Paul Thomas Anderson's mythic "There Will Be Blood," with its towering performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, is a hard act to follow. In terms of international awards, however, he's already on track to top his 2007 epic's record. "The Master," a sweeping drama about a religious cult in post-WWII America, bagged the Venice film festival's best acting award for Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Silver Lion best directing award for Anderson. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film was denied the top prize Golden Lion was because of a quirk in the rules limiting the number of awards a single film can win.
Saturday was a great day for Anderson, who was already in Toronto, the next stop on the festival circuit, when his Venice triumph was announced. During an interview in his hotel, the humorous, low-key Anderson kept matters in perspective, however, saying that the besy days of his life were spent in St. Paul in the sweltering summer of 2005. From June through August Anderson was in town as a back-up director on "A Prairie Home Companion" in case his friend and mentor Robert Altman, then 80 and in fragile health, was unable to complete the film.
Anderson beamed as he remembered his work at Altman's side, which he insists was nothing more than running up down the aisle of the Fitzgerald Theater taking Altman's notes to Meryl Streep, Londsay Lohan or Kevin Kline onstage.
"I had such a wonderful time sitting next to Bob and helping him do what he was doing," he said. Anderson's longtime girlfriend Maya Rudolph was a member of the cast, "and she was pregnant with our first at the time." The couple now has three daughters.
"Such fond memories of that time and that city. Except it was a thousand degrees. God, it was rough. And we were in that freezing cold air-conditioned theater. I remember you'd step outside into that heat. And we had this great house on Summit Avenue not far from the James J. Hill house, with all the big houses. It was great."
"That's a lucky break for me to have been able to do that because a year later he died. It was a great film for him to go out on."
"The Master" opens nationwide Sept. 21.