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Secrets of The Master: Elements of Scientology That Didn’t Make It into the Film

By now you’ve no doubt either seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s film The Master or you’ve read about it. You’ve probably heard from writers like yours truly who say that the film is filled with references to Scientology’s early history, while some reviewers, unfamiliar with that history, seem to think the Scientology in it is only a faint backdrop.

In each of our radio interviews, we’ve taken pains to point out that Anderson had written a script that was much more steeped in Scientology than what made it to the screen. That’s not surprising. Anderson researched and wrote his script years before it came time to actually lens the thing. It isn’t hard to imagine that the sheer fervor he obviously had for Scientology history had waned somewhat by the time he got actors in front of a camera. But one thing’s for sure — at one point, Anderson was planning more of a Scientology expose than what ultimately made it to the screen.

We thought we’d do an occasional series about some of the things in Anderson’s script that ended up on the cutting room floor (or perhaps, will be restored in the DVD extras). We’ll start today with the scenes of Freddie Quell’s first meeting with The Master.

Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), meet L. Ron Hubbard

We’ll pause here first to reveal a little something about our bona fides on this subject. Well before the movie opened, in July we wrote an analysis of Scientology in the script, and we said that The Master is particularly interested in three themes of Scientology’s early history — 1. L. Ron Hubbard’s move from birth-memories to past life experiences, which turned off some early supporters of Dianetics. 2. The driving away of a wealthy early supporter, Don Purcell in real life, “Margaret Drummond” in the film. 3. The increasing paranoia of the organization, rise of the Sea Org, and methods of control.

The day after that story ran, we heard through our film advertising executive at the Voice that Weinstein Company reps were talking about it, and were pleased. Really? Yes, we were assured. (That was surprising, because you may remember that at the time, the company was trying to pretend that the film had nothing to do with Scientology.)

Then, almost two months later, the week the film opened in New York, WNYC’s nationally-distributed radio program The Takeaway called, and they explained that they had approached the Weinstein Company about John Hockenberry interviewing a producer for the film, saying that they wanted to ask about the Scientology in it. WNYC’s people said that the Weinstein Company — yes, Harvey’s own people — recommended that they interview yours truly instead.

So, at the same time that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams were telling the public that the film wasn’t about Scientology, the film’s producers were recommending your narrator for a radio program because of our analysis of Scientology in the script.

OK, enough of that digression. Now, back to the script itself.

Peggy Dodd (Amy Adams), meet Mary Sue and L. Ron

The Master opens with an extended series of short scenes that establish Freddie Quell’s involvement in World War II, his discharge from the Navy, and his wayward wanderings after being demobilized. On the run after causing a man’s blindness or death at the Spreckel’s Sugar Beet operation near Salinas, he ends up wandering onto a yacht tied up to the harbor in San Francisco. The yacht Alethia is hosting a party in full swing, and we’ll learn later that its participants include Lancaster Dodd, his wife Mary Sue (changed to “Peggy” in the filmed version), and other Hubbard family equivalents.

As you can see in the image at the top of this post, the first few lines of dialogue by The Master (played in the film by Philip Seymour Hoffman) are noted under the name “Master of Ceremonies.” At other times, he’s referred to as “MOC.” (The only remnant of this in the film is a very brief look at the title page of “Book 2,” also known as “Split Saber,” where you can see the “MOC” reference under the name Lancaster Dodd.)

We can’t help thinking that “Master of Ceremonies” and “MOC” is an echo of “Chairman of the Board” and “COB,” the titles that current Scientology leader David Miscavige goes by.

Anyway, Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) has an initial scene on the boat the night he sneaks on board, and then another the next morning with Dodd. In the first scene, after Freddie’s presence has been detected, he’s slipped a mickey and then is taken to talk to Dodd by his “right hand man” Norman Conrad. (We’re hearing Norman Starkey, who was captain of Hubbard’s yacht the Apollo at one time.)

Conrad and Dodd then interrogate Quell about what he’s doing on the ship.

The Master then interrogates Freddie about his reasons for being on the ship.

Master: You’re a Russian spy. Did you hear me? Wake up, Freddie.

Freddie: What do you want? …what’s your name?

Master: We’ve told you. You’re a Russian spy. What are you escaping.

Master: You’re a little drunk and sleepy.

Freddie: More than a little watchu put in my drink.

Master: More than a little. You work for Dick Quinn.

Freddie: Dick.

Master: Richard Quinn.

Freddie: Don’t know him. No.

Master: You work for the AMA. CIA.

Freddie: …you got alotta questions..

Master: You work for Bill Christos and his friends at the APA.

Freddie: I don’t know you…

Master: And you picked this ship at random?

Hubbard, of course, considered the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association to be mortal enemies — his struggles against them are still foregrounded in the most current introductory film to Scientology being shown at its “orgs.” After more interrogation, Freddie eventually passes out. The Master tells Mary Sue and Norman that Freddie is what he says he is, just a simple stowaway.

None of this scene made it into the film. However, we do see some of the next scene, when Freddie has slept off his drunk and meets the Master the next day. While some of these lines did make it on screen, the full scene in the script should give you an indication how much more Hubbard-like Dodd originally was…

Master: You said you were an able bodied seamen and you were looking for work?

Freddie: You have any?

Master: Perhaps.

Freddie: What was in my drink?

Master: You were sedated with chloral hydrate and bubble gum kisses. Ha ha ha. I’m sure if you check your butt-hole you’ll find it’s all in working order (he he he…) Isn’t that what all men are worried about in they surrender themselves.

Freddie: I didn’t surrender myself.

Master: You were acting very aggressive because you drank too much alcohol.

Freddie: I don’t think I was.

Master: Yes I think you were. And I don’t like strange boys jumping on my ship.

Freddie: So what are you gonna do?

Master: Why don’t you just ask for work? Work can’t be hard to find.

Freddie: Depends on when you’re ready to go…do you have a job for me.

Master: You can’t work in your condition.

Freddie: What condition is that?

Master: You’re aberrated.

Freddie: What’s that mean?

Master: A wandering from the path. The problems you have in your life (your appendix, your work, your need to batter your body with booze…) I resolve that they can be fixed.

Freddie: I’ve got no trouble. You got a job for me to do, I can do it.

Master: Maybe I do, but not the kind you think.

Freddie: Do you own this ship?

Master: A charter through the Explorer’s Club.

Freddie: What do you do?

Master: I am many things. I am writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a theoretical philosopher. Above all, I am a man. A hopelessly inquisitive Man, just like you.

Freddie: Where’s your money come from?

Master: Many years of successful writing and publishing has made me self sufficient. Readers in all languages have enjoyed my work — but now I’m retired to study the mind and the spirit…my life’s true work. These studies have made me a target and I am hunted for what I know. Which is why…it is so un-wise to go lurking and jumping on strange ships…how do we know what your motives are?

Freddie: Well. I apologize if I got a little out of hand last night — I’m just looking for work and your ship looked good, so…it’s a nice looking ship.

Master: Don’t apologize. You’re a scoundrel. How I miss the days of working a four mastered schooner with nothing but salt horse, dried peas and a couple quarts of water…the present-day maritimers seem so much more fragile, don’t you think? You — you’re an adventurer. An able-bodied seamen, a maker of wine, and a dashing mischeviousness is what I knew would come to me in this lifetime.

Freddie: I don’t understand what you’re talking about.

Master: I am always looking for mature men of unusual ability who are willing to stretch the boundaries of what they know. To increasing knowing-ness and communication amongst man. I need day-ta. And with your help, I can gather it… You already understand, you just need to remember. And only say yes. Say yes.

Freddie: I’m not saying yes to anything I don’t understand.

Oh, how we wish that line was actually in the film…

“I am always looking for mature men of unusual ability who are willing to stretch the boundaries of what they know. To increasing knowing-ness and communication amongst man. I need day-ta.”

Things we’re sure you caught:

— That bit of midcentury homophobia is precious.

— In the film, Dodd’s use of the word “aberrated” is the first clear sign that Scientology is in the house.

— The reference to the Explorer’s Club is a great giveaway by Anderson (Hubbard flew its flag based on his legendary 1932 film-making expedition to the Caribbean, which in reality was an utter disaster).

— Dodd is also making the first references to past lives here, which will become much more prevalent later.

— And of course, it’s great to see such Hubbardisms as “knowingness” and the cute obsession with “day-ta.”

We hope you can see that, in the script at least, Anderson was planning more of a send-up of Hubbard and Scientology than what ultimately got filmed and edited. And there’s much more in the pages ahead…

Links of Note

— Oh look, Radar Online is once again claiming an “exclusive” for something we did earlier, this time a story we put out in July.

— And the UK’s tabs, The Star/The Sun are saying that Hubbard great-grandson Jamie DeWolf is “speaking publicly for the first time.” Apparently they don’t have the Internet over there.

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