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Terrence Malick is a human wormhole: once you start to try and understand the complex philosopher behind such devastating works of storytelling art as Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Tree of Life, it’s nearly impossible not to get sucked into a vortex of fascinating research and innuendo.
Take, for instance, this extensive piece by the Los Angeles Review of Books that digs into the rich Malick mythology. Smartly titled Hollywood Bigfoot: Terrence Malick and the Twenty-Year Hiatus That Wasn’t, the article, authored by Michael Nordine, explores the eccentric, mysterious director’s life and career … with an emphasis on the 20-year span he spent out of he limelight between 1978’s Days of Heaven and 1998’s The Thin Red Line.
It is a time-consuming read, but a must-absorb for anyone with a passing interest in the myths of Malick. While many believe the director went into seclusion before eventually filming and releasing Thin Red Line, this piece suggests that the filmmaker was actually prolific, but had a tough time closing deals with financiers on various projects because he worked at his own deliberate (slow) pace.
Of course, the legends of Malick end up being far more interesting than the reality, and they grew louder and larger the more the director stayed quiet. The most fascinating parts of Nordine’s article focus on projects Malick almost made but eventually dropped - including a Joseph Merrick biopic (which was trumped by classmate David Lynch’s The Elephant Man) and Q, a largely prehistoric film that had little or no narration that kept expanding until few knew exactly what it was about anymore. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Malick.
Malick’s myths continue to this day. He’s working on Knight of Cups, but the cast seems to keep rotating, and we’re not 100% sure when we might see it. Instead, we’ll leave you with Badlands star Martin Sheen discussing Malick with the great James Lipton. Their conversation starts at the 13-minute mark, and Sheen speaks with such love and reverence that we just had to share this.