Paul Thomas Anderson's long-gestating, untitled religious drama (at one time it was called 'The Master') is picking up speed now that there's some money and a distributor behind the project (Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures and the Weinstein Company, respectively, replacing Universal, who chickened out over the film's budget) and has added two new cast members: 'Friday Night Lights'' Jesse Plemons and veteran character actor David Warshofsky, according to Variety.
The film, which is sure to stir controversial waters in Hollywood, is a riff on a Scientology-like religion that springs up after World War II. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as a charismatic intellectual, scarred by the horrors of the war, who develops a church that will appeal to the other lost souls in post-war America.
Joaquin Phoenix is also on board, starring as an alcoholic drifter who becomes the guru's right-hand man. Plemons will play Hoffman's son, while Warshofsky will play a detective. Laura Dern co-stars, but her role has not been specified.
Production on the film is scheduled to begin in mid-June in Sacramento. It will be interesting to see how closely Anderson makes his religion resemble Scientology, since that organization has a strong presence in Hollywood, both in terms of actor members and financial holdings. Scientology is one of the biggest landowners in Tinseltown, having recently bought the Hollywood-adjacent studios of TV station KCET), and they love to sue. He's a brave soul.