It can take a long, long time to edit a Terrence Malick movie.
That’s been clear since the 1970s. Consider this passage from Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls on the making of Malick’s second film, 1978’s Days of Heaven:
Then there was the editing, which took over two years — Malick was famously indecisive. Or just meticulous, depending on who’s footing the bill. Says Jim Nelson, who worked on Badlands, “Terry wouldn’t let go. He’d nitpick you to death.” As more and more dialogue ended up on the floor, the plot became incomprehensible, and Malick struggled with various ways of holding it all together, finally seizing on a voice-over. [Producer Bert] Schneider showed a couple of reels to Richard Brooks, who was thinking of using [lead actor Richard] Gere in Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Days of Heaven took so long to complete that “Brooks cast Gere, shot, edited, and released the picture while Malick was still editing. ’Cause Terry couldn’t find the movie.”
It took two decades for Malick to make another film after that, and when he did, he produced it under tighter circumstances: Principal photography on The Thin Red Line was completed in November 1997, and the film itself came out in December 1998. Likewise, principal photography on The New World was completed in November 2004, and the film itself got a limited release in December 2005 — although Malick tinkered with it some more after that and a different version came out in January 2006.
Since then, the gaps between the end of principal photography and the first public screenings have been… bigger (all dates from Wikipedia or the IMDb):
- The Tree of Life — sometime in 2008 – May 2011 — about 3 years
- To the Wonder — May 2011 – Sep 2012 — about 1.5 years
- Knight of Cups — Aug 2012 – Feb 2015 — about 2.5 years
- Song to Song — Nov 2012 – Mar 2017 — about 4.5 years
- A Hidden Life — Sep 2016 – May 2019 — about 2.5 years
And now we have his Jesus movie, The Way of the Wind, formerly known as The Last Planet. Malick finished shooting it circa December 2019, or about two and a half years ago… and he reportedly hired a composer in November 2020, or about one and a half years ago… and we still don’t know when the film itself might be finished.
Ten days ago I reported that Jordan Ruimy had heard through the grapevine that the film was now being shown to festivals for possible inclusion in their programs later this year. But now, today, Ruimy reports that a “Malick contact” has told him:
Mr Malick says the new movie is “very far away”
To which Ruimy replies:
I’m done with this movie. When it gets released, we’ll know it exists.
The film’s cast reportedly includes Géza Röhrig as Jesus, Mark Rylance as Satan, Matthias Schoenarts as Peter, Aidan Turner as Andrew, and Bible-movie veterans Joseph Fiennes, Joseph Mawle, Douglas Booth, Selva Rasalingam, Tawfeek Barhom and Ben Kingsley — though as always, it remains to be seen who will survive Malick’s editing process.