Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (the acclaimed director of: ‘There Will Be Blood,’ ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Boogie Nights’), ‘The Master’ stars Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and Academy Award-nominee Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line). Set in America in the years following World War II, a charismatic intellectual (Hoffman) launches a faith-based organization and taps a young drifter (Phoenix) as his right-hand man. But as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the onetime vagabond finds himself questioning the belief system he has embraced, and his mentor. A truly one-of-a-kind drama, which promises magnetic virtuoso performances, the film marks the fifth collaboration between Anderson and Hoffman, following ‘Hard Eight,’ ‘Boogie Nights,’ ‘Magnolia,’ and ‘Punch Drunk Love.’ Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Jesse Plemons, Lena Endre and David Warshofsky also star in the film. ‘The Master’ is out now in limited release in the US before expanding wider on September 21st. The film arrives in UK cinemas from November 9th.
‘The Master’ is your third time working with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. What was it like acting opposite him in a role like this, you really get to go toe-to-toe with each other?
Amy Adams: Yeah, I had worked with Phillip Seymour Hoffman before on ‘Doubt’ and on ‘Charlie Wilson’s War,‘ and I adore, worship, love Phillip. So to get to play someone in ’The Master’ who adores, worships and loves Phillip was not a big stretch for me (laughs). It was fun to get to go toe-to-toe with him as a person of power. In some past roles I’ve been a bit more submissive, so it was great to get to overpower Phillip in ‘The Master’ – because that’s the only time that’s ever going to happen in my life (laughs). I just have a great respect and reverence for what Phillip does and his work. I’m always honoured to be on screen with him.
Going into working on a film with a filmmaker as revered as Paul Thomas Anderson, how was that?
Amy Adams: I have to say, when I went into ‘The Master,’ I remember meeting with Paul Thomas Anderson at a restaurant and there was an exterminator there, so we said to each other, “We’ll always remember this moment because there’s an exterminator walking out of the kitchen.” But I think that I thought….there’s a line in ‘The Master’ where Phillip says, “It’s going to be very very serious,” and that’s what I thought this experience was going to be (laughs). I thought, “It’s going to be very very serious working with Paul Thomas Anderson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix.” But it was actually a lot of fun, we laughed a lot, there was a lot of exploration. We really had the freedom to experiment and fail on ‘The Master,’ and that was unexpected – I thought it was going to be very serious (laughs). It was an amazing experience and I was really grateful to have that experience.
What was your research process like for ‘The Master’ and your character Peggy Dodd? Did you look into organisations, the climate of the time with regards to roles of women, the era….?
Amy Adams: Yeah, I’ve always been interested in the roles of women in the 20th century, because it was such a quick growing time and roles changed so quickly and so much. And when I was thinking about the era in ’The Master,’ one of the things I re-read was ‘The Feminine Mystique‘ by Betty Friedan,’ which I had read along time before. And this book talks about women’s roles right after World War II, when the climate for women changed, and how we were just becoming empowered after the men went off to war. That was one thing I re-read and thought about for Peggy, definitely.
Even when your character isn’t speaking or directly involved in a particular scene, we see her loitering or in the environment….?
Amy Adams: That was a lot of fun, Paul sort of gave me free reigns to sort of loiter in the background all of the time and really keep an eye on Phillip’s Lanacaster Dodd character. It really helped me feel very protective of him and possessive of his philosophy, and of his person doing that. Peggy, she’s a very loyal, fierce woman and that helped. Even if I wasn’t speaking in the scene I would be in the background of the scene. Always loitering, always in the community.
Considering the amazing response that ‘The Master’ has been receiving, how has that been for you?
Amy Adams: I’m just proud of ‘The Master,’ I’m proud for Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman that they were able to do such amazing performances in ‘The Master,’ and whenever people respond to your work in a positive way it’s really rewarding. You go into to it so that audiences will respond and so that’s always very very rewarding. And Joaquin, his performance as Freddie Quell is like nothing I’ve seen before. It’s one of those characters that I think will go down in film history.
Rami Malek On ‘The Master,’ Working With Joaquin Phoenix And What Makes P.T. Anderson So Special
The performances Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams deliver in “The Master” as, respectively, Freddie Quell, Lancaster Dodd and Peggy Dodd, have been rightly hailed as revelatory. It’s the supporting contributions director Paul Thomas Anderson coaxed from the rest of his cast, however, that make the film whole: from Laura Dern as a devoted disciple, to Jesse Plemons as Dodd’s cynical son, and especially Rami Malek. The 31-year-old actor portrays Dodd’s kowtowing son-in-law, propping up scenes against Phoenix’s raving Quell throughout “The Master.”
“I’m just a small part of an incredible film, but I’m happy to be that small part,” Malek told HuffPost Entertainment via phone last week. Malek earned rave reviews for his performance on the HBO miniseries “The Pacific” and has since parlayed that success into screen work in films like “Larry Crowne,” “Battleship” and the upcoming “Twilight” finale, “Breaking Dawn Part 2.” In “The Master,” he plays Clark, a true believer in The Cause (the cult-like religion propagated by the Dodds), as well as Freddie’s often wary sidekick.
Malek spoke to HuffPost about the casting process for “The Master,” whether Scientology was a big topic of discussion on the set, and what it’s like to have Joaquin Phoenix say he wants to fart in your face.
Paul Thomas Anderson films are notoriously shrouded in secrecy, so what was the casting process like?
I was away on set, filming, and I got an email from the casting director. From there she asked me to throw stuff on tape and send it back. I knew what it was. I gave it a whole lot of importance and value to what I was doing, even though I was working on another project. It was at the front of my mind. When I got back home, I went in to read again with the casting director and Paul, and, finally, to read with Joaquin. When I met Joaquin, I could not distinguish that it was him. He had already lost so much weight. Seeing him in that state already put me in a great place to begin playing and working with him in the room. It was quite the special and incredible process from the beginning to the end. Especially the casting process. Meeting Paul, someone I’ve admired for so many years. We both grew up in the Valley, so to see him and audition for him in the Valley was astonishing.
Joaquin’s performance is very spontaneous. Were you kept in the dark with what he was going to do from scene to scene?
It’s all scripted. There’s very little improv going on. But Paul just creates this environment of being able to play around with anything. As special and unique a filmmaker as he is, Paul is not beholden to what’s on the page, necessarily. But, for the most part, we want to stick to it, because it’s undoubtedly better than anything we’re going to come up with on our own. Having said that, you want to put your best performance forward. I want to give him everything I’m capable of giving and I know Joaquin wants to do the same, as does everyone else on set. There is this no-holds-barred feeling. I sit across from Joaquin as Freddie and I have no idea what he’s going to do next. There was this element running through my veins that almost allowed me to settle in to what might happen, no matter what it was, because that could be the most special thing that happened on the day. So sitting next to this feral, wild tiger, who is unleashed, allows for the most true reactions one could have as an actor.
“The Master” has a surprising amount of humor; during one of the processing scenes, Freddie says he’s going to “fart in your face.”
Humor was definitely a part of the entire film. We had so many laughs while the film was rolling and while it wasn’t rolling. Paul’s incredibly funny. Phil, as the world knows, is an incredibly funny human being. And Joaquin has a dry, unpredictable sense of humor that can make you laugh almost the hardest sometimes. It can come out of nowhere.
We shot that scene towards the end of the entire film, and by then we had really formed a bond. All of us. So there was this feeling that we could do anything, and have fun and try anything out and be generally loose. We’re in the hands of Paul Thomas Anderson, so if he thinks anything goes, anything goes. He’s going to make something special at the end of it. There was never any doubt.
Film after film, Paul gets these incredible performances. What makes him such a great director of actors?
There’s a calm that comes with him. It’s not this formidable giant of a man who you picture is going to impress all of his thoughts on you and mold your performance into what he sees. He sets up an entire environment for an actor where one is capable of their best foot forward. Generally the scenes are written so well; they’re so dynamic. The story he’s telling is so thoughtful. Then little bits of direction here and there lead to this cumulative effect of something being inherently special. It’s not one or two things he does specifically as a director; it’s every tiny piece of detail that comes together to make a great piece of art. He does it under the radar, so you don’t realize what he’s doing until you’re through the scene. Then it all starts to come back and you start looking at it in hindsight. Like, “Oh, when he left me alone he was getting everything he wanted.” Or, “Just by giving me this little note, it changed everyone’s performance a little bit.” So, rather than being consumed with one note being insecurely about myself or any other actor, I felt one note could change the entire scene for everyone. He does it in a way that no one is ever noticing.
With Paul, it’s just trusting what he wants and taking his direction. Being on a Paul Thomas Anderson film, the best decision an actor can make is to listen to Paul Thomas Anderson. Because he’s probably not going to steer anyone in the wrong direction. I would alway say go with your gut on any other movie set, but with Paul, I would say go with Paul’s gut.
Joaquin is just so good in the film; is that something you notice immediately on set?
It’s very difficult not to notice how beautiful and special his talents are, right off the bat. When someone is doing something like that directly in front of you, it’s apparent within the first 10 seconds. In fact, Paul — in a very kind of golden-age throwback — screened the dailies for the cast and crew with a professional projectionist. We had a chance of seeing Joaquin unfold all of his talents. You could see Joaquin just jumping — radiating — off the early footage.
Much has been about about the connections between “The Master” and Scientology. Was that discussed on set at all?
Paul never said anything regarding Scientology toward me throughout the film, and I spent a good deal of time with him. It was very surprising. Definitely you can see the links, but for the most part, [that story] really took over in the media.
As a young actor, what do you take away from working with performers like Joaquin and Philip?
I’m just thinking about this in this moment with you. 50 years from now, if I am still alive — which I don’t know that I will be — I’ll be able to look back and say I got to act with some of the greatest filmmakers and artists of my generation. It would be like working with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift and those guys of that generation. Being on set, having the time with them there in the moment and watching their process, it’s very inspiring and something I’ll cherish. There was never a moment where I felt like I would rather be in a trailer than watching Phil and Amy and Joaquin be astonishing. To have the privilege to sit at a dinner table with those actors, or sit in a room during those processing sessions with those actors. As an actor, you keep hoping for more takes — not to get it right but to keep watching them work.