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Did Terrence Malick Use Test Audiences While Editing 'To The Wonder'?

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist April 4, 2013 at 2:39PM

If there is one word that has come to define Terrence Malick's approach to filmmaking, it has been: secrecy. He generally doesn't reveal plot details (which would be pointless anyway), and he shoots tons of material, only to shape the movie in the editing bay, even if that means dropping actors out of the movie entirely. He's moved to the beat of his own drum and released his movies as he saw fit, without having to seek feedback or approval from anyone but himself. But did that change on "To the Wonder"?
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To The Wonder Ben Affleck Olga Kurylenko

If there is one word that has come to define Terrence Malick's approach to filmmaking, it has been: secrecy. He generally doesn't reveal plot details (which would be pointless anyway), and he shoots tons of material, only to shape the movie in the editing bay, even if that means dropping actors out of the movie entirely. He's moved to the beat of his own drum and released his movies as he saw fit, without having to seek feedback or approval from anyone but himself. But did that change on "To the Wonder"?

Thompson On Hollywood recently chatted with Olga Kurylenko, who plays the free spirited woman who enraptures the taciturn Ben Affleck, only for their initial romance to slowly fracture and fray. What you may have heard about the movie thus far is that dialogue is at a minimum, particularly for Affleck. It makes for an interesting, and mostly visual approach, to watching this couple deal with their poisoned feelings. But the actress reveals they had shot much more fiery material among the cut scenes from the movie.

"My favorite scene is cut! And it's not one, there were like 10 of them. I did a lot of confession scenes with Javier [Bardem, who plays a priest]. That was dialogue! Terry didn't mind me speaking then! I loved those scenes. And there were more fights with Ben, horrible, terrifying fight scenes," she reveals. But then adds a rather intriguing reason why they were axed.

"Apparently there was a version where it was filled with those and they tested it and it just terrified the audience. It was too hard, they had to make it softer," she continues. "When we had fights, I remember I had bruises on my wrists. From what we shot, it was clear to me that Marina was meant to be quite hysterical; if he'd kept them all in, it would have been a very different view on this woman."

Wait -- is Malick using test audiences now? Hmm. While it's probably not the traditional pick-up-a-flyer-at-the-mall-and-see-a-free-movie that usually passes for Hollywood test screenings, it does suggest that Malick did seek some advice from viewers, perhaps some close friends or friends of friends who would agree to keep their lips sealed? Given that there is zero insight to his approach once he's off set, this is still a fascinating little morsel. And remember, Rachel Weisz, Amanda Peet and Michael Sheen all had their contributions cut as well, and we'd be fascinated to know the storylines that got dropped.

Regardless, the finished movie is complete and captivating. You can catch "To the Wonder" when it arrives in theaters and VOD on April 12th.

This article is related to: Terrence Malick, Olga Kurylenko, To the Wonder


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