In many ways it was the perfect film to kick off the 2017 SXSW Film Festival. A great American auteur, Terrence Malick, who calls Austin home, premieres his star-studded new film set against the Austin music scene.
“This film, as you will soon see, is a love story,” said producer Nicolas Gonda in his introduction of the film. “It’s for and about Austin, so it’s amazing to be here tonight.”
In addition to the film’s stars — Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Berenice Marlohe — the Paramount Theater in Austin was packed with a number of the big names attending the festival this year, including director Richard Linklater, James Franco and Nick Kroll. Who wasn’t there, not surprisingly, was Malick himself, who over the years has shied away from the public spotlight and is known to dislike discussing his films.
Which is why the rumor that had been swirling around the film world for the past three days seemed so unlikely: Malick would take part in a conversation about “Song to Song.” Before the film, Gonda all but confirmed it.
“Tomorrow morning at 9:30am there will be a panel that one of our amazing cast members, Michael Fassbender, will be part of and there is also a rumor that our writer-director will also be there,” said Gonda, adding: “It’s obviously a rare event.”
Two days ago, a “Song to Song” conversation between Linklater and Fassbender was a last minute addition to the SXSW conference schedule. The event is open to badge holders only.
Friday evening’s premiere was an admittedly rushed affair, with a number of cast (Mara and Gosling) and crew in the middle of shoots and needing to catch flights out of Austin Friday night. Therefore, there was an unorthodox, pre-film Q&A with the cast.
The first question, what’s it like working with Malick?
Of the cast members, Mara shared the least, admitting that the production, which started principal photography in 2012 (Malick was shooting live outdoor concerts before then), was so long ago that she didn’t remember how she felt making the film.
Gosling joked that “Song to Song” shot in so many different locations around the city, “I think this [the Paramount Theater] is the only location in Austin we didn’t shoot in, so some closure there.”
One of the film’s stars, Natalie Portman, could not be in Austin tonight, but producer Sarah Green shared a note she received from the actress saying that she just had her baby and wasn’t able to get on a plane yet, but that making the film was amazing experience.