While at one time Terrence Malick seemed to be an enigma we would know little about, his recent prolific jaunt that sees him working with nearly every actor in Hollywood suggests that for years to come, we’re going to keep getting more and more anecdotes about the man and his films, even if he remains elusive to the press. Indeed, his approach to filmmaking, which often involves tossing out the script and shooting whatever the day or moment inspires, has been either freeing, baffling or anger-inducing depending on who you ask (Christopher Plummer is not a fan). And Richard Gere, who starred in the Malick’s sophomore effort, “Days of Heaven,” has not been shy about his own frustrations with the film.
Sitting in on THR‘s actor’s roundtable, when talking about this early work, Gere seems suggest that Malick shot “Days of Heaven” twice. “I was 26 when I made ‘Days of Heaven,’ 28 when it was released because we went back and shot another movie….,” he said. But is he overstating what happened? Or does this confirm that much of what Malick used in the first shoot for the movie wound up tossed out?
In our extensive “Days Of Heaven” feature from last year, we noted that in the DVD extras for the Criterion Collection edition for the film, Gere says: “What people don’t know is that a year later we shot for about two weeks with neither of these guys [cinematographers Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler] involved. But a lot of the movie was done in those two weeks we shot later.”
It’s that last part that certainly carries a lot of weight. Indeed, Gere also says in those same extras: “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.”
Speaking of brain cells, Ben Affleck is also quite candid that his time with Malick on the director’s upcoming “To the Wonder” wasn’t quite what he thought it would be. “The experience of it seemed half-crazy in that we didn’t really have dialogue, so I didn’t really know what was happening. Then I realized that he was accumulating colors that he would use to paint with later in the editing room. My character doesn’t really do that much,” he told GQ. “It was kind of a wash for me in terms of learning something as an actor, because Terry uses actors in a different way—he’ll [have the camera] on you and then tilt up and go up to a tree, so you think, ‘Who’s more important in this—me or the tree?’ But you don’t ask him, because you don’t want to know the answer.”
Curiously, Malick advised Affleck that he wanted him to be like screen legend Gary Cooper, but when the actor shared his research the director was mortified. “Oh, no no no! He’s just rattling on!” Malick reportedly said. “Gary Cooper, he just stares off.”
All this mostly underscores that Malick’s approach has changed very little from “Days of Heaven” to this latest, and whether it will with “Knight of Cups” or his untitled music scene movie remains to be seen as well. “To the Wonder” is tentatively slated to open in April.