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Terrence Malick Made An Enemy Out Of James Horner & 7 More Things We Learned About 'The New World'

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist July 6, 2011 at 10:10AM

Christopher Plummer Didn't Care For His Ways EitherEven for a filmmaker known as someone who drastically skews perspectives and storytelling methods, obscuring his art while illuminating, Terrence Malick's “The New World” presents an unusual method of telling a familiar core story. With another filmmaker, we might simply get the straightforward tale of John Smith and Pocahontas, Malick sees the beginning of a unique and troubled union, not only between the star-crossed lovers, but between the spirits of two civilizations and their relationships with the land.
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4. Once Again, Malick's Ever-Mercurial Shooting Process Was In Full Effect
Naturally, Malick did not make it easy on his charges and extras were warned beforehand it was going to be grueling shoot.

"It's going to be particularly difficult out here because it's going to be hot, it's going be nasty, you're going to be covered with mud,“ Vern Crofoot, the production’s Master Armorer advised the extras, as seen in footage from the BluRay. “The working conditions are not going to be pleasant, you're gonna be working real hard and the temperature is going to be up there."

However, Malick's well-documented unconventional shooting approach was a pleasure for Christian Bale who enjoyed being able to roam freely on the sets. "It's very funny at times because Terry liked Jack Fisk to create the houses and the locations so he could shoot three hundred and sixty degrees,” says Bale on the BluRay. “So the crew had to be ready for that as well, because unlike most movies where they absolutely know the camera is locked between these two positions and that's it, with Terry you never knew. It could be there, and then suddenly he's spinning around looking there. So you can't have a bunch of gaffers or craft service set up [nearby]."

“And I couldn't stop laughing on my very first day when he did do this thing to me, where he just suddenly turned the camera on me and said 'Christian just do whatever you feel like doing,'" Bale continues. "And so I did start doing that, and I realized, there was a bunch of crew [nearby] so if I walked over there, what were they going to do? In my bloody-minded nature I was like, 'I'm going to go take a look, see what they do.' So I did, I started walking over and they were running, they were diving behind bushes to get out the way, because they knew that this was just part of the deal of working with Terry."

5. "The New World" Had Three Different Cuts
Those seeking the total “The New World” experience found themselves with a challenge, including, not surprisingly, editor Richard Chew who is one of the four credited editors who had to wade through a million feet of film. "Terry shoots a lot because, I think, he's really trying to get into the subconscious of the actors who inhabit these characters,” says Chew on the BluRay. “And he's trying to find these unconscious kind of movements or postures, expressions that the actors can give.”

“The New World” was initially released in a 150-minute cut for Academy consideration, though later it would see wide release in an altered version that ran 16 minutes shorter and featured new scenes, but condensed others and severely truncated the narration to allow for a more straightforward reading. DVD allowed these theatrical presentations to exist in another medium, but most diehards would rally around the extended edition, which boasts a notable 172-minute runtime featuring the extensions of several key sequences. However, there was still much left on the cutting room floor and Kilcher detailed a surprising scene that she was bummed to see missing from the movie:

“....some of Pocahontas’ lowest points in life were taken out...You know the part where John Smith [Farrell] is chopping wood in the back and this is after Pocahontas is kidnapped and she’s brought back to the James Fort? She comes to Smith and he’s chopping the wood. Pocahontas actually... that day, I had a knife and I was going to stab him and that really showed that she was going to kill her heart," the actress explained to About. "Because in the beginning, Powhatan tells his daughter, ‘You need to put your people before your own heart,’ and he’s referring to Smith. And so that really showed Pocahontas was about to kill her own heart. And then she gets really confused and then you see her gradually start to fix herself until Smith leaves. It was also missing some of the more, happier times. More of the Indian village. Like we were once dancing around this huge bonfire—everyone. It was so gorgeous. They told me that a lot of the scenes that I was missing were going to be on the DVD so I’m excited. It’s going to be somewhere.”

As for Bale, he told Hollywood.com that much of his contribution came in post-production as Malick tried to wrangle his film down to size. " I think that was a product of Terry being required to bring the movie down to two and a half hours. A number of the dialogue scenes had to be taken out and many times it was almost like a silent movie, but we were accustomed to that on the set because many times he would say to us, 'Here's the scene. Here's the dialogue.' And we might change it at the last minute, or whatever, but he'd also say, 'If you don't like saying it, don't say it.' And he really meant it. He didn't say it just say to say it," Bale explained. "He really meant that we should do what felt right. 'I don't want you saying any of the lines that I've written if it doesn't feel right.' Then with the voiceover it was really quite fascinating. I mean, Terry would sometimes send me thirty pages of voiceover and it was fascinating. He's a wonderful writer. I stole a number of the pages because I thought that they were just some wonderful comments on life and love and relationships and things."

6. Unfortunately, Malick's Less Than Traditional Editing Approach Made Him An Enemy Of Composer James Horner
Terrence Malick's intuitive, freewheeling approach to shooting and his disregard for sticking with the script made scoring the film a nightmare for James Horner. Writing and then rewriting pieces for scenes that changed from page to camera, were cut, re-ordered or abandoned, most of Horner's music was eventually axed and the experience severely embittered the composer. In a radio interview with "On The Score" conducted by Daniel Schweiger for Film Music Radio, Horner laid into Malick hard. It was a lengthy diatribe -- which you can read in full here -- but we've condensed it a bit to give an overall impression of Horner's experience working with Malick:

So he went out shooting the movie, went over time, and got beautiful images and everybody [said] "Oh god, this is so beautiful." There were a couple of things that were pasted together by a couple of the experienced editors of the love scenes: "Oh, this gonna be great, absolutely great". OK.

He had eight editors working for him -- two prestigious, the rest out of the woodwork, and some assistants. There was so much film he was working on night on night, [that] there was a crew... When I first saw it, it was a mishmash of unrelated scenes, complete mishmash. I said, "Well Terry, you need to..." He asked me what I thought. "You need to cohere this. I mean this scene should be there" ... all kinds of editing things were wrong. It was the first assembly.

It was April and he was supposed to have a cut ready by May to look at, and that we missed. He missed his deadline and it was in the middle of June when we saw it. The studio saw it, and it was the same thing I saw two days after he finished shooting. It has gone through two and a half month's work and it was in just the same state. This was when I first saw it and red lights started to go up everywhere because I’m getting close to my recording dates and this is unscoreable like this.

I played him scenes, I played him everything on the piano and I had the feeling he did not really know what movie music was. He didn’t have any experience with real film music being presented to him. Even in 'Thin Red Line' it was all cut up. Here I was writing music for him, which he would say was "beautiful and great" and sounded "great" on the piano. Whatever. But I knew - and I warned everybody - this man does not have a clue what to do with movie music or how it works, not a clue. He is gonna to hear his first cue and not know what to do with it and I warned everybody.

I begged him to watch several movies that have music in them [used] very effectively. Be it 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,' I mean I showed him all kinds of films or asked him to see all kinds of films that had scores in them. He said he would, but he never did.

Slowly the editorial team started to disintegrate. The good editors left and they brought in more asisstants and it was cut by a bunch of incompetents. There was no real editor. He continued on in that way asking for opinions and we were approaching recording and there were no scenes to record, there were no scenes to time. I had my music editors assemble sequences as I thought they should be or as they normally [would] be, and we scored some of that and it was lovely, just what everybody had hoped would be intended by the film.

Terry saw it and immediately took it back to his editing room and cut it apart and we were still recording and I realized that it was just a waste of everybody’s money to keep recording, though we were commited because we had hired the orchestra. So Terry was making this movie that was incomprehensible.

Everybody told him it was unwatchable. Everybody! Everybody! And he had Final Cut, and when a director has final cut, everbody can scream and shout, but unless you’re willing to really go head-to-head in combat, you basically have to throw up your hands and say, "I have no control over this man." The editor who had worked on "The Thin Red Line" begged Terry to fix the fim. It was a love story, and Terry doesn’t feel those feelings. All I can say is that Terry is on the surface a stone and he does not know how to tell love stories to save his life. When we scored the movie he completely disassembled everything. The score made no sense anymore and he started to stick in Wagner over scenes, and a Mozart piano concerto over an Indian attack. Everybody thought he was insane. By this time I was no longer on, I basically said, 'futz you. So I just did say a four letter word. I’m out of here. I’ve done my score.'

I never felt so letdown by a filmmaker in my life....It was the most disappointing experience I’ve ever had with a man because not only did he throw out my score, he loved my score, he didn’t have a clue what to do with it. He didn’t have a clue how to use music. So what he started to do was, as I said, to take classical pieces, but not even pieces that would be transparent and lovely, he was taking Wagner like a thick blanket and putting it in his movie. I swear to god, on the dubbing stage everybody thought he was joking and he would bring up these musical solutions and take out the score and put in Wagner, or take out the score and put in Mozart.

It’s not like he fired me and I’m bitter. What happened was I’m bitter because he did not make the movie he promised everybody he would make. Everybody felt betrayed, from the film company down to the editors. Everybody felt betrayed, and this was the man who took the story that could have been one of the great love stories and was one of the great love stories in history, and turned it into crap, and it’s because he doesn’t believe in those things. He doesn’t understand them. And most importantly, he has not an emotion in his body. He’s emotionless.

James Horner's complete score for the film was released on CD.

This article is related to: Terrence Malick


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