By Josh Rottenberg
Updated April 12, 2011 at 11:53 PM EDT
Barry King/; Inset: Jason Merritt/

He is indeed still here. More than two years after announcing that he was quitting acting and reinventing himself as a hip-hop artist — an announcement that turned out to be part of an elaborate stunt that culminated in last year’s fake documentary I’m Still Here (inset)— it seems Joaquin Phoenix may soon pick up his Hollywood career where he left off.

EW has confirmed that, as first reported by Variety, Phoenix has had early discussions with writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson about joining a religious drama Anderson is developing that’s loosely based on the founding of Scientology. The film, often referred to as The Master but still officially untitled, tells the story of a charismatic leader named Lancaster Dodd who creates a new religion in the 1950s. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is reportedly attached to play Dodd. Though there is no deal in place yet, Phoenix would potentially play his main disciple, an alcoholic drifter named Freddie Sutton who becomes Dodd’s closest follower only to later break away from him.

Jeremy Renner had been attached at one point to play the role but dropped out last fall when it appeared that the project had stalled. Anderson, whose credits include Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood, is also developing an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice that Robert Downey Jr. is set to star in, and it’s still unclear which film might go into production first.