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Terrence Malick Cut Haley Bennett Out of a Film, Then Wrote a Letter Telling Directors to Hire Her

Bennett calls Malick her "guardian angel" for casting her in "Song to Song," even though all of her scenes got cut.

Haley Bennett in Swallow


Tribeca Film Festival

Terrence Malick is well known for cutting actors out of his theatrical cuts (see IndieWire’s list of eight actors who never made it into the Malick films they shot), and such was the case with Haley Bennett on “Song to Song.” Bennett was cast opposite Christian Bale in 2011, but Bale could not complete the movie because of his commitment to shoot “American Hustle.” Bale’s departure resulted in Bennett’s scenes getting cut from the movie, but Malick still played a crucial role in boosting Bennett’s profile in the industry.

As Bennett recently told The Hollywood Reporter, Malick wrote a letter singing her praises after being forced to cut her out of “Song to Song.” Malick sent the letter by mail to the director Antoine Fuqua after learning Bennett was getting ready to audition for Fuqua’s action movie “The Equalizer.” Bennett called Malick her “guardian angel” because of the letter.

“Once Terrence Malick casts you in a film, it kind of puts you on the map for other filmmakers that have been affected by Terrence’s work — Antoine Fuqua being one of those people,” Bennett said. “And when I was up for a role in ‘The Equalizer,’ Terrence sent Antoine Fuqua a hand-typed letter that he actually put in the mail. The letter had glowing reviews about my performance in [‘Song to Song’].”

Malick’s letter reads as follows (via THR): “I’m pleased to hear that you are considering Haley Bennett for your picture, and I am writing to sing her praises. She played an important role in the picture we shot in Austin this past fall, and she rocked every scene she did. Every shot, alive with her sense of her goodness, her love, her pain. I marveled at this, as did Chivo, our DP, and Jack Fisk, the production designer, and we often spoke about it among ourselves. She is going to play a role in a picture Jack’s wife [Sissy Spacek] is directing this fall. What’s more, you couldn’t find a more pleasant actress to work with. She’s always prepared and threw herself into things without reservation, giving her all. I feel confident you will be delighted with her. With all good wishes and a fraternal salute, I am yours sincerely.”

Bennett told THR “all of that footage” she shot for “Song to Song” was cut out of the film. The actress spent weeks or months at a time traveling to Texas throughout 2011 to film scenes for the movie.

“What happened, from my understanding, is that ‘Song to Song,’ when the actual filming arose, the storyline between Christian and I changed because Christian had just done ‘Knight of Cups,'” Bennett said. “And then he was cast in David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle.’ So he had to go film American Hustle, and that’s when everything took a turn. He was cut from the film, and then I was cut from the film because he had to go shoot American Hustle. Like I said earlier, you go in with great intentions and you can’t control what happens after that. But it’s all about the process and that process was life-changing.”

Bennett has since emerged as a rising star, garnering rave reviews in 2020 for her leading role in “Swallow.” Next up for the actress is a starring role opposite Peter Dinklage in Joe Wright’s “Cyrano.”

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