Oscar Watch: Paul Thomas Anderson and Weinstein Company take on Scientology?

05.10.11 8 years ago

Paul Thomas Anderson latest project may be his most political and The Weinstein Company has come aboard full steam to support the Oscar-nominated filmmaker.  Anderson’s sixth film, once titled “The Master,” but now officially called “The Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project,” will be distributed by Weinstein worldwide sometime in 2013.  

As first reported by Deadline, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix are locked for the picture’s leads and a search is on for actresses to portray the film’s female roles.  The big question  is how close the film’s final screenplay will be to the origins of Scientology.  All that is currently known is that it centers on Hoffman’s character returning from the horrors of WW II and struggling to find himself.  In the process, he creates a “belief system” that quickly finds other followers.  Anderson’s long in the works script has been rumored as a critical take of the controversial religion, but it’s unclear if he’s broadened the spotlight to organized religion in general or limiting his focus to L. Ron Hubbard’s creation.

More importantly, the new film is Anderson’s first film since the critically acclaimed “There Will Be Blood” in 2007.  Despite his stellar reputation with film critics and cinefiles, Anderson has never won an Academy Award (although he has five nominations to his credit).  It may surprise many to realize his biggest honor to date was winning best director for “Punch-Drunk Love” at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.  Teaming Anderson with Harvey Weinstein, who is coming off a major Oscar comeback with “The King’s Speech,” should be a powerful pairing for the 2012-2013 awards season.  Assuming the film’s any good of course…

In other year-round Oscar bait news…

– Steve Carell may have left “The Office,” but he’ll soon be joining Keira Knightley in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”  Focus Features has picked up U.S. distribution rights to the Lorene Scafaria picture which is expected to begin filming in Los Angeles in the next few weeks.  The road trip romantic comedy finds Knightley’s character coming in the middle of Carell’s attempt to reunite with his childhood true love as the – no joke – world enters its final days.  Safaria is making her directing debut after previously writing the movie adaptation for “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.”

Laura Linney is joining Bill Murray in “Hyde Park on the Hudson.”  Set in 1939 during a visit by King George VI to FDR’s estate, Murray is set to portray the iconic President and Linney Roosevelt’s cousin Daisy with whom many believe he was having an affair.  No word on who will play Eleanor Roosevelt. The film is an intriguing choice for both actors who have both gone home empty handed after being nominated for the industry’s highest honor.  Production should begin sometime this summer after the film is pitched to international buyers at next week’s Cannes Film Festival Market.  

For everyday entertainment commentary and more follow Gregory Ellwood on twitter @HitFixGregory.

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