Almost an hour late for its 9pm start Friday at The Princess of Wales, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master finally had its Toronto International Film Festival premiere, but not before Joaquin Phoenix – hammy and hypnotic as an epically unstable World War II Navy vet taken under the wing of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s charismatic cult leader – worked the crowd, swerving off the red carpet to gladhand fans. Phoenix, wearing a black suit and tie and a mighty grin, was joined at the premiere by co-stars Amy Adams, Ambyr Childers and Madisen Beaty (“Hey, is that Anna Paquin?” a guy in the ticket holder’s line yelped) and writer/director Anderson himself. Looper star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in his Hit Record T-shirt, obliged the photogs on the red carpet, and a serious fan spotted Gary Oldman walking up to the marquee and went tearing after him, returning triumphantly with an autograph.
Sat down with Anderson for a quick interview the following noon. He'd just heard news that Phoenix and Hoffman were to share the best actor prize at the Venice Film Festival. Anderson won the directing prize, too – though he didn’t mention that. Pieta, Kim ki-duk’s ultraviolent Korean pic, drank The Master’s milkshake, though, winning the Italian fest’s best film prize.
Anderson talked about shooting in the unwieldy but magisterial 70mm format, and about almost shooting in Philadelphia (ultimately,The Master was made in the Bay Area), and about wrecking a couple of his actors’ takes because he couldn’t stop himself from laughing. In one of those scenes, Adams, playing the watchful wife of Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd, joins him in a bathroom to, um, help him relax. The squawks coming from Hoffman’s mouth are not to be believed.