Filmmaker Terrence Malick has been busy of late. After his improvisational meditation "To The Wonder," starring Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko, met a mixed response at Venice and Toronto and landed distributor Magnolia, the filmmaker wrapped shooting LA-set "Knight of Cups." And he's adding cast to his box of toys for his next untitled project, currently shooting in Austin.
Ubiquitous Michael Fassbender joins the Malick ensemble of Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Haley Bennett, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman and Holly Hunter for a tale about love triangles and sexual obsession amidst Austin's music scene.
It is likely that not all of these actors will make the final cut, and unclear which stars will end up toplining the finished film. Rachel Weisz didn't make the final edit in "To The Wonder" (nor did Barry Pepper, Amanda Peet or Michael Sheen) and two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn's disappointment with "The Tree of Life" was highly publicized last year, providing ample warning to actors who board future Malick projects: Act at your own risk. With Malick, it seems, the journey itself really is the reward. Unless you are Jessica Chastain, and then it's the lighter fluid to your career.
Actors are honored to be invited to play in the Malick playground. Mara went from unknown to Oscar nominee with "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (with a pitstop as Mark Zuckerberg's girlfriend on "The Social Network") before getting the director's attention. Bale, Blanchett, Portman, Hunter and Weisz are all Oscar winners, while Gosling, Chastain and her "Tree of Life" co-star Brad Pitt are past nominees. Haley Bennett is unknown, but like Kurylenko, she's got the beauty to which Malick is devoted, male and female (see: Jim Caviezel's face in "The Thin Red Line").
Being cut or reduced in prominence in a Malick film is not a mark of disapproval; his films are made in the editing room. His scripts change constantly. His status as a genius auteur permits him to never articulate to anyone, press or otherwise, his vision outside the frame.
Malick's actors have mixed feelings about their experiences. See the quotes below: