The Master features three distinct voices: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as the eponymous charismatic cult leader, Joaquin Phoenix as his emotionally crippled disciple, and Amy Adams as the sinister matriarch of said cult. But when it came time to promoting Paul Thomas Anderson’s talked-about new film at the Toronto Film Festival (wrapping this weekend), Adams suddenly found herself as the film’s only spokesperson. After Phoenix skipped out on the press conference, and Hoffman—despite having two films at the fest—didn’t bother making the trip, Adams was left to field the endless (and somewhat repetitive) questions surrounding the controversial new movie all by herself. Here’s what the self-described “people-pleaser” had to say about the film’s parallels to Scientology, watching the film with an audience, and what it was like working with a real, live master.
On receiving the script
Okay, first off when I just heard that “Paul Tomas Anderson is going to be sending you a script”, I was like, What—what just happened to my life? So that’s where it started. Then I read the script and I was definitely interested in playing the character. Yeah, it just grew from there, just his name, and then everything else just kept coming.
On the Scientology parallels
I guess that’s for people to discover on their own. I didn’t think about it a lot, nor was it something that I explored at great length when going into it. I always say, see the film and if that’s something you’re interested in, sort of finding the parallels, then you’ll find the parallels. But I just see it as more of a character study.
On her co-stars
I turn into Peggy about them, I’m fiercely loyal and protective and I will kick anyone’s rear end who wants to say anything negative. I’ve worked with Joaquin twice now, and I feel like I kind of started to see his humanity through his process, so I’m very loyal to him. I worked with Philip several times and I think they’re just very open, honest people. And so it’s hard for them to sit in a room and be looked at, it’s hard for anybody. I’ve said it before, I think I’m more of a people-pleaser.
On PTA’s directing style
Sometimes there will be two takes, and sometimes, like, Joaquin walking back and forth, we did that for, like, 12 hours. It did not wind up in the film but I feel like we did it for 12 hours. It started in the daytime and it was after midnight by the time we were done. It was pretty intense.
On being on set
It was surreal at times. I have to keep myself relatively grounded when I’m working or I’ll freak out. When we were filming the scene where I get up and leave at the end of the film I didn’t even know that Freddy said what he said after I left which, is very funny because I would have kicked his butt! It was not on the page, but I would go out and then watch it on the monitor and I was humbled again, just very humbled to be working with these two actors and what they were offering.
On the premiere
I hadn’t seen it with an audience, and everybody kept saying ‘You need to see it twice” because I’m typically too self-conscious to watch films that I’ve participated in. But the first time through, I have to be honest, I did not clock my performance. Not that I was so caught up in my own performance, but it was so much more about where the film took me than sort of how I felt about what I was doing. There was some stuff that I hadn’t noticed the first time around, like some genius shots that I’d noticed but of course I didn’t clock them, and this time I was really able to see and appreciate like, Oh my god, they did that in one take and it’s the two of them on the same screen in one take and it’s flawless.
On Man of Steel
It was great. It was really good. Henry (Cavill), I hope you guys love him, he worked so hard and he is just yummy and is really committed to the role and really did a good job. I haven’t seen the final cut, I’ve only seen a couple of the teasers so I’m with you guys. I know it because I was there, but there’s so much that I wasn’t involved in that I can’t wait to see.