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

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by Gabe Toro
July 6, 2011 10:10 AM
24 Comments
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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

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24 Comments

  • Savanna | July 12, 2011 4:39 AMReply

    James Horner has talent but he recycles so much of his music that there are unintentional references to other movies in many of his scores, very distracting and in a movie like this unforgivable. Better to have left all his music out than to have a quote from Braveheart in the middle of the movie.

  • K. Bowen | July 8, 2011 9:01 AMReply

    Oh, and the finale of this movie is one of the great five to ten minutes ever shot .... and scored.

  • K. Bowen | July 8, 2011 8:59 AMReply

    Horner is an idiot.

    It doesn't surprise me at all that he was replaced by Wagner, et al.

    Malick has always moved around the score. He did it with Morricone's score on Days of Heaven. How'd that work out?

  • Pah shu akah o wah | July 8, 2011 5:18 AMReply

    Viewing from the point of perspective of one of Dakota blood, one sees how Europeans could have learned so much from us, and chose to consider us inferior, it's no wonder we now suffer from global warming, and are tied to foreign oil. We lived with nature, wasted nothing, and spoiled nothing. This film shows how beautiful our lives were, John Smith's actual writings echo this.

  • Perra Hosney | February 20, 2012 11:01 PM

    Yes so beautiful but almost unbearably sad.

  • MDL | July 7, 2011 5:41 AMReply

    It's so interesting to read about all these egos working with Malick. He goes his own way but a few people who work with him never figure that out. So naturally they complain. But, man, the results are often great. Wong kar-wai is the same.

  • carrie | July 7, 2011 5:13 AMReply

    i dislike Farrell in this movie,his acting may be good but he has a "rock&roll; " vibe who doesn't work with his character
    the story with Plummer and Horner is interesting

  • cirkusfolk | July 7, 2011 4:10 AMReply

    Am I the only one that agrees with Horner? If you are gonna hire a composer and actually want his/her music to be integral to the film, they should have as much access to your vision as possible. You shouldn't change the film and scenes around and not tell them, and then cut up the music which was composed specific to the scenes and throw it anywhere you want including the cutting room floor. This will most definately not make for a good patnership. Imagine if Chris Nolan did this with Hans Zimmer. No, they work together to achieve the perfect synthesis. If I recall, Hans Zimmer had a similar problem with The Thin Red Line. He composed over three times the amount of music that was actually used. And what he did score wasn't even put to the same images he scored the music to. Sure the director has final creative say, but comon, let them do the job you hired them for.

    And I wouldn't knock Horner if I were you. He made the best score of all time in my opinion with Legends of the Fall. Then has done outstanding work like Glory, Braveheart, Apollo 13, Field of Dreams, Enemy at the Gates, Titanic etc.

  • actionman | July 7, 2011 2:16 AMReply

    the financial backers of The Tree of Life have all already been paid.

  • BuntyHoven | July 7, 2011 2:14 AMReply

    Malick fans will appreciate this: http://www.theshiznit.co.uk/feature/trivia-50-things-you-never-knew-about-terrence-malick.php

    I laughed out loud several times.

  • Edward Davis | July 7, 2011 2:05 AMReply

    Annoying is Malick-ites assuming Horner, Plummer and anyone around this genius is wrong. I adore his films, but from all the evidence around he sounds like a bit of a nightmare to work for. But maybe if you know what you're getting into it's not so bad.

  • Kelly | July 7, 2011 2:01 AMReply

    It is an incredible film...Not like anything else and it kind of creeps up on you...Horner was wrong, the Mozart and Wagner belong to that picture much more than his score.

  • Glass | July 7, 2011 1:46 AMReply

    A good movie, but WTF is with that 1990s-History Channel opening credit sequence? That put the audience right to sleep when I first saw it.

    I don't mean that in a sort of "blow something up in the first five minutes or you'll lose your audience" kind of way. I mean, what a bland and distracting choice that was. Didn't fit the rest of the picture at all. Again, a good movie, but my least favorite of his.

  • James | July 7, 2011 1:42 AMReply

    It would appear Horner simply didn't understand Malick's use of music because it's unconventional. Alexandre Desplat had no such problems working with Malick, or with having much of his score left unused. He realized what an honor it was to have any of his music in a film by such an artist. An infinitely more intelligent man than Horner, it would seem.

  • James | July 7, 2011 1:40 AMReply

    I think the 150 min cut is far and away the best. I saw it in theaters twice. A shame it's the most difficult to see now. The only commercial releases of it were as a bonus Digital Copy download with the theatrical cut DVD in the US and as part of an OOP Italian DVD set including both the 150 min and 135 min cuts.

    To me the 135 min cut takes all the bad reviews to heart and makes the film overly literal and simplistic. The altered voiceover is a mistake, and one of the key shots of the film - the Inuit girl dancing on the beach in Greenland towards the end, who looks just like Pocahontas - is deleted. The loss of that one shot ruins the whole movie for me. The look on Farrell's face as he watches her, realizing everything he left behind and can never recapture, was the soul of the film. Malick at least restored that shot for the final version.

    The 172 min cut, on the other hand, rambles all over the place and introduces bizarre jump cuts in many scenes that weren't there in either earlier cut. It's the closest to the 150 min version though, so definitely better than the 135 min cut.

  • The Playlist | July 7, 2011 1:26 AMReply

    Thanks to @ rotch for giving us the head's up about Plummer. Had read that before, but had totally forgotten about it. We added it to this piece just after it published. Thanks again.

  • BuntyHoven | July 7, 2011 1:10 AMReply

    Horner's comments are bizarre. Malick is among the best users of music in film. And the Wagner piece that he badmouths plays over some of the most memorable sequences.

    I've listened to a fair amount of Horner's score, and aside from quite a nice love theme, it's not particularly good. It wouldn't surprise me if Malick just didn't like Horner's score and that's why he didn't use much of it.

  • starway2001 | July 6, 2011 12:20 PMReply

    Trust me. Tree of Life's financial backers aren't skipping and whistling over that $27M haul.

  • Erik | July 6, 2011 12:03 PMReply

    James Horner sounds like a dick and someone with a very narrow view on what a movie should be.

  • actionman | July 6, 2011 11:37 AMReply

    James Horner sounds like a MEGA-TOOL.

  • rotch | July 6, 2011 11:15 AMReply

    @ Daniel

    He unleashed 'my heart will go on' to the world.

    I kid, I like many of Horner's scores.

  • Daniel | July 6, 2011 11:09 AMReply

    Rotch - what did James Horner do to you?

  • dudu | July 6, 2011 10:46 AMReply

    I've re-evaluated the film a great deal after watching the extended cut. It's an excellent film, and a wonderful portrait of a woman.

  • rotch | July 6, 2011 10:26 AMReply

    Any enemy of James Horner is a friend of mine.

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