Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Zach Braff “Shocked” By "Unfair And Unfounded" Kickstarter Campaign Backlash Zach Braff “Shocked” By "Unfair And Unfounded" Kickstarter Campaign Backlash Watch: Joaquin Phoenix Gets His Stoner Detective Groove On In Trailer For Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ Watch: Joaquin Phoenix Gets His Stoner Detective Groove On In Trailer For Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’ David Fincher Will Direct The Entire First Season Of HBO's 'Utopia' In 2015 David Fincher Will Direct The Entire First Season Of HBO's 'Utopia' In 2015 Best To Worst: David Fincher's Complete Music Videography Ranked Best To Worst: David Fincher's Complete Music Videography Ranked Brad Pitt Says 'Fury' Co-Star Shia LaBeouf Is "One Of The Best Actors I've Ever Seen" Brad Pitt Says 'Fury' Co-Star Shia LaBeouf Is "One Of The Best Actors I've Ever Seen" First Look: Kristen Stewart & Nicholas Hoult In Drake Doremus’ Sci-Fi Film ‘Equals’ First Look: Kristen Stewart & Nicholas Hoult In Drake Doremus’ Sci-Fi Film ‘Equals’ John Cusack Says Hollywood Is A "Whorehouse" That "Eats Young Actors Up And Spits Them Out" John Cusack Says Hollywood Is A "Whorehouse" That "Eats Young Actors Up And Spits Them Out" Review: 'Southcliffe' May Be The Best New Series On Netflix You Haven't Yet Watched Review: 'Southcliffe' May Be The Best New Series On Netflix You Haven't Yet Watched New Image From 'Inherent Vice,' Paul Thomas Anderson Completely Changed The Ending From Thomas Pynchon's Book New Image From 'Inherent Vice,' Paul Thomas Anderson Completely Changed The Ending From Thomas Pynchon's Book Why 'You're The Worst' Turned Out To Be The Best TV Show Of The Summer Why 'You're The Worst' Turned Out To Be The Best TV Show Of The Summer Watch: First Trailer For Michael Mann’s Hacker Heist Thriller ‘Blackhat’ Starring Chris Hemsworth Watch: First Trailer For Michael Mann’s Hacker Heist Thriller ‘Blackhat’ Starring Chris Hemsworth Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody Watch: Ellen Page And Kate Mara Are 'Tiny Detectives' In Hilarious 'True Detective' Parody New Look: Reese Witherspoon And Joaquin Phoenix In Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' New Look: Reese Witherspoon And Joaquin Phoenix In Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Review: David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens & More Review: David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens & More 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood 10 Female Directors Who Deserve More Attention From Hollywood Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" Miles Teller Says Role In 'Divergent' Made Him Feel "Dead Inside," And He Took Movie "For Business Reasons" The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

'To The Wonder': 10 Actors Cut Out Of Terrence Malick Films & How They Reacted

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist April 10, 2013 at 3:39PM

We’ve all been there. Cast as the lead in a meaty, dialogue-heavy role in a surefire masterpiece from one of the most unassailable geniuses of modern filmmaking, only to be reduced to sifting through the finished film on freeze frame occasionally shouting "Look! That’s my shadow on that fern!" or "Hey! That’s the back of my head near that egret!" The one comfort we can take when this inevitability occurs, is that we’re in fine company on the Malick cutting room floor. The only question is, whose lead will we follow in reacting to our role’s excision or drastic reduction?
28

The New World Christopher Plummer
Actor: Christopher Plummer
Film: "The New World"
How Badly Was His Role Affected: Reduced
Bitterness Level: 7/10 lemons
What Happened & How He Reacted: Christopher Plummer waited a good few years before letting rip, in amusing and quite public fashion, on Malick. Believing his role as Captain Newport to have been decimated by Malick's editing process, he said to New York Magazine in 2011: "[Malick is] fascinated by nature, and just cuts to birds." He also claims he wasn't alone in being disgruntled on that set: "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." 

Plummer even compared himself with Adrien Brody, then-poster boy for the Let Down By Malick brigade: "...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 was awful to [Malick], but I did say I admired him. He’s an individual—also mad as a hatter." As much as he seem to soften a touch at the end, in 2012 at a Newsweek awards season roundtable, Plummer went even further, ranting (much to 'Thin Red Line' actor George Clooney's amusement, it seems): "I love some of his movies very much, but the problem with Terry is he needs a writer, desperately. He insists on overwriting until it sounds terribly pretentious… and he edits his films in such a way that he cuts everyone out of them... I was put in all sorts of different spots and suddenly my character was not in the scene that I thought I was in, in the editing room. It was very strange. It completely unbalances everything. And a very emotional scene that I had suddenly became background noise." Again he brings up the letter. “I gave him shit. I’ll never work with him again.” You can read more about the shooting of "The New World" in our comprehensive breakdown of the movie.

Sean Penn, Tree of Life
Actor: Sean Penn
Film: "The Tree of Life"
How Badly Was His Role Affected: Role reduced, and substantially changed from script stage.
Bitterness Level: 5/10 lemons
What Happened & How He Reacted: Sean Penn, one of the actors who survived the Great 'Thin Red Line' Cull, obviously had developed some sort of relationship with Malick on the set of that film. "It took me a little bit of time to adjust to it, it took me a couple of weeks and some heart to heart conversations with Terry about what contribution I could make because I had never been involved in something [so big]," he said about it, in the 2002 documentary “Rosy-Fingered Dawn." So his disappointment and befuddlement at his role's alterations in "The Tree of Life" may have been all the greater. As he said to Le Figaro: "I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly." 

That last bit especially seems damning, but in fact his next sentence in that Figaro interview, less frequently quoted, roughly translates as: "But this is a film that I would recommend, if you can go in without preconceived ideas. Everyone can find there a personal, emotional or spiritual connection. Those who do generally emerge very moved." So it seems he himself may be admitting that it's his preconceived ideas of what the film might have been that find him less than in love with the finished product.

Rachel Weisz
Actor: Rachel Weisz
Film: "To the Wonder"
How Badly Was Her Role Affected: Excised completely
Bitterness Level: 2/10 lemons
What Happened & How She Reacted: Well if A-list Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz can be cut out of a Malick movie, no one's safe. But Weisz, who was to have played Dinah, a close friend of Ben Affleck's character Neil, seemed to go into the film with her eyes open, and so to be quite stoic in her reaction to being cut. "I did it for the experience of working with him, but one never knows with Terrence Malick. You can shoot for three months and end up not being in the movie," she told SFGate. And since she was only on set for a few days, she probably felt closer to to the guillotine than others. In interview with Italian magazine La Stampa she says much the same thing but a little note of disappointment creeps in -- possibly in translation? "It seems that my part has been cut, so I had the experience of working with him but I will not have the pleasure of seeing my work." So what was her storyline exactly? Well the bare bones in the early plot description were that Dinah advises Neil's new flame Jane (Rachel McAdams) to leave when his wife Marina (Olga Kurylenko) comes back on the scene...and is surprised to learn that her brother has now fallen in love with Marina. So, yeah we can see how she might not exactly be crucial.

Michael Sheen
Actor: Michael Sheen
Film: "To the Wonder"
How Badly Was His Role Affected: Excised completely
Bitterness Level: 1/10 lemons
What Happened & How He Reacted: Having let slip that he was excited to be working with Malick while on the press tour for Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" few further details emerged about Michael Sheen's role until after it was cut. But Sheen's involvement seemed casual enough from the beginning, "I played Ben [Affleck]'s boss, but that side of the film got cut down so much," he said in interview. "I just went to visit my girlfriend Rachel [McAdams] on the set, and then Terry asked if I would do a day's filming on it, so I was like, 'Yeah, sure.' It was just that I was around, and at the end of the day, you know, it was only two scenes." And, showing similar equanimity to fellow Brit Rachel Weisz, he said of hearing the news he was cut: "The producer sent me a nice email just saying, 'This is what's happening...' But it wasn''t like I had gone through the whole thing of auditioning for a Terry Malick film and then saying, 'Oh, I've got the part!' That's happened to me before -- I've done films where a lot of it gets cut and then it's kind of really disappointing."

Amanda Peet
Actor: Amanda Peet
Film: "To the Wonder"
How Badly Was Her Role Affected: Excised completely
Bitterness Level: 1/10 lemons
What Happened & How She Reacted: Well the lemon rating is a guess, because we don't have any news of Amanda Peet's reaction to her role being cut, and indeed we sort of suggested this might be the way things go in an eerily prescient post from 2011. However she also seemed to have subscribed up front to the Weisz school of "wanting to work with Malick, not necessarily expecting the earth." "I wasn’t there for very long, and we worked really long hours, so I didn’t really get a huge taste of it," Peet explained to LA Story "but it was really beautiful. [Malick] couldn’t have been lovelier." In fact she likened his shooting practice to jazz: "He has a very, very particular way of shooting. He calls things out to you while you’re shooting, and it’s very, very different than other work that I’ve done… He’s like a jazz musician. There’s a lot of variety, and he doesn’t do the same thing twice. He improvises and he lets you riff, and then he’ll shout something out to you that he wants you to say in the middle of the scene. It’s a very mysterious and wonderful, magical process." Well they do say jazz is as much about the notes you leave out as those you leave in...

Barry Pepper Joins ‘Broken City’ with Mark Wahlberg & ‘Snitch’ With Dwayne Johnson
Actor: Barry Pepper
Film: "To the Wonder"
How Badly Was His Role Affected: Excised completely
Bitterness Level: ?/10 lemons
What Happened & How He Reacted: We really have no clue at all how Barry Pepper took the news of being dropped from the film, but in interview with Collider from 2010, he certainly claimed to have loved the experience of shooting as Father Barry, a priest seen in a few set photos walking alongside Javier Bardem's Father Quintana, even if he never got a script. "I’m being absolutely honest with you in saying that I don’t know what the story is about. All I know is my involvement, which is a small chapter within the film, which to me was absolute joy to work with him on that level because it was so free and so unlike anything I’d ever experienced," he explained. "Never been involved in a project where you’re not handed a concrete screenplay, but to me it was just like floating down a river. You know, you really just had to go with it, or else…You just really had to float because it was such a free process that if you fought it, you’d just start drowning."

Jessica Chastain, Tree of Life
Actor: Jessica Chastain
Film: "To the Wonder"
How Badly Was Her Role Affected: Excised completely
Bitterness Level: 0/10 lemons
What Happened & How She Reacted: It would be pretty churlish of Jessica Chastain to complain too loudly about Malick's treatment of her, since it was "The Tree of Life" that proved her career breakthrough. And Chastain is anything but churlish, so we've not heard a peep from her about her "To the Wonder" role's disappearance after the fact. In any case, rather like Michael Sheen's experience, her involvement was very casual from the beginning, "What happened was I was working on 'The Help' with Sissy Spacek," Chastain said, when we spoke to her in December 2011 "and her husband is Jack Fisk who does all of [Malick's] production design. And so they were over there in Oklahoma and we were in Mississippi, and I called him one time I was in my trailer... he just said 'Hey, why don't you come visit?', because I love that whole crew, they're like family to me. So I said okay, we planned this trip, I was going to come visit, and then, right before, I started getting calls from the producers that they were organising my airfare, and I was like 'Well, why are you guys paying?' And then two days before I got there, I got another call from a producer who was like 'Would you mind playing a part in the film?' and of course I would do anything on any of [Malick]'s films, I would work on the crew of his films, I love working with him." But already then she had her doubts as to whether she's made the final cut. "Because it happened like that I don't think I'm going to end up in the movie. I really just think I was there, three days, acting with Ben Affleck, and I don't know what the movie is about, I don't know what my part is and you know, my guess is I'm probably not in the film."

In fact, even those who remain the leads in the film have their niggles. Olga Kurylenko, while breathless and effusive in her admiration for Malick, lamented recently "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]. 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." And the changes have apparently altered her character's portrayal significantly. "From what we shot, it was clear to me that Marina was meant to be quite hysterical; if he'd kept [all those shots] in, it would have been a very different view on this woman."

And her co-star Ben Affleck, while undoubtedly remaining central to the film remarked: "The experience of it seemed half-crazy in that we didn't really have dialogue, so I didn't really know what was happening. Then I realized that he was accumulating colors that he would use to paint with later in the editing room... It was kind of a wash for me in terms of learning something as an actor, because Terry uses actors in a different way -- he'll [have the camera] on you and then tilt up and go up to a tree, so you think, 'Who's more important in this -- me or the tree?' But you don't ask him, because you don't want to know the answer."

Malick is of course already in production on two future films, and next up after "To the Wonder" will be "Knight of Cups." With Malick himself reportedly saying to Affleck that "Just more and more I'm more interested in silences," will we be back here, furiously updating this post prior to that film's release? Nah, we're sure the svelte, low-rent, minimal cast, which includes Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Teresa Palmer, Joel Kinnaman, Imogen Poots, Antonio Banderas, Isabel Lucas, Wes Bentley, Joe Manganiello, Nick Offerman, Freida Pinto, Nicky Whelan, Shea Whigham, Michael Wincott, Thomas Lennon, Ryan O'Neal and Katia Winter have nothing to worry about.

This article is related to: Terrence Malick, To the Wonder , The Thin Red Line, The New World, Knight Of Cups, Christopher Plummer, Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Mickey Rourke, The Tree Of Life


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates