Paul Thomas Anderson Testing 65mm Cameras For Next Film?

Over three years have passed since the release of Paul Thomas Anderson's last film, There Will Be Blood, and we're at the point now where any shred of news on his future projects is of interest to someone. We know that he is prepping two films, an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice and a film about a religious/cult leader that has been dubbed The Master. Slight casting movement on The Master (perhaps better called the Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Religious Film) suggests that is the movie that he'll shoot next.

And now a report pushes forward the idea that the director is getting closer to shooting something, and that he might use the same Super Panavision 70 cameras that were used to shoot 2001 and parts of Inception.

Cigarettes and Red Vines, a dedicated Paul Thomas Anderson fansite, got hold of a photo showing PTA working with "a 65mm camera used by Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey" — therefore probably a Panavision Super 70 camera — "on the backlot of a place we also cannot mention." The site couldn't print the photo, but did run a sketched recreation of the photo which appears to show PTA with his head shaved. That, for those who obsessively follow the director, is definitely a good sign as he has been known to shave his head at the beginning of some (but not all) productions.

The tip sent to CigsAndRedVines also said that this film, whichever it is, won't be shot by Robert Elswit, who has shot all of PTA's features to date. That's a big blow — could that be a scheduling issue with The Bourne Legacy, which Mr. Elswit will shoot? (And which will star Jeremy Renner, who was once attached to one of two key roles in The Master.) Many will be happy to know that this next project will be shot on film, but the loss of Robert Elswit would be significant.

We could potentially make good speculative guesses about how PTA might use the large-format 65mm camera system, but we're missing a key piece of info: which film is really being prepped?

Inherent Vice — the novel — is a period piece set in the late '60s that has drug trips, a big setpiece at sea, and a few other elements that could require an effects-heavy approach to the film. The large–format 65mm negative would be useful in that respect, as that huge negative can capture incredible details, though it would probably only be used for some sequences. (And a lot of films that want to shoot a film plate with a large negative area, the better to create finely detailed background images, would use VistaVision, which threads 35mm stock through the gate sideways to create a large negative area, rather than something like Super Panavision 70.)The Master/Untitled PTA Religious Film seems like a drama that might not require such extensive effects work, and the notion of shooting that in or partially with a large-negative system is intriguing. But without knowing what changes have been made in the months since Universal passed on the movie, we don't know if there might be a couple of sequences that would use the 65mm system (a la what Christopher Nolan did for Inception) or if PTA is just going all-out for the film that seems thematically related to Scientology.

Oh, and if you're confused by the seeming interchangeability of 65mm and 70mm when discussing some of these cameras, it goes like this: the negative film loaded on set is 65mm wide. That would be printed onto 70mm film, to accommodate a soundtrack among other things, and the marketing of the roadshows that typically relied upon such large-format prints used the term 70mm.