Jeremy Renner Joins Paul Thomas Anderson’s Religious Cult Movie

Add another excellent ingredient to the mix of Paul Thomas Anderson’s next film, a 1950s-set religious drama starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Deadline confirms the long-rumored idea that the recently Oscar-nominated Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) is “circling” the prominent role of a young drifter taken under the wing of Hoffman’s religious leader, who calls himself The Master. The project has mostly been referred in the media as “the Scientology movie,” due to the parallels between The Master and L. Ron Hubbard.

The Playlist first spawned Renner’s potential involvement via an anonymous source who commented on the site’s review of Anderon’s script for the film. But the casting always seemed unlikely because the character is written as being in his 20s, and Renner is 39. Yet in spite of The Playlist’s preference, it appears the film will be reworked to bring the very talented and suddenly very hot actor on board.

I have to say, I’m hopeful Renner is cast in the film, which might soon secure financing from Red River Entertainment (“The Runaways”). And I certainly agree that if a scheduling conflict means this project takes the actor away from starring in “Battleship,” that’s a good thing. If he’s just going to follow his Academy Award recognition with action movies, he may as well make “S.W.A.T. 2″ instead (and for the record, I thought “S.W.A.T.” was pretty decent).

Since beginning his steep rise in fame over the awards season thanks to the “Hurt Locker,” Renner has also been linked to James McTeigue’s “Raven,” in which he’d play Edgar Allen Poe, and “The Avengers,” where he’d want to cameo as Hawkeye. He’ll also appear in this fall’s crime thriller “The Town,” which was directed by Ben Affleck.

Would you prefer Jeremy Renner do more serious work following his Oscar nomination? Or do you want to see him as an action movie hero?