It's also on Coming Soon's list
of films that are pre-strike priorities for the studios, with the same March start date. That 2008 release date is looking awfully optimistic now. Considering Malick's dilatory working style, fall 2009 seems realistic.
Supposedly, Tree of Life
is the project (once called "Q
") that Malick first started work on 30 years ago -- the one that frustrated him so much that he left filmmaking. A 1995 article
from Los Angeles
magazine discussed the topic.
[I]n the summer of 1978, Malick had begun work on Q--easily his most ambitious project. The original concept was a multicharacter drama set in the Middle East during World War I, with a prologue set in prehistoric times. But after dispatching an assistant for 10 weeks to scout locations, Malick chucked the Middle East section. By the end of the year, the prehistoric prologue had become the whole script.
Imagine this surrealistic reptilian world," says Richard Taylor, a special-effects consultant Malick hired. "There is this creature, a Minotaur, sleeping in the water, and he dreams about the evolution of the universe, seeing the earth change from a sea of magma to the earliest vegetation, to the dinosaurs, and then to man. It would be this metaphorical story that moves you through time."
Malick covered a lot of ground and spent a bundle of money preparing to film Q. By midsummer 1979, Paramount had become very frustrated trying to reconcile the mounting bills with the director's ever-evolving concept.
"It got to the point that whatever people wanted, he wouldn't give it to them," Taylor remembers. "Because he was expected to make a movie, he'd say, 'I don't want to.' One day he went to France, and that was it." What was thought to be a brief vacation turned into a permanent one. Says Witliff: "I think the more applause he got, the more frightened he got."
Much of Malick's life since has been spent avoiding that fright. He lives now with his second wife (a former Parisian guidance counselor whom he married in 1988 and her daughter. He writes and travels, spending half his time in Paris and the other half at his apartment in Austin, with stopovers in Oklahoma to visit his brother and father. Or he pops up on either coast. In the last few years, Malick was said to be in New York working as an adviser on an experimental film; visiting Sam Shepard (the farmer in Days of Heaven) in Virginia armed with a 250-page version of Q that Shepard thought "absolutely brilliant but virtually unfilmable," according to mutual friend, writer-director Chris Cleveland; and attending a Pasadena Playhouse production, where screenwriter Tom Rickman asked him what he'd been doing lately. "Nothing" was the reply.