Most filmmakers would kill to have A-list stars like Rachel Weisz and Jessica Chastain in their movie. Terrence Malick, on the other hand, gets them but then leaves them on the cutting room floor.
The suddenly prolific filmmaker, who took a 20-year hiatus between "Days of Heaven" (1978) and "The Thin Red Line" (1998), has followed up his much-debated "The Tree of Life" a mere two years later with "To the Wonder," a dreamlike meditation on the troubled romance of Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko). Neil's journey leads him back to his childhood sweetheart, Jane (Rachel McAdams), and Marina befriends Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), a Catholic priest and fellow outcast, whilst Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki, the director's go-to cinematographer since "The New World," take beautiful shots of lush fields, babbling brooks and, you know, tree bark and stuff.
"To the Wonder" has a pretty impressive cast as-is, but it used to be even more impressive, as many other high-profile actors were once a part of the production. Besides Chastain (who starred in Malick's "The Tree of Life") and Weisz, Amanda Peet, Michael Sheen and Barry Pepper also shot scenes that ended up being cut from the final film -- which removed their roles entirely.
Rachel Weisz, who apparently only spent a few days on set, at least seems to be taking it all in stride -- or at least is putting on a pretty good poker face about it.
"It seems that my part has been cut," said Weisz to Italian outlet La Stampa before the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival last fall. "I had the experience of working with him [Malick] but I will not have the pleasure of seeing my work."
Jessica Chastain, on the other hand, isn't surprised that she didn't make it into the final cut of "To the Wonder."
"Just as I suspected, my small role has not made it into the final version. But I really didn't imagine it would," Chastain posted on her Facebook page. "The three days I shot were with Ben Affleck and he was doing really great stuff. I'm looking forward to see how it all brilliantly comes together."
"To the Wonder" certainly isn't the first film from which Malick has cut major stars during post-production. He cast almost every male actor in Hollywood in his big comeback film, "The Thin Red Line," and cut most of them from the final product. The WWII film sports the incredible cast of Jim Caviezel, Adrien Brody, Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, John Cusack, Elias Koteas, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson and even George Clooney -- that cast also once included Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, Jason Patric, Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas, Viggo Mortensen and Martin Sheen. Billy Bob Thornton also recorded voiceover narration that was completely scrapped.
Terrence Malick is currently in post-production on no less than two new feature films, "Knight of Cups" and what's being referred to simply as "Untitled Terrence Malick Project." Both films feature Malick alum Christian Bale ("The New World") and high-profile Malick newcomers like Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, Freida Pinto, Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara -- though it remains to be seen which of them actually end up in the final cuts.
"To the Wonder" opens on Friday, April 12, which means there's still time to cut Ben Affleck from the film if the mood strikes Malick.
Watch Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams in an exclusive clip from 'To the Wonder':