The Master

The Master Information

The Master is a 2012 American drama film written, directed, and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. It tells the story of Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a World War II veteran struggling to adjust to a post-war society who meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a leader of a religious movement known as "The Cause," who sees something in Quell and accepts him into the movement. Freddie takes a liking to "The Cause" and begins traveling with Dodd along the East Coast to spread the teachings.

It was produced by Annapurna Pictures and Ghoulardi Film Company and distributed by The Weinstein Company. With a budget of $30 million, filming began in June 2011. Cinematography was provided by Mihai M?laimare, Jr., Jonny Greenwood composed the score, and Leslie Jones and Peter McNulty worked as editors. The film was partly inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, but also used early drafts of There Will Be Blood, stories Jason Robards had told Anderson about his drinking days in the Navy during the war, and the life story of John Steinbeck. The Master was shot almost entirely on 65mm film stock, making it the first feature length fiction film to be shot and released in 70 mm since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet in 1996.

Initially the film was set up with Universal but fell through due to problems with the scripts and the budget. It was first publicly shown on August 3, 2012, at the American Cinematheque in 70mm and screened in various other cities in the format prior to its official premiere. The film officially premiered on September 1, 2012, at the Venice Film Festival where it won the FIPRESCI Award for Best Film. The Master was released on September 14, 2012, in the United States to critical acclaim. The film received three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for Phoenix, Best Supporting Actor for Hoffman, and Best Supporting Actress for Adams.


Freddie Quell is a sex-obsessed alcoholic World War II veteran from Lynn, Massachusetts struggling to adjust to a post-war society. He becomes a portrait photographer at a local department store but is soon fired for getting into a drunken fight with a customer. Freddie then finds work on a cabbage farm, but his moonshine poisons one of the elderly migrant workers and he is chased off.

One night, intoxicated, Freddie stows away on the yacht of a follower of Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a philosophical movement known as "The Cause". When he is discovered, Dodd invites Freddie to stay and attend the marriage of Dodd's daughter, Elizabeth, as long as he will make more of his mysterious brew (made with paint thinner), which Dodd has developed a taste for. Dodd begins an exercise with Freddie called Processing, a flurry of disturbing psychological questioning aimed at conquering Freddie's past traumas. Freddie reveals that his father has died, his mother is institutionalized, he may have had an incestuous relationship with his aunt, and he abandoned the love of his life, a young girl named Doris, who wrote to him while he was at war. Freddie is enthralled by Dodd, who doesn't flinch from his abject revelations, and Dodd sees something in Freddie. Freddie travels with Dodd's family as they spread the teachings of "The Cause" along the East Coast, staying as guests in the homes of various women drawn to "The Cause". But Freddie's violent and erratic behavior has not improved, nor has his alcoholism. At a dinner party in New York, a man questions Dodd's methods and statements, and Freddie pursues him to his apartment and assaults him that night.

Other members of "The Cause" begin to worry about Freddie's behavior, despite Dodd's attachment to him. While they are guests of an acolyte in Philadelphia, Dodd's wife Peggy tells Freddie that he must quit drinking if he wishes to stay, to which he agrees. However, he has no true intention of keeping his promise. Freddie criticizes Dodd's son Val for disregarding his father's teachings, but Val tells Freddie that Dodd is making things up as he goes along. Dodd is arrested for practicing medicine without proper qualifications, after one of his former hostesses has a change of heart; Freddie is also arrested for assaulting the police officers. In the jail cell adjacent to Dodd, Freddie smashes the toilet and batters himself against the bars and his bunk, while Dodd tries to calm him. But Freddie erupts in a tirade, questioning everything that Dodd has taught him and accuses him of being a fake. The two men trade insults until Dodd turns his back. They reconcile upon their release, but members of "The Cause" have become more suspicious and fearful of Freddie, believing him to be insane or an undercover agent.

Freddie submits to additional exercises with "The Cause" but becomes increasingly angry and frustrated with his lack of results and repetition of the exercises. Eventually he passes the tests, and they travel to Phoenix, Arizona, for the release of Dodd's latest book. But when Dodd's publisher criticizes the quality of the book and its teachings Freddie assaults him. Helen Sullivan, their Philadelphia hostess, confronts Dodd in the lecture hall for suggesting that members should now "imagine" rather than "recall" the experiences of "other lives" in his new book, and he also loses his temper. During another exercise, in which Freddie is supposed to ride a motorcycle at high speed through the desert towards an object in the distance and then return, he instead abandons the group, riding the motorcycle out of the desert, and leaving Dodd and "The Cause" behind. He goes home to rekindle his relationship with Doris but learns from her mother that she has married and started a family in Alabama in the seven years since he last saw her. Freddie leaves disappointed, but he seems pleased that Doris has made a happy life for herself.

While sleeping in a movie theater, Freddie has a "vision" of Dodd, who calls him by telephone, having mysteriously located him. Dodd informs Freddie that he is now residing in England and that Freddie must join him as soon as possible. Taking the dream literally, he travels across the Atlantic to reunite with Dodd. When Freddie arrives, he discovers Val is still in his father's employ and that Elizabeth has been expelled from the movement. Dodd seems happy to see him but Peggy tells him that Freddie has no intention of improving his life and that he should no longer be involved in "The Cause". Dodd finally realizes that his wife is correct and he gives Freddie an ultimatum: stay with "The Cause" and devote himself to it for the rest of his life or leave and never return. Dodd then serenades Freddie with the song Slow Boat to China. Freddie leaves and picks up a woman at a local pub, then spews questions from his first Processing session with Dodd as he is having sex with her. Finally he appears to curl up on a beach next to the crude sand sculpture of a woman he created during the war.




It was first reported in December 2009 that Anderson had been working on a script about the founder of a new religious organization (described as being similar to Scientology) played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. An associate of Anderson stated that the idea for the film had been in Anderson's head for about twelve years. The idea for the film came to him after reading a quote that periods after wars were productive times for spiritual movements to start.

When he first began writing the script he had no idea what it was, where it was going, or where it would end up, but he kept on working on it and it came together. To write the script, Anderson combined unused scenes from early drafts of There Will Be Blood, stories Jason Robards had told him on the set of Magnolia about his drinking days in the navy during the war, and the life stories of John Steinbeck and L. Ron Hubbard. Anderson conducted research about Dianetics and its early followers. While writing, Anderson would have Hoffman read parts of the script and give feedback which led to Hoffman suggesting that the film should be Freddie's story and not Lancaster's. After the film was dropped by Universal and failed to pick up a distributor, Anderson did several months of rewrites.


Hoffman was reported as being cast in the lead role as Lancaster Dodd with Jeremy Renner starring opposite as Freddie Quell. Renner was later reported as no longer being attached to the film. There were rumors that James Franco was considered for the role but eventually Joaquin Phoenix was officially cast in the role. Reese Witherspoon was reportedly offered the role of Peggy Dodd, but Amy Adams was later cast. For the role of Dodd's daughter Amanda Seyfried, Emma Stone, and Deborah Ann Woll were all considered with the role eventually going to newcomer Ambyr Childers.

Anderson stated that he knew from the beginning that he wanted Hoffman to play the Master and also had Phoenix in mind for the part of Freddie. This was Phoenix's first screen appearance since I'm Still Here with Phoenix passing on many scripts prior to The Master catching his interest.


Filming was to begin in August 2010 with Renner starring opposite Hoffman, but was postponed indefinitely in September 2010. In May 2011, after securing financing, the film was given the green light and filming began in early June 2011 in Vallejo and Sacramento. Shooting took place on Mare Island for a month using the wing of an old hospital and an empty admiral's mansion for some scenes. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht, the USS Potomac, was used for shooting shipboard scenes. In late June 2011 filming took place at Hillside Elementary School in Berkeley.

The film was shot on 65mm film using the Panavision System 65 camera. The film was the first fiction film to be shot in 65mm since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet in 1996. Mihai M?laimare, Jr. served as cinematographer, making The Master Anderson's first film without cinematographer Robert Elswit. The film crew used three 65mm Panavision cameras throughout filming, and at times had an assistant from Panavision on set to help with the cameras' technical issues. Originally, Anderson and M?laimare planned to shoot mainly portraits in 65mm, which constituted 20% of the film, but ultimately 85% of the film was shot in 65mm. The remainder of the film was shot on 35mm using Panavision Millennium XL2s cameras, often used for scenes that required a "dirtier" look. In order to maintain a consistent aspect ratio, the 65mm footage was cropped from 2.20:1 to 1.85:1 to match the 35mm footage, at the sacrifice of some of the image area. Most of the film stocks used were KODAK VISION3 50D Color Negative Film 5203 and KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213 with a few scenes were also done with KODAK VISION3 250D Color Negative Film 5207 and KODAK VISION3 500T 5219. Because Anderson prefers working with film, he bypassed the use of a digital intermediate and digital editing, instead cutting using the film negative and color grading with the use of a photochemical timer.

During filming, Phoenix was allowed to improvise on set. Phoenix lost significant weight for the role and came up with Freddie's awkward gait. Anderson compared Phoenix's commitment to that of Daniel Day-Lewis for his level of concentration stating that Phoenix got into character and stayed there for three months. Adams stated that Anderson would have her appear on set for scenes she was not scheduled to appear in to make her presence felt and at times she didn't know whether or not the camera was on her.


Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead composed the score for the film. This is the second time Greenwood has scored an Anderson film, the first being There Will Be Blood, released in December 2007.

The soundtrack comprises eleven compositions by Greenwood along with four recordings from the film's era. Performers include the London Contemporary Orchestra and Ella Fitzgerald, among others.

Track listing

The Weinstein Company also released more comprehensive score on their website as part of the film's promotion, featuring alternate versions of the tracks.



The Master was initially set up with Universal but, like The Weinstein Company, they eventually passed on the project because of problems with the script. The main issue that Universal had with the project was that the budget was too big at about $35 million. It was later reported that River Road was in serious talks to fully finance the film. In February 2011 it was reported that Megan Ellison, daughter of billionaire Larry Ellison, would finance The Master and Anderson's adaptation of the novel Inherent Vice under her new production company Annapurna Pictures. Harvey Weinstein later picked up the worldwide rights to the film in May 2011.

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 26, 2013 in the US, and March 11 in the UK. The release features "Back Beyond", a twenty-minute montage of deleted footage edited by Paul Thomas Anderson and set to Jonny Greenwood's original score. Also included is the 1946 John Huston documentary "Let There Be Light", a source which Paul Thomas Anderson reportedly found very influential in his creation of the film.


The first teaser poster for the film appeared in May 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival with the title Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project. A second promo poster for the film appeared in November 2011 at the American Film Market with the same title. On May 21, 2012 a teaser trailer featuring Joaquin Phoenix was released online and several minutes of footage from the film were shown at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. A second teaser trailer was released on June 19, 2012 which featured Phoenix as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. On July 19, 2012, a theatrical trailer was released online by The Weinstein Company. The film was given an R rating in the United States by the Motion Picture Association of America.

70 mm screenings

On August 3, 2012, over one month before its first official screening, at the Venice Film Festival, The Master was shown as a "surprise screening" at the American Cinematheque in 70 mm. It was announced that there would be a special screening just after a screening of a new remastered version of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. After the credits of The Shining it was announced that the special screening was that of The Master. The film was shown with no opening titles (except for the title of the movie) or closing credits. The Weinstein Company continued advance screenings of the film in 70 mm in New York, Los Angeles, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Austin. Although this was done because there was strong consideration that The Master was unlikely to be shown in the format during its commercial run, the film was eventually displayed during its run in 70 mm in most cinemas that carried the film and could still project that format.


Box office performance

The Master grossed $242,127 at five theaters during its opening day on September 14, 2012, setting a single day record for an art house film. Overall the film made $736,311 from five theaters for a per-theater average of $147,262, setting a record for the highest average for a live-action film. Despite these achievements, the film was not a box office success, and did not make back its 30 million dollar budget. During its first week nationwide, the film grossed $4.4 million in 788 theaters.

Critical response

The film has received mostly positive reviews. Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 86% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 222 reviews, with a rating average of 8.1 out of 10. The consensus reads, "Smart, powerfully acted, beautifully filmed, and solidly engrossing, The Master extends writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's winning streak of challenging films for serious audiences." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film ended up receiving a rating average of 86, based on 43 reviews, considered to be "universally acclaimed". Kenneth Turan of Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, praising both Anderson's directing and Phoenix's performance, stating that "Phoenix, known for immersing himself in Oscar-nominated roles in Gladiator and Walk the Line, makes Quell frighteningly believable." About the film itself, he stated: "The Master takes some getting used to. This is a superbly crafted film that's at times intentionally opaque, as if its creator didn't want us to see all the way into its heart of darkness." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a perfect "A" grade, stating: "It's also one of the great movies of the year - an ambitious, challenging, and creatively hot-blooded, but cool toned project that picks seriously at knotty ideas about American personality, success, rootlessness, master-disciple dynamics, and father-son mutually assured destruction."

Peter Rainer of Christian Science Monitor also gave the film a positive review, stating that "the performances by Phoenix and Hoffman are studies in contrast. Phoenix carries himself with a jagged, lurching, simianlike grace while Hoffman gives Dodd a calm deliberateness. Both actors have rarely been better in the movies. The real Master class here is about acting " and that includes just about everybody else in the film, especially Adams, whose twinkly girl-next-door quality is used here to fine subversive effect." A. O. Scott of The New York Times also, like Rainer, gave the film a positive review, he stated: "It is a movie about the lure and folly of greatness that comes as close as anything I've seen recently to being a great movie. There will be skeptics, but the cult is already forming. Count me in." Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club, after giving the film an "A" grade, wrote: "It's a feisty, contentious, deliberately misshapen film, designed to challenge and frustrate audiences looking for a clean resolution. Just because it's over doesn't mean it's settled." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four-stars-out-of-four, praising Anderson's directing, he wrote: "The Master, the sixth film from the 42-year-old writer-director, affirms his position as the foremost filmmaking talent of his generation. Anderson is a rock star, the artist who knows no limits." About the film itself, he wrote: "Written, directed, acted, shot, edited and scored with a bracing vibrancy that restores your faith in film as an art form, The Master is nirvana for movie lovers. Anderson mixes sounds and images into a dark, dazzling music that is all his own." He would later call the film the Best Film of 2012.

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised not only Anderson's directing and performances of two leading actors, but also the score composed by Jonny Greenwood. He stated: "In a film overflowing with qualities, but also brimming with puzzlements, two things stand out: the extraordinary command of cinematic technique, which alone is nearly enough to keep a connoisseur on the edge of his seat the entire time, and the tremendous portrayals by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman of two entirely antithetical men, one an unlettered drifter without a clue, the other an intellectual charlatan who claims to have all the answers. They become greatly important to each other and yet, in the end, have an oddly negligible mutual effect. The magesterial style, eerie mood and forbidding central characters echo Anderson's previous film, There Will Be Blood, a kinship furthered by another bold and discordant score by Jonny Greenwood." Justin Chang of Variety magazine gave the film a positive review, he stated: "The writer-director's typically eccentric sixth feature is a sustained immersion in a series of hypnotic moods and longueurs, an imposing picture that thrillingly and sometimes maddeningly refuses to conform to expectations." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three-stars-out-of-four, he praised Phoenix's performance stating: "Gaunt, sick-looking, with stooped shoulders and a shambling gait, Phoenix buries himself in Freddie's persona and there's never a moment when we disbelieve him." He added about the film: "Yet, for all of The Masters laudable elements, it falls short of greatness for one simple reason: the storytelling is unspectacular." Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two-and-a-half-stars-out-of-four, he stated: "Fabulously well-acted and crafted, but when I reach for it, my hand closes on air. It has rich material and isn't clear what it thinks about it. It has two performances of Oscar caliber, but do they connect?" He would later name it as one of the top 20 films of 2012.

Calum Marsh of Slant Magazine gave the film a mixed review and two-stars-out-of-four, stating: "The Master is Paul Thomas Anderson with the edges sanded off, the best bits shorn down to nubs." Rex Reed of New York Observer gave the film a negative review, writing: "Call The Master whatever you want, but lobotomized catatonia from what I call the New Hacks can never take the place of well-made narrative films about real people that tell profound stories for a broader and more sophisticated audience. Fads come and go, but as Walter Kerr used to say, 'I'll yell tripe whenever tripe is served.'"

On Phoenix's performance, Kent Jones of Film Comment noted, "Freddie is not so much played as nuzzled, and jerked into being by Joaquin Phoenix. I'm Still Here aside, Phoenix's Freddie seems like genuinely damaged goods. He and his director feel their way into this man-in-a-bind from the inside out, and they establish his estrangement from others in those opening scenes through awkward smiles and out-of-sync body language alone". "As always with Anderson", Jones continues: "The character opposition borders on the schematic, and the structure threatens to come apart at the seams. But the courting of danger is exactly what makes his films so exciting, this new film most of all. I don't think he has ever done a better job of resolving his story, perhaps because he has come to terms with the irresolution within and between his characters."

Emma Dibdin of Total Film gave The Master 5 stars out of 5, concluding that the film "is a breathtaking, singular, technically audacious film, white-hot with emotion, and boasting a few scenes so individually powerful that they'll stay with you like a physical presence for days."

The film was placed #1 in both the critics poll of the best films of 2012 by Sight and Sound, and by The Village Voice on its annual film poll. The film also ranked second by both Film Comment and Indiewire on their year-end film critics polls, following Holy Motors.


The film won the Silver Lion for Best Director (Paul Thomas Anderson) and the Volpi Cup for Best Actor (given to both Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman) at the 69th Venice International Film Festival. However the festival's jury originally intended to give the film the top Golden Lion prize for Best Film; the prize was removed and awarded to Pietà instead, due to a new rule stating that prohibit awarding acting and directing honors along with the Golden Lion prize. A similar incident was rumored to have occurred at the festival in 2008 when Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler was to be awarded both the Golden Lion and the Volpi Cup for Mickey Rourke's performance. The film received the former, with the latter being awarded to Silvio Orlando for his work in Giovanna's Father. When asked about the last minute shakeup over the award, Anderson replied, "I'm thrilled with whatever they want to hand over. I heard some of the scuttlebutt recently, but I'm just thrilled with what they hand over. And that's all."

List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards February 24, 2013 Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Joaquin Phoenix
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Amy Adams
AACTA Awards January 2013 Best International Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson
Best International Actor Joaquin Phoenix
Boston Society of Film Critics December 9, 2012 Best Cinematography Mihai M?laimare, Jr.
Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson
British Academy Film Awards February 10, 2012 Best Actor in a Leading Role Joaquin Phoenix
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Amy Adams
Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award January 10, 2013 Best Picture
Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams
Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Cinematography Mihai M?laimare, Jr.
Best Composer Jonny Greenwood
Chicago Film Critics Association December 17, 2012 Best Picture
Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix
Best Supporting Actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams
Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Cinematography Mihai M?laimare, Jr.
Best Original Score Jonny Greenwood
Best Art Direction
Best Editing Lesile Jones and Peter McNaulty
Golden Globe Award January 13, 2013 Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama Joaquin Phoenix
Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture Amy Adams
Gotham Awards November 26, 2012 Best Feature Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, Daniel Lupi, JoAnne Sellar
Hollywood Film Festival October 23, 2012 Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams (also for On the Road and Trouble with the Curve)
5th Annual Lancashire Film Critics Awards March 30, 2013 Best International Film Paul Thomas Anderson
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 9, 2012 Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix
Best Cinematography Mihai M?laimare, Jr.
Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Film
Best Music Jonny Greenwood
Best Production Design David Crank and Jack Fisk
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams
National Society of Film Critics January 5, 2013 Best Film -
Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams
Best Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Cinematography Mihai M?laimare, Jr.
Premio Cinema Ludus November 19, 2012 Special Mention " Gran Prix for Best Film Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Undistributed Film
Best Director " Undistributed Film Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Screeplay " Undistributed Film Paul Thomas Anderson
Satellite Awards December 16, 2012 Best Actor in a Motion Picture Joaquin Phoenix
Best Art Direction and Production Design David Crank and Jack Fisk
Best Cinematography Mihai M?laimare, Jr.
Best Original Score Jonny Greenwood
Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Amy Adams
Screen Actors Guild Awards January 27, 2013 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Venice International Film Festival September 8, 2012 FIPRESCI Award Paul Thomas Anderson
Golden Lion Paul Thomas Anderson
Silver Lion Paul Thomas Anderson
Volpi Cup for Best Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 10, 2012 Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix
Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Cinematography Mihai M?laimare, Jr.
Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Score Jonny Greenwood
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams
Writers Guild of America February 17, 2013 Best Original Screenplay Paul Thomas Anderson

Analogies with Scientology

Upon the release of the script, comparisons between "The Cause" and Scientology were quickly made. The press noted Hoffman's physical resemblance to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (1911"1986), who served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and after his release from the hospital founded the belief system in 1950, the same year as the religion in the script. The film ends in England, at roughly the same time Saint Hill Manor became Hubbard's residence and the first Scientology "org".

The production company officially denied that the film was loosely based on Hubbard with producer JoAnne Sellar also denying any connection to Hubbard, stating, "It's a World War II drama. It's about a drifter after World War II." Harvey Weinstein also denied that the film was about Scientology: "Paul says to me the movie is about a journey for soldiers after World War II . . one of the things that happens to this soldier is he goes to a cult." Anderson has stated that he has "always thought Hubbard was a great character, so interesting and larger than life, and kind of impossible to ignore" and he acknowledges that Lancaster Dodd was inspired by L. Ron Hubbard and that he should have known that is what people would latch onto, stating, "I didn't want it to be a biography. It's not the L. Ron Hubbard story."

Several websites suggested that "important Hollywood Scientologists" objected to the project because they fear it might reveal too much about the faith, and others even speculated that the Church of Scientology had enough power to stop Universal from green-lighting the film. However, none of the production crew had been contacted by representatives of Scientology. When Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, was asked if the church had any concerns about the film, she stated, "We have not seen the film, so can't say one way or another" and that the church knows about the film only from what it reads in the press. According to Anderson, at no point did the church make any direct or indirect inquiries about the project or otherwise try to inhibit its progress, and that while making the film Scientology was the least of their problems.

In May 2012, Anderson reportedly screened the film for actor Tom Cruise, his friend and outspoken Scientologist, who had some issues with parts of the film. Cruise had previously starred in Anderson's 1999 film Magnolia. Officials of the Church of Scientology, who reportedly heard from Cruise, "hit the roof" when they learned of a scene which suggests the belief system was a product of the leader's imagination. The scene with which Cruise had issues has Dodd's son tell Quell that Dodd is just making it up as he goes along. While church members reportedly objected to other scenes, Anderson did not excise any of them from the film. Anderson stated that Cruise "did see the film. It's something between us. Everything is fine, though."

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