Affleck on To The Wonder, Malick

My brief chat with Argo director-costar Ben Affleck at today’s Telluride Film Festival patron’s brunch was mostly about Terrence Malick‘s To The Wonder, in which Affleck “stars,” so to speak. A friend who’s seen Malick’s film tells me Affleck has been all but cut out of it, just as Adrien Brody was edited out of Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Sean Penn‘s role was reduced to almost nothing in The Tree of Life.

In any event I asked Affleck if he’s seen To The Wonder and he said, “Yes, I’ve seen it”….(beat) (beat) (beat)…”and it makes The Tree of Life look like Transformers.” I didn’t take notes so the remainder of his comments are only approximately recalled, but he basically said it’s not a commercial film, that it’s the kind of thing that’s mainly for critics, and that when he’s directing a film “I’m always thinking about how to make this aspect completely clear and make this aspect understandable, and Malick doesn’t give a damn about any of that” and that his basic thing is to follow the butterfly, so to speak.

Jett and I are about to head up to the Chuck Jones theatre to see Argo, which Affleck will introduce, at 2 pm. He’ll be doing a q & a following tomorrow’s 1 pm screening.

  • cyanic

    Tree of Life is only a problematic theatrical experience. You spend a lot of money on a ticket for a bizarre student film. Watching it at home on HBO makes the whole thing bearable and coherent.

  • TimDG

    Brody wasn’t entirely edited out of TTRL.

  • raygo

    The Tree of Life is a huge bore. People who give it a pass are delusional.

  • Eloi Wrath

    “A friend who’s seen Malick’s film tells me Affleck has been all but cut out of it, just as Adrien Brody was edited out of Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Sean Penn’s role was reduced to almost nothing in The Tree of Life.”

    Is there anyone left in it?

  • raygo

    What was Jeff’s topic the other day … films that have lost their magic or appeal? The Tree of Life will be one of those films.

  • Mr. F.

    That’s all right — the next time Affleck sees it, it will have been drastically re-edited and focus on a totally different character.

  • Eloi Wrath

    There’s a guy on Twitter who had a tiny role in To The Wonder, and it’s quite funny seeing him nervously await the finished product to see if he made the cut. Given he was essentially an extra, I think he might be disappointed.

    Or I suppose he could be the lead.

  • cinefan

    Summary of the film’s plot from IMDB: “A romantic drama centered on a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown after his marriage to a European woman falls apart.:

    So, I realize we’re dealing with Malick here, but if Affleck’s the main character in the film and he’s been cut out of the final product, what the hell is this film actually about?

  • Eloi Wrath

    cinefan: That’s what’s confusing about this announcement. The Thin Red Line was a sprawling war drama, so it made sense certain actors would have their roles reduced. Similarly Penn’s role in The Tree of Life was always a framing device.

    But losing the central character in a pretty small-sounding romantic drama would be like editing John Smith out of The New World.

    I suppose it could be more focused on Bardem’s priest character, or told from one of the two female characters’ perspective, but I find it hard to believe that the guy essentially playing the Malick role in this semi-autobiographical story isn’t in the film anymore.

    I guess we’ll see for sure on Sunday when the first reviews come back.

  • davie

    Isn’t Affleck playing Malick in essence? If Affleck, Weisz, Peet and Pepper are out, who is in?

  • Eloi Wrath

    Dinosaurs. And Invisible Obama.

  • mizerock

    It focuses on the hometown. No people though … just empty streets.

    Except for, as Eloi Wrath noted, an extra in the background of a few shots, who will become the star by default.

    Seriously, I’m really curious to hear about the final cut of this film now (though not remotely interested in seeing it)(I’m open to watching several of his other films though).

  • cinefan

    As far as I know, Mcadams hasn’t been cut out of the final film version so she and Bardem must be the main focus of the film now. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, however, if either or both of them suddenly announced that they too were no longer in the final cut.

  • Eloi Wrath

    If Ben Affleck is playing the Malick role, maybe he was Method acting and hiding from the cameras the entire time.

  • Jesse Crall

    The main character is a prairie rabbit named Maura that Malick briefly captured on film and decided to follow through the flats of the Texas panhandle. The rabbit’s journey through love and excessive reproduction forces her into a crises in which she leaves her brood and ventures further and further from her habitat. We see spotted owls fixing their gaze on little Maura as she hops through the country moonlight in search of herself. When she comes across an old friend splattered on the pavement of I-40, she recognizes the risks of a solitary pursuit and returns to her family. Her journey back home is watched, this time, by a hawk which recognizes Maura as a rabbit with depth and thus leaves her be.

  • kid PA

    The answer is Olga Kurylenko. The focus will be on Olga Kurylenko.

  • EdHavens

    I heard a rumor that not only have ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper, Michael Sheen and Rachel Weisz been cut from To the Wonder, but so have Christian Bale, Wes Bentley, Cate Blanchett, Jessica Chastain, Richard Gere, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Sean Penn, brad Pitt, Natalie Portman, Martin Sheen and Emma Thompson. The word around Austin is that the story is now about two eccentric playwrights (played by Casey Affleck and Scott Caan) waiting for their friend Jean-Luc Godard (George Clooney) on a bench outside the Theatre de Babylone in Paris. Word has it Malick fired himself from the movie and hired Steven Soderbergh to take his place, and it was filmed during a seventeen hour period between locking down Magic Mike and starting production on Bitter Pill.

  • Rashad

    Maybe the autobiographical part is that Malick was once a Spanish priest?

  • Ghost of Kazan

    Malick has this weird process where he shoots all three films of a trilogy at the same time and then only releases one of them.

  • JohnCope

    This is actually pretty exciting news as it suggests Malick really is going even more extreme here than was anticipated. I read somewhere that Mcadams only shot for two weeks so that may be worth reflecting on as well.

  • Eloi Wrath

    Here we go – full synopsis:

    Sounds like Affleck is still pretty central to it, but definitely looks like Kurylenko could be the lead. But that’s the most detail we’ve had so far.

  • Alexander

    Jesse, sounds like you have much of To the Wonder covered, but there will also be shots of crickets. And a 30-minute stretch of a hen being courted by a rooster which symbolizes the romantic back-and-forth between the humans who will be in the film less than the crickets.

  • The Thing

    “what the hell is this film actually about?”

    Trees, mostly. And leaves. A little bit of grass, and a shrub or 2. A pseudo-philosophical poem will be read in the narration. No people, nor any kind of plot.

    You know, the usual Malick stuff.

  • Soma

    That’s a pretty big deal for Rachel and Olga then, especially Olga who was really not taken that seriously until recently.

  • Krillian

    I’m waiting for Terrence Malick’s film version of Samuel Beckett’s “Breathe.”

  • Jericho Cane

    “The Tree of Life is a huge bore. People who give it a pass are delusional.”

    Or maybe you just DIDN’T GET IT, you fucking philistine.

  • raygo

    Twenty or so comments essentially mocking the great Terrence Malick and I’m the philistine? Loved The New World, hated Tree of Life. You will too in a couple of years.

  • Jericho Cane

    Haha fair enough. I didn’t want to look like an asshole here, I got all my trolling out of my system when I was 13 or so. Maybe I was just really really stoned when I saw it in 70mm and I’m afraid to rewatch it.

  • Eloi Wrath

    The Tree of Life is great and will continue to be great for years to come. Just look at the LexG experience; mocked it when it first came out, then freely admitted it was his most-watched film of the year after that. Sticks in your mind like nothing else. Bonafide classic.

  • DuluozGray

    Tree of Life is one of the best films of the past 25 years, easy.

    A lot of people just couldn’t get with it, and I understand. One can get a movie without getting WITH a movie. I hate people who accuse others of not “getting” a film as a reason for their dislike.

  • Jericho Cane

    It’s a perfectly valid reason to dislike something, Duluoz. I also hate people who prefer passive aggressive jabbing to straight up confrontation.

  • Jericho Cane

    I mean, Jesus, Duluoz, you post some of the nastiest, most vile and hateful shit on here and on your Tumblr and at the very least you couldn’t conjure up a decent insult to fling at me? You’re slipping, buddy.

  • DuluozGray

    Jericho, what did you say that would make me want to insult you? Far from what some idiots here think, I only insult those who deserve it. If I didn’t insult you or whatever you were expecting, then you didn’t say anything I took issue with.

    Saying someone didn’t “get it” when it comes to a film is a bullshit critique. That’s all. There’s plenty of movies I “get” that I think stink.

    Like Hitchcock, he stinks. Hasn’t made one great movie. Made a couple of passable films but most of them are stiff and terrible, like a lot of old movies.

  • Doug

    Gee, I thought everyone had weighed in on “Tree of Life” last year. We get it, it’s either a masterpiece or a bore. Now let’s see what we think of the new one.

  • ThriceDamned

    Is there a more disgusting, stupid and tasteless human being than Duluoz in the world?

    No…I didn’t think so.

  • Jericho Cane

    Just giving you shit, Duluoz. I’m glad I haven’t made your shit list yet.

  • Pjm

    When people say to me that they didn’t “get” The Tree of Life, I say that I felt the same way about these ridiculous Batman or Superman or Iron Man or Hulk Man or whatever movies. I don’t get them at all.

  • K. Bowen

    The Tree of LIfe is a great, great, great, great film.

  • Floyd Thursby

    Don’t forget the shots of grass swaying in the breeze.

  • Captain EO

    “Getting” a movie, book, work of art, etc. has an elitist, in-the-know taint. If a flick doesn’t move the viewer in some way, or he or she can’t relate/identify with it, then either they aren’t in a place where it can reach them, or the movie isn’t as deep and affecting as all that. Otherwise, how could Jeff have a thread about movies that have lost – or gained – luster over time?

  • Krillian

    The Tree of Life is a great, great, great, great screen-saver.

  • Jericho Cane

    “Don’t forget the shots of grass swaying in the breeze.”

    I don’t recall there being ANY long self-indulgent grass-blowing shots in TREE OF LIFE. I thought Malick got all that out of his system when he made THE THIN RED LINE.

  • Jericho Cane

    “‘Getting’ a movie, book, work of art, etc. has an elitist, in-the-know taint.”

    UGHNESS. Can we just forget about my excessively douchebaggy “you didn’t get it” comment?

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