"The Master," the new film from director Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood"), premiered at the Venice Film Festival this weekend. Critics were calling the drama about the creation of a Scientology-like religion "audacious," "complex," "a tad sloppy" and "cryptic."
Those same words could be used to describe the behavior of the film's cast as well.
For the film's Saturday photo call, Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd in the film, showed up looking less like a movie star and more like a rumpled couch potato. He wore a striped polo shirt unbuttoned at the neck and a mess of splotchy stains at the belly. He sported a full beard flaked with silver hair, and topped it off with a New York Rangers cap.
It was a far different look than the one he wears in the film. In the drama set in the early '50s, Hoffman is attired in tailored suits -- he even wears an ascot -- with slicked back hair and a well-groomed mustache. But at the press conference, Hoffman said the film's theme of controlling one's own animal instincts spoke to him. IndieWire reports that Hoffman stated, "We all wake up each morning and think, 'Why can't I just run naked through the streets of Venice and eat s--- and have sex with everyone I see?'... So sometimes we need a Master to help make sense of the world."
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Hoffman's costar in the film, Joaquin Phoenix, showed he doesn't stick to conventional behavior, either. In his first film since he made "I'm Still Here," the faux-documentary about his "retirement" from acting, Phoenix is earning rave reviews. But he alienated the press by only answering one question at the conference and cutting off photos after just a few seconds. When asked about how he approached his character of a traumatized WWII vet, Phoenix answered, "I'll just say, I'll say I don't think, maybe Paul gives, or gave me, the impression I had leeway. But I don't think I ever did."
The film's director, Paul Thomas Anderson, told reporters that trying to pull Phoenix out out of exile to star in his movie was "[a] pain in the ass but worth it." He went on to say, "I've asked Joaquin to be in just about every movie I made and he said no. He said yes to this one, thank God."
At the premiere, Phoenix continued to ignore the press. Arriving on the red carpet, he blew past photographers and hurriedly marched into the theater. It wasn't until his director and costar turned up that Phoenix returned outside to pose for some group shots. For his part, Phillip Seymour Hoffman did clean up a bit for the premiere. He wore a sports coat and dress shirt (tucked in, even), but no neckwear for the black-tie event.
Still, critics all seemed to agree that both Hoffman and Phoenix are shoe-ins for Academy Award nominations come this award season. And if the Oscars can't get those two to dress up and pose for pictures, nothing will.
Watch Hoffman and Phoenix in the trailer for 'The Master':