VENICE, Italy (AP) — Director Paul Thomas Anderson says it's no secret that the central character in "The Master" was inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

The highly anticipated film, which premiers Saturday at the Venice Film Festival, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic spiritual leader who captivates Joaquin Phoenix's troubled World War II veteran. Anderson said he views a love story between two men.

Anderson says the fact that Hoffman's character was inspired Hubbard "is not an elephant in the room." He says he has shown the film to Tom Cruise, who starred in Anderson's 1999 film "Magnolia" and whose Scientology beliefs are well-documented.

"We are still friends. I showed him the film, and the rest is between us," Anderson said.