Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are already generating Oscar buzz for their performances in Paul Thomas Anderson's controversial movie, "The Master."
The film is being touted as Phoenix's big comeback, following a brief hiatus spent filming the mock-umentary, "I'm Still Here," where he explored a career in rap. Though the film was considered a confusing flop, the actor said that it was just what he needed before returning to acting.
"Part of why I was frustrated with acting was because I took it so seriously. I want it to be so good that I get in my own way," Phoenix told the Time magazine of his decision to take a break from acting. "Once I became a total buffoon, it was so liberating."
"I'd see child actors and I'd get so jealous, because they're just completely wide open. If you could convince them that something frightening was going to happen, they would actually feel terror. I wanted to feel that so badly," Phoenix continued. "I'd just been acting too long, and it had kind of been ruined for me. I wanted to put myself in a situation that would feel brand-new and hopefully inspire a new way of approaching acting. It did do that for me."
In "The Master," Philip Seymour Hoffman's stars as Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic intellectual who returns shaken from World War II to form a faith-based organization that begins to catch on in the 1950s.
Phoenix portrays his troubled follower and right-hand man, Freddie Quell, while Amy Adams portrays Dodd's wife Peggy and "Friday Night Lights" actor Jesse Plemons plays Dodd's son.
Phoenix said that he was under the impression that the dramatic film was a comedy.
"I've seen a rough version, with no score. I thought it was a comedy. I did! I laughed the entire time I was watching it," Phoenix said. "I was sitting with Paul and I said to him, 'This is hilarious.' I have this horrible sense of humor where I think discomfort is funny - partly because I experience discomfort a lot, and it's a way of laughing at it and getting a release."
Phoenix and Hoffman were jointly awarded the Best Actor prize at the Venice Film Festival on September 9, following the premiere of "The Master." Anderson was also awarded the Silver Lion for Best Director.
Adams and Seymour Hoffman previously starred in the religious film "Doubt," which earned the two and co-stars Meryl Streep and Viola Davis Oscar nominations.
The Weinstein Company acquired rights to the untitled movie in a bidding war in March 2011. Thomas Anderson has been nominated for five Oscars for "There Will Be Blood," "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights."
Anderson confirmed that "The Master" was originally inspired by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Harvey Weinstein told BBC News that there was a lot of pressure to not make the film or to blur the similarities, but the studio head said he was not having that.
We've had pressure and we've resisted pressure. Originally people said to me 'don't make it'. Lots of pressure," Weinstein told BBC News. "And then, as we were making it, we had pressure to change it. Paul's not doing that and I didn't think he chose me [to work with] because I was going to acquiesce either."
"The Master" had a limited release on September 14 and will have a wider opening on September 21. Watch the trailer below.