At the To the Wonder Los Angeles premiere on Tuesday night, star Ben Affleck took the stage at the Pacific Design Center in Beverly Hills and jokingly introduced himself saying, “Thank you very much for coming, my name is Terrence Malick,” poking fun at the notoriously aloof nature of the prolific director, who was absent from the night’s screening.
After the laughter died down, The Town director expressed his sincere gratitude towards Malick, lauding the Tree of Life auteur as “a real artist and a gentleman and a kind soul.”
According to Wonder’s producers, Sarah Green and Nicolas Gonda, Malick was in Austin editing his next feature film Knight of Cups, starring Christian Bale and Natalia Portman.
In Wonder, Affleck plays Neil, an American traveling in Europe who meets and falls in love with a divorcee (Olga Kurylenko), and moves with her to his native Oklahoma, where their relationship loses its passion and promise.
“I have worked on a broad range of film, an even broader range than I would have hoped for,” said the Daredevil actor. “I have loved working on something other than a traditional Hollywood narrative.”
Malick, who is known for his non-linear, experimental and naturalistic style of filmmaking, had his actors on To the Wonder work without a script. The film features minimal dialogue, extensive voice-overs and a constant bombardment of nature shots.
The actor-director worked on Wonder right before he began production on his Academy Award-winning film, Argo, and admits to The Hollywood Reporter, "I picked up a lot of very practical things that I stole from him.”
“I picked up a way of preparing that I thought was really interesting,” adds Affleck. “We had a lot of meetings, where we talked about art, history, music, literature, theater that was all related to what we were trying to do."
"I wanted to absorb what I think is the greatness of Terry Malick before I went off and tried to fool people on my movie," he adds.
A graduate of Harvard University and former philosophy professor at MIT, Malick had his cast prepare for their roles by reading classic literature, including the works of Leo Tolstoy and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Kurylenko said that in order to “evolve” her character, Malick would give her pages every morning that would contain the theme of the day.
"He is so original and so unconventional," she says of the director. "He is a very profound and smart person."
Affleck told THR that the preparation for the film was “like a graduate course.” He continued, “I was all like ‘Terry is going to ask me so many questions! I better read everything!’ ”
What is up next for the Hollywood superstar?
“A little Mr. Mom action,” says the Golden Globe winner, because wife, actress Jennifer Garner, “has got a couple of movies coming up.”
Affleck jokes, “I am preparing myself, because I am going to take on some more of the burden [at home].”
To the Wonder opens in select theaters March 12.