Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” is nearing $10 million in limited release, with just about everyone predicting acting awards for its three stars–Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams.
But no one could have predicted the real life parallel that’s just occurred in Hollywood, as Scientology raised and educated actor Johnny Lewis — on a hit cable show– this week murdered his landlady and fell to his death. Lewis killed Catherine Davis, 81, who ran a kind of home for screenwriters and actors in Hollywood not far from the massive amount of real estate owned by Scientology including their Celebrity Center.
Since the tragedy, Lewis has been revealed as something of a drug addicted either socio-or psychopath, with arrests, jail time, and a long list of inexplicable crazy-scary altercations. He’s something of a real life Freddie Quell, the nutcase played by Phoenix so deftly in “The Master.” Freddie is completely off his rocker, given to violent outbursts and uncontrollable fits. He’s also a raging alcoholic who mixes up his own concoctions to stay anesthetized.
Freddie, of course, becomes involved with Lancaster Dodd, the charismatic leader of a made up “religion” called The Cause. The Cause has been compared to Scientology, as Dodd is based at least a little on L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who invented Scientology.
Lewis’s father rose to the high ranks of Scientology, becoming an Operating Thetan 7– or someone trusted enough to be told about aliens and other Scientology mumbo jumbo. Lewis himself took Scientology courses and was featured as a “celebrity Scientologist” until this week. In “The Master,” Freddie becomes the most trusted associate of Dodd until he disappears after one of Dodd’s weirder experiments.
“The Master” is playing in 850 theaters for the time being, and will likely stay in limited release until awards season. The Weinstein Company is following a similar path to its past “literary” releases, which usually catch fire with nominations and then take off. Scientologists are flooding internet message boards claiming the movie is a dud, boring, or a failure–far from the truth, but funny to read.