Rami Malek On 'The Master,' Working With Joaquin Phoenix And What Makes P.T. Anderson So Special
The performances Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams deliver in "The Master" as, respectively, Freddie Quell, Lancaster Dodd and Peggy Dodd, have been rightly hailed as revelatory. It's the supporting contributions director Paul Thomas Anderson coaxed from the rest of his cast, however, that make the film whole: from Laura Dern as a devoted disciple, to Jesse Plemons as Dodd's cynical son, and especially Rami Malek. The 31-year-old actor portrays Dodd's kowtowing son-in-law, propping up scenes against Phoenix's raving Quell throughout "The Master."
"I'm just a small part of an incredible film, but I'm happy to be that small part," Malek told HuffPost Entertainment via phone last week. Malek earned rave reviews for his performance on the HBO miniseries "The Pacific" and has since parlayed that success into screen work in films like "Larry Crowne," "Battleship" and the upcoming "Twilight" finale, "Breaking Dawn Part 2." In "The Master," he plays Clark, a true believer in The Cause (the cult-like religion propagated by the Dodds), as well as Freddie's often wary sidekick.
Malek spoke to HuffPost about the casting process for "The Master," whether Scientology was a big topic of discussion on the set, and what it's like to have Joaquin Phoenix say he wants to fart in your face.
Paul Thomas Anderson films are notoriously shrouded in secrecy, so what was the casting process like?
I was away on set, filming, and I got an email from the casting director. From there she asked me to throw stuff on tape and send it back. I knew what it was. I gave it a whole lot of importance and value to what I was doing, even though I was working on another project. It was at the front of my mind. When I got back home, I went in to read again with the casting director and Paul, and, finally, to read with Joaquin. When I met Joaquin, I could not distinguish that it was him. He had already lost so much weight. Seeing him in that state already put me in a great place to begin playing and working with him in the room. It was quite the special and incredible process from the beginning to the end. Especially the casting process. Meeting Paul, someone I've admired for so many years. We both grew up in the Valley, so to see him and audition for him in the Valley was astonishing.
As a young actor, what do you take away from working with performers like Joaquin and Philip?
I'm just thinking about this in this moment with you. 50 years from now, if I am still alive -- which I don't know that I will be -- I'll be able to look back and say I got to act with some of the greatest filmmakers and artists of my generation. It would be like working with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift and those guys of that generation. Being on set, having the time with them there in the moment and watching their process, it's very inspiring and something I'll cherish. There was never a moment where I felt like I would rather be in a trailer than watching Phil and Amy and Joaquin be astonishing. To have the privilege to sit at a dinner table with those actors, or sit in a room during those processing sessions with those actors. As an actor, you keep hoping for more takes -- not to get it right but to keep watching them work.
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