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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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7. Christopher Plummer Didn't Care For Malick's Methods Either
While if you compare the drama on "The Thin Red Line" to "The New World," and read both these features, the latter film seems tame by comparison, but actually like Horner, others had their issues as well. One was Christopher Plummer who was extremely candid about his disappointment in Malick's notorious methods, even comparing his excised role to Adrien Brody's infamously chopped role in his WWII film.

"He’s fascinated by nature, and just cuts to birds," he told New York Magazine earlier this year. "Colin Farrell kept saying, ‘My character, he’s a fuckin’ osprey. That’s how he sees me.’ You’d be playing a passionate scene, and he’d say in that strange southern voice of his, mixed with Harvard and Oxford, ‘Ah, jes’ stop a minute, Chris. I think there’s an osprey flying over there. Do you mind if I just take a few shots?’ I wrote him an infuriated letter because I saw the film and I was hardly in it—he cut my part to shit. And it recalled the story of Adrien Brody, the lead in The Thin Red Line. He went to the premiere, and he wasn’t in it! I wrote to Terry and said, ‘You need a writer, baby, you need somebody to follow the ­story.’ I was awful to him, but I did say I admired him. He’s an individual—also mad as a hatter.”

8. A Flop During Its Initial Release, The Film Has Since Grown In Acclaim
“The New World” was given a very limited Oscar-qualifying Christmas release on Christmas Day 2005, before going into wider release in January 2006, but while his last film “The Thin Red Line” was a critical and box office success, “The New World” failed to find traction with both parties, and was largely absent from that year’s awards season (it earned a nod for Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography). While distributor New Line Cinema struggled with trying to figure out if they had a wide release or arthouse platformer on their hands, most of the buzz centered on star Colin Farrell.

While Farrell’s performance in the film is a wonderfully shaded, haunting turn, he was clearly a victim of the Jude Law Curse, and was coming off a string of underperforming films including "S.W.A.T," "Intermission" and more notably, Oliver Stone's disaster "Alexander." And to make matters worse, the studio couldn't even get Farrell out on the press circuit as he entered rehab for five weeks just as the film was headed into theaters.

"So much of the work that I did I was struggling so hard to keep my shit together. A lot of my energy was going into trying not to have a complete meltdown. By the end of 'Miami Vice' I was just done," Farrell told Jonathan Ross in 2008 about his trying to balance his addictions and his career. "I had created an environment for myself, a way of living for myself which, on the outside, seemed incredibly gregarious and vivacious. I don't believe I have any chemical predisposition towards depression, but let's just say I was suffering from a spiritual malady for years and I indulged it."

"The New World" would take in a paltry $30 million worldwide, a stinging disappointment after the nearly $100 million haul of "The Thin Red Line." For comparison's sake, "The Tree Of Life" already has $27 million in limited release, with many foreign territories still to open. But regardless of the muted response at the box office, and initial critical shrug towards the film, "The New World" has since found its place in the cineaste canon.

In a somewhat backhanded piece for the Village Voice, critic J. Hoberman noted that, in the film’s final weeks of release, a group of diehard audience members and critics had decided to rally around the beleaguered picture. Slant writer Matt Zoeller Seitz at once declared it a "new watermark" stating that one of his most prized possessions was a Jan. 21st-dated ticket stub commemorating one of his many viewings. Slant’s Ed Gonzalez considered it, “a film that also refuses to shake itself loose from the confines of our memories,” and commenting on the film being mostly ignored for Academy Award consideration, NY Times critic Manohla Dargis proclaimed, "with the exception of my few dear friends in that august body, [Academy members] are idiots."

The eventual Extended Cut release of the film also helped raise the profile of "The New World" in subsequent years. -- additional writing and research by Kevin Jagernauth

This article is related to: Terrence Malick


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