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Terrence Malick Punched Out A Producer & 10 Other Things We Learned About 'Badlands'

by Kevin Jagernauth
June 3, 2011 4:46 AM
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06. Terrence Malick went at least $35,000 over budget due to the ever expanding shoot (and was probably not helped by the massive fire on set).
"Badlands" had the tiny budget and difficulties most independent productions face -- it was budgeted at $300,000 with producer Edward R. Pressman who put in half, with Malick putting in $25,000 of his own money and raising the rest -- but Malick's organic shooting approach eventually caused the production to go over budget.
But according to Billy Weber on the Criterion edition of “Days Of Heaven,” “Badlands” was made for $350,000 and was bought by Warner Bros. for $900. It was actually shot for $700,000, but $350,000 in costs was deferred until later. "Everyone got paid, but it never made money, it never turned a profit," Weber said on the disc.
"We were shooting tons of film, which we were not budgeted to shoot. And our schedule was getting extended, which we were not budgeted for," assistant director Bill Scott told GQ. But it wasn't just Malick's own habits that caused costs to rise as a fire on the set likely didn't help matters. During the scene in which Charlie burns down Holly's home, three cameras were destroyed and sent at least one person to the hospital.

"Everyone could smell the fumes and we were getting light-headed. Roger [George, special effects]'s assistant lit the torch and said, 'Are you ready?' The next thing I remember hearing was a WHOOSH! And I just turned the camera on. I thought this was planned," recalls Best Boy Doug Knapp. "I bailed out the door. Roger was completely surrounded by flames."

"I remember seeing Roger on the ground outside later, wrapped. He was a real mess. The local hospital wasn't equipped to handle him, and there was concern about the great expense of getting him a medical helicopter, but they realized there was no choice. They flew him back to the Sherman Oaks Hospital," Knapp continues. "All the cameras were engulfed and destroyed. The fire strained relationships, and there were lawsuits afterwards. People were wondering if they were gonna get paid, and they started leaving," said Tony Palmieri who worked the Assistant Camera. "We were down to maybe five crew members."

The film wound up going $35,000 over budget, forcing Malick to take writing assignments to help pay for the editing of the film. Yet despite the complications, production plowed on and even now as Malick gets more money and resources to work with, great efforts are taken to keep an intimate feel on set. "The movies and the budgets have gotten bigger, and we take pains to hide stuff from him, so he doesn't see how many trucks are parked around the corner. Because it doesn't help him," says Jack Fisk. But that doesn't really matter. Malick would be happy shooting film all by himself.

"I don't think Terry ever finished. I think we all left him in the desert alone," Palmieri says. Fisk adds, "I think when he left it was snowing. He stayed after everybody else, still shooting. He doesn't like to stop."

07. Terrence Malick and producer Lou Stroller got into a fist-fight on the set of the movie.
While Terrence Malick's faithful actors and crew members stayed with the film through thick and thin, producer Lou Stroller was feeling the effects of Malick's unorthodox methods.

"Lou realized more than anyone how dangerous circumstances were, given our budget," Assistant Director Bill Scott told GQ and eventually Stroller and Malick literally came to blows.

"Lou Stroller made some comment about Mrs. Malick, and Terry was not having it, and beat the hell out of him. In true Texas style—he was so Texas. Didn't even hesitate, just started swinging," Martin Sheen recalls. "They were down like two buffalo—they were big guys—and they were on the ground, rolling around, and Terry just whupped him. Oh, I acted outraged—'What a breakdown of discipline, this fighting on the set!'—but I couldn't have been prouder of him. Can you imagine? If more directors would beat up their producers, we'd have a lot more artistic freedom.

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  • Brian | June 14, 2013 5:15 AMReply

    'Lanton Mills' was his second short film; his first was 'Loose Change'. But neither of those are in remotely wide availability, and you will have noticed that, in such context, people customarily use the terms 'film' or 'movie' to refer to a director's feature films, not every little thing that director's ever put on camera.

  • Hassard | July 15, 2011 9:28 AMReply

    LOL, people love to bitch about your sources.

    The only thing about this article worthy of derision is the suggestion that Chastain looks anything like Sissy Spacek (even young).

  • Oliver Lyttelton | June 6, 2011 3:50 AMReply

    The number of times the word 'GQ' appears in this article = 14. If you don't read it closely enough, that's not our problem.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | June 6, 2011 3:49 AMReply

    It's irresponsible to link in each point of the article where we got the info? Does not compute.

  • Terry | June 6, 2011 3:46 AMReply

    Maybe you guys should, you know, highlight your source at the beginning of the article or say something so it doesn't sound like you discovered this information yourself, independent of GQ's posting. It's irresponsible to provide links and assume that that's enough. Hacks.

  • Fred | June 4, 2011 7:39 AMReply

    Deadhead Miles can also be seen on Netflix as one of their streaming-only older features.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | June 4, 2011 1:45 AMReply

    Are you guys seriously blind? We link to GQ multiple times in the feature. No one is hiding anything. And for the record Sight And Sound, Vanity Fair and Guardian among others were also cited/linked.

  • hank | June 4, 2011 1:43 AMReply

    this is all from a much more factual GQ article entitled Badlands: an Oral History. You might want to cite your sources.

  • alish | June 4, 2011 1:40 AMReply

    Wow, I wish Tree of Life was plot-driven, or that Malick would decide to one day make another plot driven movie like his first two, that'd be cool.

  • styles | June 3, 2011 10:35 AMReply

    uh...this guy just reiterated everything that was in this GQ article called the "Oral History of Badlands"

  • Ken | June 3, 2011 10:29 AMReply

    I made a no budget independent film last year and almost punched out my co-producer... it's not that unheard of

  • Glass | June 3, 2011 9:50 AMReply

    Awesome article. A Badlands blu-ray with Lanton Mills included from Criterion is such a no-brainer.

  • g | June 3, 2011 8:04 AMReply

    It's also worth noting (I don't think it's mentioned here) that Sissy Spacek has been married to Jack Fisk for over 35 years after meeting him on this picture.

  • jon | June 3, 2011 5:29 AMReply

    Great article, but a few minor facts you may want to check: Badlands was purchased by WB, not Paramount, and you refer to Jake Brackman as "Edward" Brackman.

  • Castor | June 3, 2011 5:15 AMReply

    Wonderful research and article Kevin! I enjoyed reading this and look forward to the next installment.

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