Director Terrence Malick is famous for snipping actors out of his theatrical cuts. For one, Adrien Brody reportedly showed up to the premiere of “The Thin Red Line” to find his role, which he thought was the lead, was significantly downsized. Many others followed. In the aftermath of Malick’s 2005 historical drama about the founding of Jamestown, Christopher Plummer was having none of it. The late actor, who passed away this week at the age of 91, revealed in a 2012 roundtable with Newsweek that he went to the lengths of writing Malick a letter after his experience. (In the film, he plays Captain Christopher Newport, though his role, too, turned out to be much less than he thought.)
“He is quite an extraordinary guy, and I love some of his movies very much, but the problem with Terry, which I soon found, is he needs a writer desperately, because he insists on doing everything,” Plummer told the group, which included Viola Davis, Charlize Theron, Tilda Swinton, and George Clooney. “He insists on writing, and overwriting, and overwriting, until it sounds terribly pretentious. You have to work terribly hard to make it sound real. And then he edits his films in such a way where he cuts everybody out of the story.”
Plummer also dug into the beauty of Malick’s approach, but found that the story tends to get muddled along the way. “Terry gets terribly involved in poetic shots… which are gorgeous, but they’re paintings. All of them. He gets lost in that, and the stories get diffused, particularly in our film,” he said.
“I was put in all sorts of different spots, my character was suddenly not in the scene I thought I was in, in the editing room. It completely unbalances everything. This very emotional scene that I had suddenly was background noise. I could hear myself saying it, this long, wonderful, moving speech that I thought I was so fantastic in. It’s now background sort of score, way mild in the distance, while something else is going on. And [co-star] Colin Farrell just said, ‘Oh you know, we’re just going to be a couple fucking ospreys.'”
Finally, Plummer said, “I had to write him a letter. I had to write Terry a letter. I gave him shit. I’ll never work with him again, of course. He won’t have me. I told him, ‘You are so boring. You get in these ruts. You’ve got to get yourself a writer.’ My career with Mr. Malick is over.”
Watch clip via The Daily Beast below.