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Actor Beware As Fassbender Joins Malick's Music Scene Romance; Cutting Room Victims Speak Out

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood October 9, 2012 at 4:34PM

Actor Beware As Fassbender Joins Malick's Music Scene Romance; Cutting Room Victims Speak Out
Penn in "The Tree of Life"
Penn in "The Tree of Life"

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.

Jim Caviezel in "The Thin Red Line"
Jim Caviezel in "The Thin Red Line"

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:

This article is related to: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life, Directors, Michael Fassbender, Ben Affleck, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.