Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is a theatrical director, a film producer, and a board member of the Labyrinth Theater Company. But above all, he’s an actor, and a relentlessly inquisitive one. Much like the cult leader Lancaster Dodd he plays in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Hoffman is continually deconstructing flawed souls on stage and screen: An accused pedophile priest (Doubt), the suicidal Willy Loman (Broadway’s Death of a Salesman), and Truman Capote (Capote) are among the many. Meryl Streep once told the New York Times about her Doubt costar: “One of the most important keys to acting is curiosity. I am curious to the point of being nosy, and I think Philip is the same.” In The Master, Hoffman imbues the puzzling depths of his guru with a warm, paternal nuance while exposing Dodd’s violent, drunken underbelly. Of utmost importance for Hoffman was syncing with the dramatic rhythms of Joaquin Phoenix’s delinquent Freddie Quell, who is not only his protégé, but his doppelganger.
AwardsLine: How did Anderson prepare you for the role?
Philip Seymour Hoffman: It doesn’t work that way, where Paul prepares you. He’s a writer, so he’s writing all the time. The screenplay was an amalgamation of many things he was writing through the years and then eventually, he had a screenplay. He sent it to me four years out from shooting it. I was part of a development process with him of the story and the character. He had a plan and knew what he was going to do, but I was the guy he was bouncing it off of for a while because I was going to play Lancaster. So that’s how I prepared for the part, talking about and ruminating about it. It was a journey we both took together; it’s just that his job was a lot bigger than mine. (more…)