Interview conducted by Lynn Hirschberg
|Paul Thomas Anderson. Photograph: Stefan Ruiz. Handwriting: Daniel Day-Lewis.|
Anderson, who is tall and boyish, was wearing faded jeans and a matching work shirt. He perpetually has the sleepy look of the recently awakened, but his bedhead-ness is a disarming ruse: Anderson is, actually, a brilliant and sharp judge of human nature. He has an enduring fascination with lost souls – especially men – who attempt to find their way with the help of a determined mentor. The complex nature of those tangled relationships, which Anderson sets against defining periods of American history, provide the world of his six movies. They include Sydney in 1984, the story of a gambler and his hapless protégé; the now classic Boogie Nights in 1997, which was set in the world of 70s porn; and There Will Be Blood in 2007, in which Daniel Day-Lewis brilliantly portrayed a ruthless man searching for an oil fortune in turn-of-the-century California.
In 2012, Anderson wrote and directed The Master, a film inspired by L Ron Hubbard and the evolution of Scientology. The Master, which was the most fascinating and controversial movie of 2012, has divided audiences, mostly due to Anderson’s stubborn unwillingness to create “likeable” characters and a happy ending. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell, an emotionally damaged WWII war veteran, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a self-devised cult. It is both enticing and challenging: shot in 70mm, a dying form of lush cinematic glory, the movie asks an audience to identify with a rage-filled, deeply unhappy, alcohol addicted protagonist. Phoenix, who is mesmerising in the film, is twitchy and emaciated – his face locked in a kind of lopsided rictus that was, reportedly, inspired by a documentary he watched on the lives of apes. Hoffman, meanwhile, is charismatic and subtly diabolical – his cult leader may be making up his religion as he goes along, but he is seductive and captivating. [Read More]
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