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The Envelope Screening Series

'The Master': Paul Thomas Anderson on actors improvising [Video]

November 16, 2012|By John Horn

If you have seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” you might reasonably assume that very little was left to chance.

From its precise cinematography to striking score, the writer-director’s drama about a troubled drifter (Joaquin Phoenix) and a charismatic leader of a new movement (Philip Seymour Hoffman) feels as well-planned as a military operation.

But in this excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series this week, Anderson explains that his two lead actors brought far more to their performances than he ever imagined, and that the film’s production team frequently improvised.

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Both actors bring a distinct physicality to “The Master”: Phoenix looks like a man coming unhinged at every joint, and Hoffman, though hardly slim, seems to float through his scenes.

“They obviously took their cues from the script,” Anderson said, “and kind of created something bigger and better than I ever could have written out.”

The film’s opening sequence, in which Phoenix’s Freddie Quell hacks apart coconuts and simulates sex with a sand castle shaped like a woman, was all invented on the spot.

“We just wanted to go to a beach and start doing things,” Anderson said.


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