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Berlin: Christian Bale and Natalie Portman on Making ‘Knight of Cups’ With Terrence Malick

Berlin: Christian Bale and Natalie Portman on Making 'Knight of Cups' With Terrence Malick

To the surprise of no one, Terrence Malick was a no-show at today’s Berlinale press conference for his seventh feature, “Knight of Cups,” following the film’s first screening. Thankfully Christian Bale and Natalie Portman were on hand to answer questions about the hypnotic and experimental film. In “Knight of Cups,” Bale plays a wayward Hollywood player struggling to find meaning in his life. Portman plays one of his many love interests in the film. Below are the top highlights from their conversation earlier today.

Christian Bale didn’t know what “Knight of Cups” was about during filming.

“The nice and very interesting thing in Terry’s approach was that he didn’t tell us what it was about,” Bale said. “For me, I worked with Terry ten years back on ‘The New World.’ We talked about different ideas. [‘Knight of Cups’] was something he had gestating for a long time; he really just gave me the character description.

“With each and every scene I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. He would push me out and it was a lot of ‘let’s see what happens.’ With Terry, there’s a great deal of comfort in doing that. We got a lot of happy accidents.”

Natalie Portman’s favorite film is by Terrence Malick.

“I’ve been a fan of Terry’s for my whole life,” she said. “‘Days of Heaven’ is my favorite film ever. He makes really incredible, impactful films, both visually and emotionally.” 

Malick had his actors do voiceover work in the strangest of places.

“We’d sit in vans and do it, we’d do it on the side of the street, we’d do it in studios,” Bale recounted when asked about when and where he shot his share of voiceovers that pop up frequently throughout the film. “With Terry there’s no conventional approach. Sometimes I’d just drive in my pickup and we’d sit in the back and record it.”

Portman recalled doing “more days of voiceover work than shooting.” “It was great because it was fun to play different things and find different ways of trying an interior voice.” 

Portman took filmmaking tips from Malick.

“I felt very lucky to have worked with him before directing my first film,” Portman said. Her filmmaking debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” is currently in post-production. “He reminded me that the rules of filmmaking are not necessary. You can find your own way to allow the mistakes, to welcome the problems. What you would normally consider a problem, Terry could consider an opportunity.”

Bale had no lines to learn.

“But I’d see other people come in and they’d have pages,” he said. “I’d try to look over their shoulder to see what I was going to be told.”

READ MORE: Berlin 2015: The 9 Indiewire Films Indiewire Can’t Wait to See

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