Movie Fact #820 – July 22nd, 2015:

Casting for the 1998 epic war film “The Thin Red Line”, based on the novel by author James Jones became a hot topic. When actor Sean Penn met director Terrence Malick, Penn told him, “Give me a dollar and tell me where to show up”. Penn ended up playing the character 1st Sgt. Edward Welsh in the film but scripts were also sent to actors Robert De Niro,Robert Duvall and Tom Cruise. Once word went out in 1995 that Malick was making another movie after many years, numerous actors approached him. In 1995, at the home of Mike Medavoy, Malick’s former agent whose new production company Phoenix Pictures helped fund the movie, Malick staged a reading with actor Martin Sheen delivering the screen directions, and actors Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Peter Berg, Lukas Haas and Dermot Mulroney playing the main roles. In June of that year, a five-day workshop was scheduled at Medavoy’s with actor Brad Pitt dropping by, and culminating with Malick putting on the soundtrack of “Where Eagles Dare” and playing Japanese taiko drums. Malick even met with actor Johnny Depp, who was interested about the project, at the Book Soup Bistro on the Sunset Strip. And no…it didn’t stop there.

Actor Edward Norton flew out to Austin and met Malick, who had been impressed by the actor’s screen test for Norton’s 1996 film “Primal Fear”. Actor Matthew McConaughey reportedly took a day off filming 1996’s “A Time to Kill” to see Malick while actor Leonardo DiCaprio flew up from the Mexico set of his 1996 film “Romeo + Juliet” to meet Malick at the American Airlines lounge in the Austin airport. Others followed, including actors William Baldwin, Edward Burns, Josh Hartnett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Stephen Dorff. Heck, before the casting was finalized, actor Nicolas Cage had lunch with Malick in Hollywood in February 1996 and the only reason he wasn’t cast was because of a misunderstanding.

See Malick went off to scout locations and tried calling Cage that summer only to find out that his phone number had been disconnected which Malick felt insulted about and refused to consider Cage for a part. Also Malick told actor Tom Sizemore that he wanted him for a role in his film and the actor agreed. However, Sizemore was offered a more substantial role in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” and, when he could not contact Malick for several days, decided to do director Steven Spielberg’s film instead. And even those cast weren’t in the movie or Malick doubted the cast at times.

Actors Bill Pullman, Gary Oldman, Mickey Rourke, Lukas Haas and Viggo Mortensen filmed scenes for the movie, but were cut from the final film. Like any director under pressure from the studio, Malick appeased them by casting actor George Clooney in a small role as the character Capt. Charles Bosche. Producer Robert Michael Geisler remembers, “Terry was worried that having a big star like Clooney play a character who enters the film near the end would be distracting”.

Co-star James Caviezel, who was cast as the character Private Witt, credits Malick’s casting of him as the turning point in his career. And, because of Malick’s stupendous career before this film, he managed to get anyone he wanted for the film, in the end creating one of the finest ensemble casts in film history and, in turn, making an emotionally impacting film that has stayed with people. That’s just talent, no matter how you put it.

Published in: on July 24, 2015 at 9:18 PM  Leave a Comment  

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