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Terrence Malick “Status” Report: One-Time ‘Lawless,’ ‘To the Wonder,’ ‘Knight of Cups’

Terrence Malick "Status" Report: One-Time 'Lawless,' 'To the Wonder,' 'Knight of Cups'

Cannes would be happy to have anything from Terrence Malick; the fest bestowed upon him their Palme d’Or last year for “The Tree of Life,” which went on to top many ten-bests of 2011 and even landed a coveted spot on Roger Ebert’s greatest films of all time.

Malick fans no longer have to wait five or twenty years between projects; he’s got three more on the way. But, while one has finally been given a title — “To The Wonder” — and technology is helping to speed up its production, there’s nothing to suggest Malick will change his ways and pander to traditional production, post-production and release models. He’ll finish them in his sweet time, and by the time we’re done whining about it we’ll probably thank him for it.

Ben Affleck was a good student while shooting Malick’s “To The Wonder” and applied what he learned while shooting “Argo,” for which the advance buzz is strong (it lands October 12). Rachel Weisz plays Affleck’s sister, and says the experience working with Malick was “unlike anything I’ve ever had.” She adds, “Unorthodox would be a massive understatement. There isn’t really a script, you don’t know what the story is, you don’t know who the other characters are. I knew I was Ben Affleck’s sister and that he was in love with two different women but otherwise I didn’t know what was going on.”

The second two projects, the one formerly known as “Lawless” and “Knight of Cups” are on dual tracks. His bevy of top talent — Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett — are likely savouring the experience, and not just because of the magic hour lighting. Malick tackles each day with creativity and impulsiveness; a set plan would interfere with the magic that he and his longtime cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and production designer Jack Fisk create.

The status of Malick’s three upcoming projects are laid out below; in the meantime, “Days of Heaven” and “The Thin Red Line” are both streaming on Netflix.

“To The Wonder”

Status: Completed enough to earn an R rating

Cast: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz, Javier Bardem, Barry Pepper, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet.

Plot: A philandering man (Affleck) falls for and marries a European woman after a heated affair (former Bond-girl Kurylenko); the marriage (which gets the woman a visa) falls apart and Affleck reignites a relationship with a former flame from his hometown in Oklahoma (Rachel McAdams) [FilmStage]. Bardem’s role is said to be that of a Priest who offers Affleck’s character advice.

Release: ThePlaylist speculates on the possibilities surrounding “To The Wonder”‘s release. Shop at Cannes? Release via Tugg?

The Project Formerly Known as “Lawless”

Status: In production. The shoot has included music festivals SXSW and Austin City Limits, and bands Neon Indian, Arcade Fire, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes and The Cult were lensed for potential inclusion in the film.

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Haley Bennett and (possibly) Matthew McConaughey, Wes Bentley.

Plot: The Austin, TX music scene; two intersecting love trials, sexual obsession and betrayal.

“Knight of Cups

Status: Pre-production; Summer shoot planned.

Cast: Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Isabel Lucas, Wes Bentley

Plot: A man in search of love and truth.

Plus: The Untitled Jerry Lee Lewis Project

Status: Long-gestating project, which Brad Pitt’s Plan B is producing. Pitt and Portman have been rumored to be involved. This 1995 Los Angeles Times article by Joe Gillis has early development details, some fascinating commentary on the Malick (“a genius”) and his work (“a risk”), and an awkward interview with the director.

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I think Tugg is a cool concept and hopefully will allow interesting films to be seen in areas without dedicated "art house" theaters. However, it's not well-known or established enough that Malick's producers would exclusively distribute "To the Wonder" through Tugg. I expect the roll out to look similar to that of The Tree of Life with additional support from Tugg in smaller communities. If the film is less "experimental" (for lack of a better word) than TTOL, than it might get a bit larger release. I doubt this is being shopped too much at Cannes. Malick has probably been more-or-less done for weeks now and given that the distribution rights are already sold everywhere else, I'm sure the producers have been in negotiations with distributors for weeks. Also, I know a few theaters Holland have listed a late December release date. Assuming that they are nearing final negotiations with a distribution, and my belief the U.S. will get this before Holland, I think an August or September release is plausible. I think Malick's producers are probably planning to release this outright, but given the probable timing of release, it's not implausible that they may try to get the film in at Venice and release it right after in the U.S.


"Lawless" is NOT in production. It was always supposed to shoot after Knight of Cups. Some filming was done at various Austin festivals while they were happening, but Mara has said it officially starts principal photography this fall. She's also busy shooting three movies before that (The Bitter Pill, the Spike Jonze movie, and a movie with Ben Foster and Casey Affleck). Knight of Cups shoots this summer.

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