Working with Terrence Malick is 'like a drug deal' says Tom Lennon

Every actor wants to work with director Terrence Malick — but no one knows what they're really getting into until he yells action.
"No one ever knows what's happening." Thomas Lennon says working with Terrence Malick is like being part of a dream. (Broad Green Pictures)
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Imagine you're an actor who's nabbed a role in a new Terrence Malick movie. Congratulations! He's one of the most admired American filmmakers of our time — known for profound, mysterious movies like BadlandsDays of Heaven and Tree of Life

But wait, there's no script? There's no wardrobe? And you don't even know if you'll make the final cut? "No one ever knows what's happening," says actor Thomas Lennon, who survived the Malick experience.

Lennon stars in the enigmatic new drama Knight of Cups and joins Shad to shed light on Malick's highly unusual creative methods. The film features an impressive cast, including Freida Pinto, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, and Christian Bale.

'It's like starring in someone's painting'

By the time Lennon arrived on set, he says Bale had shot for 25 days on Malick's method of a single line of poetry printed on a piece of paper.

"'There's no such thing as a fireproof wall.'" That's the line Lennon was provided with for his 11 hour day of shooting under the direction of the "slightly dashing homeless person" who once cut Sean Penn out of a movie a week before its release.

But between being filmed during an actual screaming fight on the phone with his wife and Malick forbiding any utterance of the name "Rick", Lennon say it was "the single most fun day I've ever had on any production of my entire life."

Terrence Malick's trippy directing style is hard to describe — but we think Thomas Lennon pretty much nails it. (Fabiola Carletti/CBC)

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