‘The Master’: Paul Thomas Anderson and on-set surprises [Video]


It’s one of the most riveting sequences in writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master”: Soon after spiritual leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is dragged off to jail with reluctant disciple Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), Dodd and Quell have a spectacular prison-cell fight.

Phoenix thrashes about like a caged animal, while Hoffman as Dodd is increasingly enraged by Quell’s demeanor and tells him that he is the only one who cares about him. It’s one of several explosive acting moments in the critically acclaimed drama that is Anderson’s first film since 2008’s “There Will be Blood.”

In this excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series on Wednesday, Anderson explains how the scene came together, noting that “none of us knew exactly what we would do.”


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Because the scene was set in a jail cell, there were no elaborate options in terms of staging or camera placement.

But when cameras started rolling, Phoenix went full-tilt berserk. “The first take that we did is the take that is in the movie,” Anderson said. “I can remember seeing it, thinking, I think this is OK, I think that’s good.” It wasn’t precisely what Anderson thought would happen, but sometimes, he said, you have to be alert to be surprised and realize something is great.


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