ByBrian Finamore, writer at
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Brian Finamore

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

The Latest Updates on Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups, Untitled Austin Film, & Voyage of Time

"I've been doing that for months. Terry is on fire. They're both going to get finished. There's no doubt about it. WHEN, I can't tell you. But they're both going to get finished. He's just lit up. He's possessed."
Christian Bale on Terrence Malick's upcoming films, December 2, 2013

In the above video, shot during the weekend of September 16th, 2011 (over 3 years ago), legendary filmmaker Terrence Malick was photographed and caught on film while on set for one of the first times ever, while he and a small crew were following Christian Bale and Haley Bennett around the Austin City Limits Music Festival as part of preliminary shooting for Lawless.

Back in 2011/2012 it was announced that in addition to To the Wonder (2013), Malick was working on three new films to be released sometime within the next four years. The first two films, Knight of Cups, and Lawless, which is now Untitled Austin Film because Malick allowed filmmaker John Hillcoat to use the title for his 2012 film, were shot back to back from 2011 to early 2013.

Many speculated that Knight of Cups and Untitled Austin Film, with significant cast crossover, including Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, and Cate Blanchett, were companion pieces.

One of the strongest connections between the two films was thought to be Bale, who is the lead in Knight, and was the first to be seen shooting with Malick in Austin during the 2011 City Limits Music Festival. These concert scenes were later reported to only be part of preproduction, and Bale told Indiewire he didn't think he'd be in the Untitled Austin Film:

"With Knight of Cups I was there the whole time. The other one I unfortunately wasn't able to do everything I was meant to do, so I ended up doing like three, four days on that. Which in Terry's world means you're never going to see me in it."

Knight of Cups

According to its backers at Film Nation, "Knight of Cups is a story of a man, temptations, celebrity and excess." Producer Sarah Green confirmed that the film was about the modern-day L.A. movie business, with Bale set as the lead, reportedly (not confirmed) playing a depressed screenwriter. Portman, Blanchett, Isabel Lucas, Joe Manganiello, Wes Bentley, Joel Kinnaman, Antonio Banderas, and Freida Pinto round out the cast.

Terrence Malick directing Bale in one of his two films...(?)
Terrence Malick directing Bale in one of his two films...(?)

Knight of Cups has been in post-production now for over two years (!), which actually isn't that long for a Malick project. Supposedly, it's going to come out later this year, although since The Hollywood Reporter article I am using as my source was posted on September 3, 2014, I haven't heard any news regarding a release for the film this year.

It is after all, the middle of October. You'd think by now there would be an announcement by the producers, distributors, or hell maybe even by the actors or Malick. However, there are clues that the film's release is near.

Possibly the biggest sign that Knight is nearing the finish line has come from the cast.

As Martin Sheen, Rachel Weisz, Mickey Rourke, Gary Oldman, and Billy Bob Thornton can all testify, there is no shame in ending up on the freewheeling Malick's cutting room floor, but no one wants the embarrassment Adrien Brody experienced of promoting a role (The Thin Red Line) only to later discover that role has been cut or greatly reduced by Malick.

So it was very revealing that in spring 2014, Knight of Cups' supporting actors Joe Manganiello, Antonio Banderas, and Isabel Lucas giddily reported they had made Knight's final cut. Banderas was even given set photos to approve, while Lucas said she was called in for an ADR session. Feeding the flame, Film Nation gave THR the first official photos (seen above) from the film and revealed footage to foreign investors during Cannes.

Antonio Banderas said earlier this year on Malick's process:

“I remember when I got to the set in the morning, he called me and said, ‘Antonio, I’m sorry I didn’t send you the script. You know why I didn’t send you the script?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, there is no script. We are just working as we go. I am creating the movie as I go. I have a central character and I have certain ideas, and I put him in different situations of life. The guy just tries to be a sponge and suck up everything he sees because he’s an artist. So, I’m shooting a lot of things, and I don’t know what I’m gonna edit because I have a movie where, if I put together the whole entire thing, it might be as long as a week. But, I invite you to play. Feel free. You have this monologue. You can start the monologue in the middle, if you want. I’m going to shoot it in different locations, in this party that we have over here. We’re gonna shoot it in the pool, in the hall, in this dancing scene, in the garden. So, you just relax and enjoy acting. If you even have any idea, please just throw it out.’”

Again, no word yet on the film's release.

Untitled Austin Film

Indiewire, without citing a source, said in October 2012 that the film "follows two intersecting love triangles and is a story of sexual obsession and betrayal set against Austin's vibrant and colorful music scene."

The upcoming musical drama film stars (reportedly) Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Val Kilmer, and Michael Fassbender.

Starting with the intersecting love triangles, we know based on unauthorized set photos that Ryan Gosling gets intimate with both Blanchett and Rooney Mara, while Michael Fassbender has onscreen relations with Mara and marries Portman's character.

Gosling and Mara in Untitled Austin Film
Gosling and Mara in Untitled Austin Film

At the Austin City Limits festival in October 2012, actress Rooney Mara appeared on stage playing guitar with the Black Lips. A few weeks later at Fun Fun Fun Fest, Val Kilmer also joined the band on stage, destroying an amp with a chainsaw and cutting off his own hair with a knife.

Val Kilmer is in full on Jim Morrison The Doors mode, which I really dig. As with Bale's quote above, Michael Fassbender also expressed doubts as to whether he'll make the final cut, or at least whether his voice over work for his character (a famous Malick staple) will.

"I'm not sure" [I'm in the final cut]. I've got to go actually and do some more voiceover ... just like reams and reams of that."

Here's some more footage of Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara on the set of Untitled Austin Film from 2012.

My God even The Lizardman was seen on the set of Malick's Untitled Austin Film with Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman! 2012...

Fassbender, Lizardman, and Portman in Malick's "????"
Fassbender, Lizardman, and Portman in Malick's "????"

It was originally announced that both narrative projects would be cut simultaneously, and A.J. Edwards, Malick's protege and assistant, did indicate both films would be ready this year; beyond that there are no other indicators the Untitled Austin Film is near completion.

Terrence Malick directing Ryan Gosling to do god knows what
Terrence Malick directing Ryan Gosling to do god knows what

Voyage of Time Documentary

Oh yes, there's a documentary that's already been filmed as well (!). I'll give Malick credit, from a production standpoint; finishing three films in less than three years is pretty impressive.

If you've seen Tree of Life, you will no doubt remember the stunning origins-of-life footage interweaved throughout the narrative. To create those visual effects, Malick, who is not a fan of CGI, brought special effects guru Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner) out of retirement to work with visual effects supervisor Dan Glass (The Matrix trilogy) to bring his old-school magic to Malick's creation of the universe. Malick was so happy with the results he decided to expand on the footage to create an Imax documentary, Voyage of Time, which is described as "a celebration of the Earth, displaying the whole of time, from the birth of the universe to its final collapse."

The Brad Pitt-narrated doc was always described as a multiyear project and Malick had been toying with the idea of making a cosmic history film since the 1970s. Investor Seven Seas felt the project was taking too long and sued Malick's production company, claiming the director had become too distracted and had wasted millions without being near completion. Malick's company countersued and an undisclosed deal was cut freeing the project from Seven Seas.

Footage from the doc screened for investors at Cannes and world sales rights were picked up by The Wild Bunch, who has targeted a 2016 release date.

So while 2016 is still a bit away, at least Voyage of Time has a release date...

Working With Malick:

Terrence Malick is known for his long shoots and his kind of "figuring it out as you go" process. Both Knight of Cups and Untitled Austin Film did not feature scripts. That's not to say they simply got together and made things up, Malick would feed the actors information about their characters and the actors would work it out for themselves.

Malick's most recent film, To the Wonder, released April of last year, was shot that way as well. I should point out that Malick, throughout his career, has never been one to go by the script, but To the Wonder was his first film shot completely without a script.

The film starred Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem, and Olga Kurylenko. Unlike all of Malick's work, To the Wonder received mixed to negative reviews. It was not greeted with the kindest reception at the 2012 Venice Film Festival, receiving cat calls and boos, normally famous at the Cannes Film Festival.

I myself recently saw To the Wonder streaming on Netflix and to be honest, I don't really know what to make of it. I definitley admire Malick's ability to tell a story unconventionally, with little dialogue, and just the smallest of suggestions. However, at the same time, the film was a bit jarring, shot bizarrely in 6-10 second intervals followed by violent jump cuts.

It's interesting that many actors literally stop what they're doing to try and work with Malick, who has the well deserved admiration of top flight Hollywood talent. However, there are those like Adrien Brody, and The New World actor Christopher Plummer who weren't satisfied with the overall Malick experience.

Still, I think most actors just like that amount of freedom to explore different ways to make a film. Whether Malick will use a particular take or cut that actor out of the film is a whole other thing. I kind of admire Malick's bravado to simply not use every actor just because it would generate more interest or box office fame for the film. He was famously forced to use George Clooney, who turns up at the end of The Thin Red Line for a 30 second monologue, even though Clooney's presence was heavily promoted by the studio. I don't think it's anything personal if Malick cuts you out of his film, it just might not work out. It's an interesting, frustrating, challenging, and exciting way of filmmaking.


What do you think of Malick's films?


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