US actors Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman shared the prize for best actor at the Venice film festival on Saturday for their performances in the Scientology-inspired "The Master".
Pheonix plays an alcoholic World War II veteran who becomes a disciple to the charismatic Hoffman, playing the leader of a nascent movement called "The Cause" in Paul Thomas Anderson's beautifully shot movie set in the 1950s.
Phoenix and Anderson, who also won the award for best director, were not present, so the prizes were collected by a dishevelled-looking Hoffman, who said he had just stepped off a plane and had put on a suit in a bathroom.
"Joaquin Phoenix is a life force in the film and I kind of rode it in the film and that was my performance. It was something untameable. My job was to try to and it was almost impossible," Hoffman said.
Receiving the award for Anderson, he said: "He is one of my closest friends. A friend first and a collaborator second. He happens to be one of the great filmmakers in the world. I think he's the best."
The award for best actress was picked up by Hadas Yaron who plays a fragile but passionate young girl becoming a woman in an Orthodox Hasidic community in Israel in Rama Burshtein's "Lemale Et Ha'Chalal" ("Fill the Void").