening? There are also suggestions that the film's distributor, the Weinstein Company, also plan to show it to another heavyweight Scientologist, John Travolta, before it is released. It seems clear that those behind the film are concerned about how the Church of Scientology is going to react, but will they let those concerns affect what makes it on to the big screen?

Of course, the proof will be in the final cut, and for now it's hard to tell how clear the allusions to Scientology will be (reports from a screening of some clips at Cannes suggest very clear, but that's all we know).

The first teaser trailer was released this week, and that gives very little away – you see a menacing Joaquin Phoenix (great to see him return to acting) as a war veteran talking to an army counsellor, but that's all. Nevertheless, it's well worth watching – even leaving aside the Scientology angle, The Master looks as though it could be one of the films of the year.

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