Terrence Malick is one of the most notorious filmmakers when it comes to cutting footage. Not even being a household name guarantees you a spot in the final edit of a Malick movie (just ask Adrien Brody, Viggo Mortensen, and more). The director’s 2012 drama “To The Wonder” stars Javier Bardem in the brief role of a conflicted priest. The theatrical cut of the film features Bardem more in voiceover as his character meditates on the nature of faith and love, but it turns out that a lot more footage of the actor was shot that never saw the light of day. Until now.
One of the films world premiering at the upcoming South by Southwest Film Festival next month is “Thy Kingdom Come,” which has been revealed as a surprise spinoff of “To The Wonder.” The 43-minute film features Bardem’s priest as he interviews different Oklahoma natives about what is troubling them most. The footage was shot by Eugene Richards, who worked as a researcher, then a videographer, for Terrence Malick on “To The Wonder.”
A new profile of the film in The New Yorker sheds light on how the spinoff film was made. When Malick was shooting “To The Wonder” in 2012, the director invited Richards down to the Oklahoma set to film Bardem’s character interacting with real people. Richards is a photojournalist known for his work documenting poverty, mental illness, and crack-cocaine addiction. Malick tasked Richards with finding real people in the Bartlesville, Oklahoma area for Bardem to interview in character as the priest, and Richards filmed each interview. Malick used some of the footage in “To The Wonder,” but now “Thy Kingdom Come” presents more of it.
“The basic question of ‘Tell me a little bit about yourself’ grew into something else,” Richard told The New Yorker about the interview sessions he filmed with Bardem.
“To The Wonder” was released two years later. Richards petitioned Malick to give up the footage for his own use. Redbud Pictures licensed the footage to Richards, with the knowledge that he would edit it into a stand-alone film. Richards edited the interviews together to create “Thy Kingdom Come.”
“Most people knew [Bardem] as the murderer in ‘No Country for Old Men,’” Richards said of filming the interviews. “A couple people knew him as Penelope Cruz’s husband. Some didn’t know who he was at all. And absolutely no one cared, in the end, who he was, except that he was there to listen.”
The film consists solely of a series of interviews between Bardem and real people. An elderly woman, for instance, speaks to Bardem about her happy marriage, while a mother remembers the night she fell asleep and her child drowned. Another woman tells Bardem about her sexual assault, while one interview subject is a former Ku Klux Klan member who speaks of his decision to renounce his past.
“Thy Kingdom Come” premieres at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival next month. Watch the first trailer for the project below.