On the heels of The Master’s nationwide release and a slew of mixed reviews (calling The Master everything from “vibrant and seductive” to “frustrating and flawed”), director Paul Thomas Anderson spoke with Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air today about creating his Scientology-inspired new film.

 Anderson on getting past writer’s block:

“The best way for me to start writing a story is to get two characters talking to each other. And if you got questions from one, you’re gonna have to get answers from the other, and you can start to find out who is coming out of you when you’re writing, if you know what I mean.”


On studying 1950’s-era department store portraits for inspiration:

“Those somehow were the most candid and revealing, and helped you time travel — look at these faces, look at that period, look at that era — and try and imagine not just what was happening when the picture was taken, but what would happen right after.”


On Joaquin Phoenix and The Master’s jail-fight scene:

“You don’t really know a lot of times what’s going to happen with Joaquin, or Freddie, but I knew something was going to happen.  I knew, you know, it was the first take, and we’d just looked at each other and agreed: okay, you’re going to go in there, and you’re not going to like being in there, so let’s see what happens.  And they put him in there … and he did what he did.  Unfortunately, that was a historical toilet.”

Listen to the rest at NPR.

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TNB Arts and Culture Editor CYNTHIA HAWKINS teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Most of what she thinks she knows comes from movies, including how to tango, how to take someone down with a ballpoint pen, how to curse in French, and how to catch a moving train. Her work, on movies and otherwise, has appeared in literary journals and magazines such as ESPN the Magazine, Parent:Wise Magazine, The Good Men Project, New World Writing, Strange Horizons, and numerous alternative weeklies and anthologies. You can find Cynthia on Twitter and at cynthiahawkins.net.

One response to “Paul Thomas Anderson on Writing, Inspiration, and The Master

  1. Maggie May says:

    ‘ unfortunately, that was a historical toilet ‘


    i did not like The Master. The first half was amazing, and then it jumped ship.

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