Terrence Malick Wanted John Travolta & 15 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Days of Heaven’

Terrence Malick Wanted John Travolta & 15 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Days of Heaven'

While many directors worry about the sophomore slump, Terrence Malick might be remembered most for his second film, “Days of Heaven.” The film stars Richard Gere and Brooke Adams as a lovestruck young couple in early 1900s Texas. After Bill, Gere’s character, kills his boss, the couple and Bill’s sister Linda (Linda Manz) flee. While looking for work they stumble upon an idyllic farm run by a sickly, yet kind farmer played by Sam Shepard. When the farmer falls in love with Abby, played by Adams, Bill convinces her to enter into a sham marriage with him in the hopes he’ll die soon and leave them his considerable wealth. As one could guess, things go awry when Abby develops conflicting feelings of affection for the farmer.

This film is instrumental in understanding Malick’s career for several reasons. “Days of Heaven” is an artistic leap forward from the more traditional “Badlands” and garnered major awards consideration, including four Oscar nominations and a win for Néstor Almendros for Best Cinematography (more on this later). Malick also won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979, which should have catapulted him into the position of being one of the most desirable directors of his day. The movie also established Malick as a director interested in the visual and the abstract rather than the expository, creating narrative through a series of images rather than dialogue; something that would mark the rest of his cinematic career and would perhaps be pushed to its zenith in the recent “The Tree of Life.” Astonishingly, Malick had created his unique style of storytelling in only two films. Most importantly, perhaps, this film is the one in which Malick’s eccentricities as a director became apparent, as the production was fraught with drama, so much so that Malick waited almost 20 years to direct his next movie “The Thin Red Line” (though why he disappeared for 20 years still seems to have no, one specific answer; much like the questions his films often raise). Perhaps these difficulties are what have led Malick to shun the public limelight so desperately that he wasn’t even on hand to accept his Palme d’Or award for “The Tree of Life” at the Cannes Film Festival a few weeks ago.

In the lead up to the national release of “The Tree of Life,” week-by-week, we’re getting reacquainted with the films of Terrence Malick. We tackled the visionary filmmaker’s latest effort, “The Tree Of Life,”  and two weeks ago we tracked his debut, “Badlands.” Now we’ve got plenty of nuggets on his transformative “Days of Heaven.” Additionally, here’s our feature on “The New World” and “The Thin Red Line.”

1. It was nearly a crew revolt from almost Day One, as Terrence Malick and Néstor Almendros boldly indulged in their experimental techniques.
“They didn’t know what he was doing,” Richard Gere said about the “Days of Heaven” crew on the audio interview recorded for the Criterion Collection DVD which was released in 2007. “There was a lot of
 mutiny about him and they were grumbling how he was setting back [film] 20 years.”

“He not only allowed me to do what I wanted – which was to use hardly any studio lighting in this period film – but he encouraged me,” Almendros said in his 1984 autobiography “Man with a Camera. This fruitful collaboration would work wonders for Almendros and Malick (more on this later) – but not so much for the rest of the crew.

Some people, mainly his long-time collaborators, were down with the freewheeling, as-it-happens creative approach. “Terry’s completely unpredictable, you never know what he’s going to shoot,” legendary production designer Jack Fisk said on the Criterion DVD commentary. “Part of it keeps all of us on our toes and lends a certain excitement. I think it helps the actors too because they get in a routine of a performance in a certain way and then the environment changes and their reading changes.”

Others were less charitable, and Malick’s now-legendary indecisiveness coupled with his spontaneous “now-let’s-shoot-this!” creative bursts would irritate those crew members in front of and behind the camera who liked to actually plan things.

“The [crew] were accustomed to a glossy style of photography,” Almendros recalled in his biography.”They felt frustrated because I gave them so little work. Day after day I would ask them to turn [off all the lights] they had prepared for me. This annoyed them; some of them began openly saying that we didn’t know what we were doing, that were weren’t ‘professional.'”

Malick didn’t care, and when he saw the footage of what he and Almendros were doing, it emboldened the director to even go further in this direction. “He didn’t know what he was getting away with until he saw the footage,” longtime Malick editor and associate Billy Weber (he’s worked on every one of his pictures) said on the Criterion DVD. “He was guessing that he could push the limits of the film stock the way he did, but then when he saw he was right he realized he could get away with murder and shoot with no light.”
2. Richard Gere didn’t adjust easily to Terrence Malick’s unorthodox methods.
“I don’t know how equipped he was to lead actors, or anyone,” Gere said in a Criterion interview extra devoted to his work and his perspective on the film. “I think he had a really good idea, in the broad sense, of what he wanted and what he wanted it to look like, feel like, but I don’t know that he knew the exact specifics, he wasn’t that kind of a filmmaker. Because he was relatively new to directing, as I recall he didn’t really know how to talk to an actor the way a theater director does, so that led to some frustration from the actor’s point of view. It would be like, ‘do it again,’ and hopefully you would come up with something he liked, but it could be deeply frustrating, but that’s just how Terry works and it worked for him.”

Gere does sound petulant. In a Village Voice interview with his co-star Sam Shepard, a proponent of Malick’s working style, Shepard said, “And then the notorious shot of Richard Gere falling face first into the river — that was shot in a big aquarium in Sissy Spacek [and Jack Fisk]’s living room. They had to convince Richard to do this — he said, ‘Are you crazy?’ Terry begged him.”

Pretty much every key member of the team can attest to the near-revolt that was brewing within the crew. “There was a lot of griping from the Hollywood crews,” Weber said on the DVD. “I remember the electricians being really ticked off because they had nothing to light and they built hammocks in the electrical trucks for taking naps,” art director Patricia Norris said on the same commentary track.

“The camera crew didn’t really [understand] what Terry was doing,” said Weber. “Besides Néstor, who was fantastic and whose attitude was great, (he was wonderful with Terry) the rest of the camera crew were all from L.A.. Néstor never met them, he couldn’t bring his crew from France and they were pretty obstinate and didn’t like the way Terry shot.”

“I remember someone [complaining and] saying, ‘It wasn’t like this on ‘El Cid,’ Fisk laughed.

3.The production began to run more smoothly once Néstor Almendros left the picture and American cinematographer Haskell Wexler assumed the duties of the Director of Photography.
Almendros described the atmosphere on set in his autobiography saying, “[“Days of Heaven” was] not a rigidly prepared film. Many interesting ideas developed as we went along. This left room for improvisation and allowed us to take advantage of circumstances. Call sheets were not very detailed, the schedule was changed to suit the weather and also our frame of mind. This disoriented some of the Hollywood crew who were not used to improvisation and complained,” he said.

Haskell Wexler had an easier time with the camera crews, who clearly didn’t care for Almendros’ unorthodox style that was much closer to what they viewed to be Malick’s ‘chaotic’ vision. “[Wexler] worked better with the camera department. They respected him more, they understood him and he had [already] been in the system,” Fisk said. “[Wexler already] had a reputation when he came to us,” Norris said of the built-in admiration the technical crew had for the new DP.

Apparently, there was also some hope from the producers that Wexler would be able to push the falling-behind-schedule film through to finish. “They thought I would crack the whip,” Wexler said on the DVD in an extra dedicated to his work on the film (Almendros passed away in 1992). Producers and crew also thought that maybe Wexler could give everyone working on the film a little more cohesion than there seemed to be before his entrance.

“Terry asked me to do a lot of things at which I had to suppress my laughter,” Wexler admitted in the Malick documentary, “Rosy-Fingered Dawn.” I remember I did a shot of, I think it was supposed to be a wolf running up the hill. I didn’t know what the hell … I didn’t know what was on his mind. But I did begin to see that he sees connection… between life, between animals, growth, between the land, and I guarantee he would never say any of this to me, but this was some of the subconscious messages that I got when I was with him.”

4. Malick and Almendros became BFFs, above and beyond the shooting of “Days of Heaven.”
When Haskell Wexler came on board, “that made [the production] easier [for the crew] and he seemed to work well with Terry, but Terry loved Néstor,” Jack Fisk said in the Criterion commentary. “He was ok,” Weber amended of Wexler’s relationship with Malick, “But Terry loved Néstor.”

According to Weber, who visited Malick in his “wilderness” days in Paris, he was actually living in Néstor’s third floor apartment. “It was a nice place, on the left bank, it wasn’t fancy at all. He lives like a monk; frugally and quiet.” Unfortunately, Malick didn’t make a film again for 20 years (stay tuned for our feature on the films Malick worked on that never came to fruition) and since Almendros passed away in 1992 of AIDS-related illness, according to IMDB, the two never had the opportunity to work together again.
5. The legend goes that Néstor Almendros was replaced by Haskell Wexler because he was going blind. Though he was indeed losing his eyesight, Wexler replaced Almendros for very different reasons.
Almendros actually had to leave the set because he was scheduled to lens Francois Truffaut‘s “The Man Who Loved Women,” a commitment the producers were well aware of. He only had approximately nine weeks to shoot “Days of Heaven,” and per most Malick flicks, the director ran over…way over. Producer Harold Schneider (brother of BBS founder and “Days of Heaven” co-producer Burt Schneider) knew Almendros’ time was running out and the cinematographer approached his friend Wexler to finish the work. Known for lensing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and “Bound For Glory” Wexler arrived for an overlapping week (according to Almendros’ biography) so the two cinematographers could compare notes.

“Néstor told me, ‘don’t use any diffusion, Haskell. Remember, natural light,’ ” Wexler remembered on the Criterion DVD, but he also seemed to suggest this method wasn’t exactly one that anyone should congratulate themselves over. “You don’t get any gold stars for not using the equipment. You may save the rental, but usually they’ve got the stuff in case you need ‘em so it’s not a virtue, I don’t think. But I think Néstor’s concept was good, it was a useful discipline.”

Still he followed Almendros’ dictum for the most part, even against his better judgment. “There were some [darkly lit] shots that he thought would turn out to be black frames,” Weber said, “because there was no light, but he was wrong. There was definitely some low light footage that was on the edge, but we ended up using everything we wanted to use.”

“Néstor was an extraordinary guy, but as I recall his English wasn’t perfect and he was also almost blind which was not an advantage for a DP,” Gere chuckled on the Criterion DVD, confirming the little-known eyesight issues of one of the world’s greatest cinematographers. “His ability was to feel light; [to him] it had a texture, it’s tactile. He was a major, major artist; maybe a genius.”

According to Peter Biskind’s “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” book on the golden age of 1970s American filmmaking, in order to evaluate his shots, Almendros “had one of his assistants take Polaroids of the scene, then examined them through very strong glasses.” It’s possible this is true, but Biskind was not on set, and over the years, many people have poked holes in his hugely entertaining book.

6. Wexler was initially not pleased at being given a simple “additional photography” credit on the film and felt he deserved more recognition for his work.
The Haskell Wexler extra on the Criterion DVD opens with a portentous and perhaps cryptic quote from the legendary DP. “Whatever I say I believe is true. I truly believe it’s true,” Wexler said. “However, I also truly believe it may not be true.” Considering nothing of major controversy is said after that point, we have to wonder what might have been cut out from the rest of the interview.

What Wexler is likely hinting at is his screen credit, or lack thereof. According to Roger Ebert, Wexler’s grief (perhaps anger) over not getting what he deemed his proper credit extended for a very long time after the film was finished. In Ebert’s 1997 reappraising review of “Days of Heaven” he wrote, “There is a small credit at the end: ‘Additional photography by Haskell Wexler.’ Wexler, too, is one of the greatest of all cinematographers. That credit has always rankled him, and he once sent me a letter in which he described sitting in a theater with a stopwatch to prove that more than half of the footage was shot by him.”

While that may be the case, according to Almendros’ biography, he worked on “Days of Heaven” for thirty five days, while Wexler worked on the picture for nineteen. The sting must have hurt Wexler even more when Almendros went on to win an Oscar for work that wasn’t entirely his, but he’s since admitted he was wrong.

“I had a pretty strong ego trip there for a couple of weeks actually, wanting to get co-credit with Néstor,” Wexler admitted on the Criterion DVD. Ultimately his cooler head prevailed, according to this interview, and he understood why he was brought in. “My job was to see Néstor’s footage, try to maintain what he’s done and to do it to the best of my ability, and I was in awe of what I saw in the editing room, but I was also honored that they wanted me to go up there and [finish] it.”

According to Wexler in this Criterion interview, producer Burt Schneider tried to get him more credit just as the Criterion disc was coming out but he turned down the offer. “It’s just photography, that’s what lasts,” he said, finally sounding content with his contribution to the picture.
7. Actually there was a 3rd unnamed cinematographer who worked on the film as well.
“What people don’t know is that a year later we shot for about two weeks with neither of these guys (Almendros or Wexler) involved,” Richard Gere said on the DVD extras, not naming who he was talking about. “But a lot of the movie was done in those two weeks we shot later.”

Jacob Brackman is credited as the second unit director but Paul Ryan was the second unit DP who shot all the nature footage in Montana (principal production took place in Alberta, Canada), so it’s possible he was the cinematographer in question. Though surely any Malick scholar would likely tell you that Gere’s “a lot of the movie was done in those two weeks” claim is overstated. Someone have Weber or Fisk’s phone number?

Interestingly enough, Ryan’s 2nd unit shooting was “all secret,” according to Weber. “No one knew he was shooting. Néstor had no idea Paul was shooting anything.” Why was it kept secret? “It was a union thing,” he said. [Producer] Harold [Schneider] was concerned about it.”

8. In the script, “Days of Heaven” was a dialogue-heavy, emotionally rich piece of work and Richard Gere was unpleasantly surprised that the final cut was very, very different.
Gere admitted that at the time he was upset much of his work didn’t make it into the final product.

“[‘Days of Heaven’] ended up being a much more silent movie than the original script which was very much a full, normal kind of script,” he said. “In the end Terry was as interested in watching the ducks in the water as he was in us walking down the road. And I think a dramaturgical approach – which was what we shot and what was in the script – ultimately, it just felt too normal and easy for him.”

Malick had a greater ambition that was at the expense of the words he wrote and the acting. “The game he was playing was much more elusive than that,” Gere said. “From an acting point of view, we had done a lot of intense work in it that no one will ever see, but at the same time, it is an extraordinary film that we’re all proud of.”

9. Malick originally wanted John Travolta for the lead role that Gere would eventually get. No, really.
It’s a relatively little-known fact (depending on how big a Terrence Malick fan you are) that the director wanted John Travolta for the lead. This is confirmed and discussed on the Criterion DVD. “Richard was cast when John Travolta fell out of the picture,” Weber said. Diane Crittenden, the casting director said, speaking on behalf of Malick,”He just felt like [Travolta] was very real, that he had the qualities, that blue-collar kind of quality that he wanted, and he worked very, very hard to try and make it work out, even giving up all his points in the film to [producer] Aaron Spelling,” she said. “He was producing ‘Welcome Back Kotter‘ and telling him that he would let John Travolta travel back for those couple days, that they would need him for [‘Kotter’]. And it was a no go, they just wouldn’t do it. And so we knew we weren’t going to get John and sort of had to go looking for someone else pretty quickly,” Crittenden said on the Criterion DVD.

Even then, Malick went on with casting for over a year trying to match specific actors with other complimentary actors. “Terry can’t make a decision anyhow. This went on forever,” Gere laughed. “I surprised him and said, ‘Look I can’t do this anymore so you need to make a decision.’ ”

Losing Travolta was once rumored to be the reason why Malick left filmmaking for 20 years, that he was so heartbroken that he could not get his lead actor. However, like most Terrence Malick legends, there seems little foundation in provable fact. Note, in Peter Biskind’s book, “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” he contends that Malick tried and failed to get Dustin Hoffman or Al Pacino to star in the film, but the details on that are also very thin.

Sidenote: Casting director Diane Crittenden initially wanted Tommy Lee Jones for Shepard’s part, but what Malick liked the most about Shepard was “that he was really unknown as an actor – and he’s not an actor, he’s a playwright,” she said (Malick also let Shepard write one scene). “So he liked the honesty of [Sam’s] character.” She also mentioned that Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold (De Palma‘s “Obsession,” Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers”) was also someone they looked at closely for the lead before they chose Brooke Adams.

10. Years later Travolta would swear his absence in “Days Of Heaven” was the reason Malick abandoned film for 20 years.
Why did Malick vanish without a trace? ”That’s easy,” Travolta told EW in an 1999 interview. ”He hired me for ‘Heaven,’ I couldn’t do it, it broke his heart, and he never wanted to do a movie again. It was the most romantic notion I’d ever heard.” It sounds like an absolutely absurd notion perhaps one brought on by ego, but Travolta swears by it. ”He cried and cried,” Travolta recalled. ”I looked at him and thought, ‘Well, I feel bad, but I’m going to get over this. He’s claiming he’ll never get over this. He will. It’s a matter of time.” ‘ Travolta even says he revisited the issue with Malick several times, in fact every time he saw him. ”If I asked him once, I asked him five times, ‘Was it really that?”’ Travolta said. ”Terry always said, ‘Yep. There was something about how Hollywood worked that [casting issue] that made me feel unsafe about doing movies.’ He marches to his own drum. I’m still not sure what drum it is, but I like it.”

11. As Gere suggests, Malick’s original screenplay (like almost all of them) was originally much more dense, but he cut down the dialogue in the editing room.
As mentioned before, many were shocked to see the final cut of the film in which there’s almost no dialogue, rather a series of images and wordless situations. Malick spent two years cutting the film with Billy Weber, so much time that the Truffaut film that Néstor Almendros left to shoot actually came out before “Days of Heaven.”

“He got bored with his writing and our acting and started to see another movie in there, but I didn’t know that,” Gere explained on the Criterion edition. “We shot a much more richly verbal movie, with much more high emotions, much more dramatic. And when I came to loop the movie and I saw that it wasn’t that, I clearly was not too happy about that because all of us could have saved a lot of brain cells in the process.”

“That’s why it took so long to cut the movie, why it was two years later,” Weber said. “Because we were always whittling away at the dialogue. It was a learning process for both of us that we could tell the story with a minimum amount of dialogue.”

Even Malick’s collaborators were initially shocked by the huge discrepancy between what was filmed and what ended up on the screen. “I felt overwhelmed, because I didn’t know those changes would be there, that there would be so little dialogue, and that there would be a voice-over,” Diane Crittenden said. “So the first time you saw it, it was very jarring. But the more I thought about it, the better it seemed to work.”

12. Editor Billy Weber says ‘Days of Heaven’ was the most difficult of all of Terrence Malick’s film to cut.
While there was only 100,000 feet of film compared to the 1.1 million feet of film shot on “The Thin Red Line,” by then Malick and Weber had honed their process (even if it was 20 years later). On “Days of Heaven,” they were just finding their way in this new style that would similarly apply to all of Malick’s films that followed. According to Weber on the DVD they didn’t have anything they thought was working well until about 75%-80% of the way into editing “I remember we had a screening and I remember thinking, ‘we nailed it,’” he said, reliving the relief. “But it was a tough one. This was the one movie that was really… we just felt sick all the time, we didn’t know if we were going to make it through to the end.”

13. According to some, however, Malick knew he wasn’t going to stick to the script.
Again on the DVD, Sam Shepard, making his film debut in “Days of Heaven,” (unless you count his small part in Bob Dylan’s still-unreleased “Renaldo and Clara”) claimed to have known that the script was eventually going to be thrown out. “Terry told me very early on that he wanted to make a silent movie. He didn’t want dialogue and I knew what he meant — dialogue in some ways engaged the audience too much. He wanted almost a voyeuristic thing from the audiences, to witness the image. And the dialogue interfered with that because it engages, that’s the function of dialogue – it pulls you in.”

14. Linda Manz’s voice-over was largely ad-libbed and edited down from 60 hours worth of recordings.
Many people have wondered where the voice-over came from, as it wasn’t part of the original script and wasn’t recorded on set to anyone’s knowledge. Apparently much of it was made up of Linda Manz’s own ad-libbed thoughts that Malick would record on the fly. The opening train-sequence voice-over was taken from an apocalyptic bible story that she had been read the night before by the people she was staying with. The next day she told Malick her version of those events and he incorporated that into the movie. She had trouble remembering lines and/or people’s names and would call the actors by their real names during shooting so Malick then changed the names of the characters to ABC — Abby, Bill and Chuck — so the teenage Manz would remember. They recorded a whopping 60 hours of Linda’s voice-over, and there’s about 15 minutes in the film. “All that stuff is Linda’s own mind. It was very hard to script stuff for her, “ Weber said. “We’d show Linda the scene and ask her, ‘What just happened in the scene?’ and she’d talk about it and a lot of that became her voice-over.”

15. Malick and Billy Weber had cut the film to the temp music of Ennio Morricone‘s score for Bernardo Bertolucci’s “1900.”
Another of the great triumphs of the film alongside the photography is the score by legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone that evokes the pastoral landscape and the universal emotions of unrequited love. What some people don’t know, though, is that the score rarely appears in the places Morricone intended it to be. Though in many ways that was ok with the musician.

“We sent [Morricone] a copy of the movie with the music of “1900” in it,” Billy Weber recalled on the Criterion commentary track. “And he [agreed to score the film], and then Terry flew to Italy (Morricone didn’t fly at this time). Morricone was writing for it the whole time, and they scored it in Italy.”

Perhaps in working together, the composer got a glimpse of what Malick’s process would eventually be. “Just before Terry left, Morricone said a wonderful thing to him, ‘You can put the music I wrote for your movie anywhere you want in the picture. There’s only one piece of music I don’t want you to move, and that’s the music for the wheat fire.’ And Terry agreed and that actually is the only piece of music that is where it was written for.” Weber said.

16. While “Days of Heaven” was met with mixed reviews and only marginal box office at the time, Paramount studio chief Charles Bluhdorn loved it and allowed Malick to continue developing movies at the studio.
Charles Bluhdorn loved the movie,” Weber said on the DVD. “He thought Terry was a great artist and would have given Terry anything.” “He could have made any movie he wanted,” Patricia Norris, the film’s costume designer, added.

“[Bludorn] said in front of me, ‘I don’t care if your movies ever make a nickel; you’ll always make movies for me,” Weber recalled. Unfortunately for Malick, Bluhdorn died of a heart attack in 1983 when Malick had moved to Paris to work on “Q” (a project that would turn out to be the beginnings of “The Tree of Life”) and other films, some of which Paramount funded (the studio had allegedly given him a $1 million-dollar-plus stipend to write and develop his projects). Deeper into the 1980s, Paramount eventually lost patience with Malick’s slow-moving process and pulled the plug on further funds when no new films materialized.

17. While prevalent throughout, the legendary use of natural light and “magic hour” lensing may have been somewhat overstated.
On the Criterion DVD, camera operator John Bailey undercuts the legend somewhat. “It’s not true we didn’t use lights. The interiors almost always had lights,” he said. “There were a number of scenes that were done under cover of shade or inside a barn that had a north light, a soft light that remained constant. But anytime you see an extended scene where you have a dramatic light coming in like a window or something like that there, in order to maintain the continuity of that light you have to use an artificial light because the sun is constantly moving.” This may be due to the fact that, according to Weber and Fisk on the commentary, Wexler shot all the interiors save for one scene.

Editor Billy Weber also admitted on the same DVD that the “magic hour” filming wasn’t exactly set in stone. “If you shoot on overcast, cloudy days, you can then make it look like magic hour just in the color timing, so a lot of the movie, whenever it was overcast, we’d shoot,” Weber said. There’s no question that one of the movie’s strengths is its look, but you can never underestimate the power of Hollywood magic.

“The fire was shot actually as it was. It was real fire,” Almendros said in “Masters of Light.” “No enhancing, no nothing. In fact, if you light fire you spoil it. We did some tests, of course, and we saw that it looked better without any ‘enhancement.'”

He added, “For [the campfire scene], we used propane bottles with burners to simulate the light of the fire. We lit it exactly as we would with electric light, only we used a flame instead. And of course that made the gaffers, the grips and the prop men unhappy. No one knew whose job it was to handle the propane.” This sort of misunderstanding would just be one of many that would cause bad feelings between the cast and crew on the one side, and Malick and Almendros on the other, for the remainder of the production.

“Days of Heaven” by the numbers (all according to the DVD).
• The film cost approximately $3 million to make. Its domestic gross was $3.4 million
• It took almost two years to edit and there was only four weeks of pre-production.
• 60 hours of voice over was recorded.
• Shot in Alberta, Canada, production began in the fall of 1976. By Almendros’ count there were 54 days of shooting, though some put it at 9 weeks (63 days) just for Almendros shooting alone. It was released in the U.S on September 13, 1978
• The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including costume design, sound, original score and cinematography which resulted in Néstor Almendros’ only Oscar win, out of four nominations during his career.

“Days of Heaven” is available on DVD, and we recommend picking up the Criterion edition as there’s a lot more commentary to go around, including more video and audio interviews with the cast and crew. Sorry, folks, but there are no interviews with Malick on here as he prefers to stay private, though what we wouldn’t give to hear his take on the production of “Days of Heaven.” – Rodrigo Perez with contributions by Catherine Scott

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With Tree of Life in theaters we had set out to do a piece on all of Terrence Malick’s films and things you may or may not have known about them — that was the goal.

And in doing our research across the web and in books, we realized the best A-list, most authoritative quotes on the subject came from the Criterion disc extras — which we watched and enjoyed when it came out in 2007 — so we decided to use a lot of the quotes therein to support some of the well-known (or semi-well known) points about the production.

So, as any writer does, they use the best material at hand to shape their thesis.

So yes? Also, sue us? Also, have you seen anything else this in-depth on the web? Also, so what, this makes us assholes? Do not get the criticism here at all.

You’ll also note their are quotes and supporting points from Nestor Almendros’ autobiography, the Malick doc Rosy Fingered Dawn, A Roger Ebert article, Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders and Raging Bulls, a Village Voice article with Sam Shepard, but it’s really hard to top the quotes in the Criterion DVD, so we used them. Without shame I might add.


great stuff, except for the one dig on Gere sounding petulant. i think he sounds pretty darn fair and reasonable considering how difficult the experience must have been for the film’s lead actor. otherwise, love these posts.


so… did you just watch the special features on criterion and condense them into an article?


17. Where to find subtitles


It is one amazing film… It sets the tone and style for all future films he directed..,For a director with just 5 films , his are incredible.


That part about the voiceover is awesome. Linda Manz in this movie is one of my favorite performances ever.


Fascinating stuff. I hope when all is said and done there is a definitive biography on Malick.


Linda Manz best voiceover ever


I’ve heard Susan Sarandon was also approached to play the female lead.

Edward Davis

You’re so cute!


” Days of Heaven ” is one of the most gorgeous films , I have ever seen. The cinematography is to die for.

Hipster dave

someone just bought the criterion collection dvd!!!!!!! congrats on ur new buy i hope it totes works out 4 u and ur blog!


Days of Heaven is one of the best movies ever.

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