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The Runaway Genius
January 24, 2011 4:41 PM   Subscribe

It was not easy to get Terence Malick to direct again, as this article about the making of "The Thin Red Line" from Vanity Fair shows.
posted by reenum (27 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
For 18 months or so, well into 1979, Geisler and Malick worked on a project based on the life of Joseph Merrick, the 19th-century British sideshow celebrity who suffered from a rare, debilitating disease.

I doubt that Merrick was the only sideshow celebrity of 19th century Britain who suffered from a rare, debilitating disease. Is it taboo to say "the Elephant Man" these days?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:51 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm convinced that Terence Malick lied to all the actors that appeared in The Thin Red Line.

"Hey, Sean Penn. You're the star of a psychological war movie about a man's understanding of the inhumanity of war."

"Hey, Jim Caviezel. You're the star of a dreamy, trippy movie about a man yearning for meaning in the midst of chaos."

"Hey, John Cusack. You're the star of a movie about a young, idealistic soldier desperate to save his fellow troops."

"Hey, Nick Nolte. You're the star of a movie about a career officer at the end of his rope, with one last glorious battle ahead of him."

"Hey, George Clooney. You're the star of a by-the-numbers action picture."

"Hey, Woody Harrelson and John Travolta. You guys are in a comedy."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:51 PM on January 24, 2011 [25 favorites]


He used to describe the kind of purity he wanted—he would say things like ‘You have a drop of water on a pond, that moment of perfection.’

Most of Days of Heaven washed clean from my memory. But the last shot of Richard Gere is exactly this: perfect.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:54 PM on January 24, 2011


CPB - That's an interesting take. I need to find out if Malick pushed for them to be in the movie, because I always assumed the drumbeat around Hollywood was that you had to get a part in the New T.M. production to have any street cred. As much as I loved TRL, it was jarring to continually see so many B-listers and famous faces showing up all the time in minor roles that could have gone to dozens of better and less recognizable actors, a la Barry Pepper in Saving Private Ryan.
posted by docpops at 4:54 PM on January 24, 2011


But word had gotten out that Costner, Pitt, and Depp were up for roles in The Thin Red Line, and a feeding frenzy began among male actors.

That's it. That's why the movie fell short for me.
posted by docpops at 4:58 PM on January 24, 2011


A Terrence Malick post without any mention of Tree of Life? One of the most incredible trailers I've ever seen, already looking like the best film of 2011.
posted by naju at 4:59 PM on January 24, 2011


Malick pulled the "incredible trailer" trick with New World...then I got to the theater and was in for about 2.5 hours of severe wtf.
posted by jnnla at 5:07 PM on January 24, 2011


The New World made Days Of Heaven look like Transformers 2.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:10 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't realise until the end that that Vanity Fair article is 12 years old. I was well confused about timelines all the way through it.
posted by memebake at 5:10 PM on January 24, 2011


The Slate Green Day Revelation spoiled all other "Thin Red Line" articles. No other anecdote can ever come close.


"According to one of The Thin Red Line's three editors, Billy Weber, Malick saw a full version of the film exactly once: a five-hour work print assembled during the 18-month-long post-production process, and screened for him under some duress. ("We forced him to watch," Weber says in an interview.) Otherwise, Malick edited by watching one reel at a time, with the sound off, while listening to a Green Day CD."

Really hope it was Dookie.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:26 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Thin Red Line is one of very few movies that I thought were better than the book. The Godfather is another...kind of rare.
posted by Chuffy at 5:49 PM on January 24, 2011


Saving Private Ryan came out the same year and gets a lot of (deserved) kudos, but I recently saw this for the first time and I have to say it's probably one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. It may be a wreck narratively speaking, but some of the set pieces are really wonderful--like the conversation between Penn and Caviezel in the wooden hut, about why the latter is such a wandering spirit and can't be made to do much of anything.

And I actually get a lump in my throat watching the Tree of Life trailer. Malick is a weird guy, but he makes the kind of movies most career weirdos don't seem capable of, if that makes sense; he's not interested in shocking, like Oliver Stone, or manipulating like Spielberg. It's just like he has these moving photographs he wants to show you.
posted by littlerobothead at 6:03 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Malick's genius isn't in the writing, although he's not a bad writer. It's the visual side, in the incredible composition, and the utter confidence of every shot.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 6:28 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Thin Red Line is one of very few movies that I thought were better than the book. The Godfather is another...kind of rare.

I bet there are more than you realize...

Jaws
The Graduate
Stand By Me
Psycho
The Princess Bride
The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Shawshank Redemption
Blade Runner
The Shining
Last of the Mohicans
Silence of the Lambs

Quite a few novelas, a number beach reads, and several Stephen King books have made benefited from being filmed. It's the bigger, epic works that fare poorly.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:09 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Does anyone know what part of Austin Malick lives in? I don't want his exact address, but when I lived there up until a decade ago I was always curious about where he grocery shopped.
posted by item at 7:20 PM on January 24, 2011


I was gonna pitch Terry my Heidegger biopic, but maybe I'll let it ride.
posted by ovvl at 8:18 PM on January 24, 2011


Malick pulled the "incredible trailer" trick with New World...then I got to the theater and was in for about 2.5 hours of severe wtf.

It's worth noting that there are at least three versions of the film, each different rather from the others.

A two and a half hour version was released in LA and NY in 2005. A considerably different cut--15 minutes shorter and with a different audio voice over and different cut of the first hour, was released in theatres in early 2006 and later on DVD in most of the world. And in 2008 an extended cut of 172 minutes was released in North America on DVD.
posted by dobbs at 8:38 PM on January 24, 2011


several Stephen King books have made benefited from being filmed

Sorry but I gotta disagree about "Stand by Me" and "The Shawshank Redemption", those were pretty much word for word adaptations, it is a toss up but I prefer the stories. Well, there was that little short story within "The Body" that it was probably better without.

I think "Fight Club" was a better movie than book.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:43 PM on January 24, 2011


Malick's genius isn't in the writing, although he's not a bad writer. It's the visual side, in the incredible composition, and the utter confidence of every shot.

And the subtle way the writing accompanies and juxtaposes against his photography. My favorite moment in The New World (a picture that is full of favorite moments for me; really, it's so much more wonderful than anybody seems to realize) is the moment where the heroine, in a line unanticipated by anything onscreen, whispers into our ear: "Where am I?"
posted by cirripede at 9:06 PM on January 24, 2011


Quite a few novelas, a number beach reads, and several Stephen King books have made benefited from being filmed. It's the bigger, epic works that fare poorly.

I think I recall reading that Hitchcock preferred adapting crappy books as they made, in general, better movies.
posted by serazin at 9:28 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wasn't enthused by TRL, though I was really, really looking forward to it. I understand the idea of making it difficult to tell one soldier apart from the next (war is a faceless hell, got it), and it was a gorgeous film, but lord, it felt like a mess. Constant voice over that sounded just a good rewrite this side of pretentious high school journaling, made worse by how close, how similar many of the voices were. God-awful stunt casting that jerked me out of the movie every time I started to get into it (the only thing that worked for me was John Cusack playing such a straight, violent role, which at the time seemed like a huge step forward for him).

In the end, it felt most like Malick was filming a nature documentary for the BBC, and a war movie spilled over into the areas he was filming.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:44 PM on January 24, 2011


I'm convinced that Terence Malick lied to all the actors that appeared in The Thin Red Line.

My understanding is that it was Adrien Brody (then relatively unknown) who was expected to be a key figure in The Thin Red Line, but that much of his character's storyline was cut.

In terms of lying, in the UK it was the distributor telling porkies, the film was sold as starring George Clooney, who had just had his big breakthrough into films, despite Clooney only being in the picture for about 30 seconds.
posted by biffa at 2:42 AM on January 25, 2011


I get Don Hertzfeldian vibes from the Tree of Life trailer, everything will be ok…
posted by quoquo at 5:05 AM on January 25, 2011


The Bourne Identity
The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Ultimatum


I haven't seen the latter two Bourne movies yet, but as long as Jason Bourne isn't a whiny little bitch in them, I can't imagine that the movies could POSSIBLY be worse than the books.
posted by antifuse at 7:12 AM on January 25, 2011


Malick has to be the most overrated filmmaker of all time. Here is my Malick checklist -- cardboard characters shuffled through a dreamlike milieu, suffocating sentimentality, dimestore psychology, and over processed film stock that ends up looking like HD video.

And that Tree of Life trailer? Watching dummies like Brad Pitt and Sean Penn act out their daddy issues onscreen falls just under shoving needles into my eyeballs on a list of things I would like to do.
posted by puny human at 12:12 PM on January 25, 2011


Watch the Tree of Life trailer again. Can you point to one line of that dialogue that isn't a cliche? Christ, that thing gave my brain diabetes.
posted by puny human at 12:24 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was introduced to the Thin Red Line by a friend who said it was one of his all time favourite films, and yet the only film he's ever walked out on at the cinema.

The confusion subsided after I watched it, and the contradiction made perfect sense.
posted by ImsoAeriginal at 2:13 PM on January 25, 2011


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