Friday, October 12, 2012

Interview: CBS This Morning


Transcription by Kris Elgstrand

CBS:  His latest film, The Master, tells the story of a tormented WW2 veteran played by Joaquin Phoenix.  He stumbles on a cult called The Cause led by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  Paul Thomas Anderson joins us now.  Good morning.

PTA:  Good morning.

CBS:  Here is a film that, according to people I know, not critics, but critics too, they either love it or they don't love it.  What's going on?

PTA:  Good question.  We loved it.  We put it out.  We thought for sure everybody'd go for it.  We had this kind of wave of people really digging it.  And then this wave that came around of people saying, "What is going on here?"  We knew we'd made something that was a little bit to the left but people are talking about it.

CBS:  They're passionate about it.  One way or the other.

PTA:  Which is great.  It's all you can hope for.

CBS:  Why do you think that is though?  What makes people… Is it the character?  Is it the idea?

PTA:  It probably has a lot to do with the characters.  There's something about the character that Phil plays that's a little bit unknowable.  He's somebody who's kind of proposing to have the secret of the universe so he's kind of hard to get to know.  So maybe that rubs in with the film.  Maybe that kind of…

CBS:  And Joaquin Phoenix, too.  He was so troubled.  And you can just see his struggle, just trying to figure it out.  From the beginning really to the end of the movie.

PTA:  Yeah.

CBS:  I loved watching him on screen.

PTA:  By the end of the film, nobody really has an epiphany or kind of goes through…  They go through a lot but they don't really get to something that they figure out.  They start the same and they end the same.

CBS:  This, I understand, has been in your head for twelve years.  Explain to everyone what the plot line is and what you wanted to convey or tell the story of.

CBS:  And what was in your head.

CBS:  I was thinking that too.  What's in your head Paul Thomas Anderson?

PTA:  Well, you know, a lot of the start was the stuff of a sailor coming back from the war.  Just sort of looking at these guys coming back from World War 2.   There's a great documentary John Huston made called Let there Be Light that was about veterans coming back from the war and just how helpless everybody was at that time to deal with that.  And around that time there was a lot kind of talk that was sort of brewing up about people talking about past lives.  And movements like Dianetics started which was an investigation of that.  You sort of found a lot of veterans being drawn to that idea.  Wondering, "Where do all the bodies go?"

CBS:  When I was going to see it, Paul, people said, "Oh, you're going to see the Scientology movie" because people said it's based loosely on Scientology.  You're the person to answer that.  Is it loosely based on Scientology in any form?

PTA:  It is loosely inspired by L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics and the start of that.  Scientology became something much different and larger.  But, yeah, for sure, the starting point was investigating what that movement was, and how it began and how that stuff sort of brews up.

CBS:  And your conclusions about it are? Scientology?

PTA:  Well, my conclusions are… I probably thought a lot about how everyone thinks about it.  That it was kind of peculiar and I didn't really know what it was.  And now I think it's no more peculiar or weirder than a lot of stuff out there and it's helped a lot of people.  I don't know a lot about it.

CBS:  What does it do for them?

PTA:  It…works.  Whatever it does for them, it works.  And I don't exactly-

CBS:  And they're committed.  Tom Cruise being Exhibit A.

PTA:  Sure.

CBS:  You showed the movie to Tom?

PTA:  Sure.

CBS:  And what was his reaction?

PTA:  It was a good reaction and a healthy discussion.

CBS:  Also isn't this a Harvey Weinstein film?  I'm thinking if there's anyone, if I was in the movie business, that's who I'd want backing me, Harvey Weinstein.  Because he is relentless when he believes in something.

PTA:  I know it.  It's true.  He's a bull in a china shop - but he's your bull and it's great to have him.

CBS:  And he's passionate.  He's passionate.

CBS:  Can I ask you about Philip Seymour Hoffman?  I mean, what an incredible actor.  What's he like to direct?

PTA: It's, you know, like having the keys to a good car.

CBS:  You want to turn it on and let it go.

PTA:  Absolutely.

CBS:  Is he fun?  Is he difficult?

PTA:  You know what?  It depends what part he's playing.  In this part, he was the… you got to call him The Master on set every day and so he was full and life and energy and the life of the party.  But I've done films with him where it's not all laughs.

CBS:  Can you answer this in fifteen seconds? What was the most important thing you learned from Robert Altman?

PTA:  How to giggle and give in.  Yeah.

CBS:  Thank you.  Much success with The Master.

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