The Playlist is reporting now that Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner is set to play Freddie in The Master. Here is their latest post which will more than likely contain slight/major spoilers:
File this under rumor if you like, but the buzz and noise about this has become too deafening to ignore.
It all started in the comments section of our script review of Paul Thomas Anderson's gestating and untitled Scientology project, though called the "The Master" in some circles for shorthand. We posited that Paul Dano might be a good fit for the Freddie, a young, naive, misguided and semi-alcoholic youth in his '20s who slowly becomes mentored by The Master (Philip Seymour Hoffman has this role according to Variety). Some readers took that to believe we had some sort of inside information there, and things began to snowball.
In the comments section an Anon says "when was Paul Dano confirmed to be in this??" which is followed up by another Anon post, "I don't think he was/is. Everything I've heard is that an offer is out to Jeremy Renner." We normally wouldn't pay attention to this, but right around the same, Jeremy Renner revealed to the NY Times, that he had taken five meetings already on a "secret project" he was unable to talk about. We took pause at that, but Movieline and Cinematical definitely started to speculate, pointed to our comments section and lo, and behold the rumor began taking some real shape.
It's been two weeks now, and the rumors have quietly, but substantially persisting. An Anon poster on IMDB says what we too have heard: that Renner has met with Paul Thomas Anderson several times, but that Anderson is not convinced that Renner is right for the role. Age is the factor here as Freddie is supposed to be in his '20s, and Renner is 39. And yes, they note our comments section could have just spiraled this out of control, but we've heard this from a number of different sources and are frankly surprised someone like Deadline hasn't caught wind of it yet. Furthermore, a source in L.A. confirms to us that Renner has met with Anderson, but cannot say more.
It could all add up to nothing, but our gut tells us this is something that we shouldn't not ignore. We're also betting if he doesn't get the role — in our minds, as much as we love him, he probably shouldn't, he is too old for it— it will at least come out after the fact that he was in the running.
But as the script that has circulated for "The Master" is still a very early draft, some may wonder if Anderson might rework the role, aging the character slightly to match the 39 year-old Renner. We think that it's a slight possibility, but pretty much doubt it will happen. Freddie is a lost soul on the run, who needs a bit of guidance which makes it far easier for him to come under The Master's spell. And while a cult figure like The Master can weave his spell on anyone, of any age, that has fallen on hard times, in a film, it's probably a much easier and more dramatic sell if that character is younger. Simply put, we don't see Freddie being rewritten as older. It could work, we suppose, but we like the way it was written. It feels right.
Aside from The Master and Freddie, the other major characters are the Master's fiercely protective daughters and that's about it. There is a minor role of The Master's son, but it's so small, we don't see Renner being interested.
The only other possibility, is that Philip Seymour Hoffman is out and that Renner is eyeing the lead role, but again, we highly doubt that. The role is written for someone who already has adult children in their '20s and '30s and while Hoffman is only a few years older than Renner, he can play older a lot more convincingly.
As Renner said to the New York Times, a decision will need to be made soon as he's also eyeing a role in Peter Berg's "Battleship" and both films are aiming for summer shoots. That said, as far as we know, Anderson's film is still awaiting a greenlight from Universal who will need to approve the finished script so its possible that "The Master" might start at a later date depending on when all the pieces fall into place.
So yes, consider this rumor now if you like, but expect to hear some kind of news soon.