Terrence Malick was born in Ottawa, Illinois. His family subsequently lived in Oklahoma and he went to school in Austin, Texas. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in philosophy in 1965.
A member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, he attended Magdalen College, Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, but did not finish his thesis on Martin Heidegger, allegedly because of a disagreement with his adviser. Returning to the States, he taught philosophy at M.I.T. and published a translation of Heidegger's "Vom Wesen des Grundes" as "The Essence of Reasons".
Malick did not get his PhD in philosophy: Instead, he attended the American Film Institute Conservatory in its inaugural year (1969), taking a Masters of Fine Arts degree in film making. His masters thesis was the 17-minute comedy short Lanton Mills (1969), which starred Warren Oates and Harry Dean Stanton. Malick himself acted in the short, a tradition he has maintained throughout his career, appearing in many of his films in cameos.
At AFI, Malick made a lasting association with Jack Fisk, who would establish himself as an Oscar-nominated art director and production designer and serve as art director on four of his seven films. He also picked up Mike Medavoy as an agent, who got Malick work doctoring scripts and marketed his originals. He wrote the screenplay for the 1972 Alan Arkin trucker movie Deadhead Miles (1973), which was many miles from Harvard let along Oxford, and for the 1972 Paul Newman-Lee Marvin contemporary oater Pocket Money (1972), another departure from fields of academia. "Deadhead Miles" was dumped by Paramount as unreleasable and "Pocket Money", despite being headlined by two Top Ten Box Office stars, flopped.
It was an inauspicious start to a legendary career, but it influenced Malick to begin directing his own scripts.
Like Orson Welles, he produced two masterpieces with the first two feature films he directed, Badlands (1973) (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978) (1978). He then took a very un-Wellesian self-imposed layoff of 20 years from film making before lensing his 1998 adaptation of James Jones's The Thin Red Line (1998), which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including nods for Malick for directing and adapted screenplay.
Adopting a Kubrickian-pace of movie making, he created The New World (2005) (2005) and the allegorical The Tree of Life (2011) (2011) with layoffs of only seven and six years, respectively. However, he reportedly was working on "The Tree of Life" for 30 years, including exposing footage that found its way into his finished film.
In an unprecedented burst of productivity, he shot his next two films, Voyage of Time (2014) and an To the Wonder (2012), back-to-back immediately after completing the long editing process of "Tree of Life". Both movies are in the post-production phase as of 2012. Like Stanley Kubrick, Malick can take over a year to edit a film, so the release dates of both pictures are speculative. Both are highly anticipated by cinéastes the world over.
|Alexandra Wallace||(1998 - present)|
|Michelle Morette||(5 July 1985 - 16 December 1998) (divorced)|
|Jill Jakes||(? - 1978) (divorced)|
Always includes narration by one or more characters
Often includes nature as a major element in his films
His films are shot almost entirely outside
Ever since his return to filmmaking (1998), all his movies feature narrated soliloquies by the main characters
Known as a bit of a recluse from public life and rarely gives interviews or makes appearances
Heavy use of steadicam
Visual dialectics through images
Resides in Austin, Texas.
MFA from the American Film Institute
Went to St. Stephen's high school in Austin, Texas, where he played football.
In his contract for directing The Thin Red Line (1998), he stated that no current pictures of him could be published or shown anywhere.
Wrote a treatment for Dirty Harry (1971) but none of his work appears in the final version.
Appeared as unannounced guest on the screening of Badlands (1973) in the retrospective section of the 54th. Berlin film festival 2004.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985". Pages 636-639. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
He taught in France from 1979-1994.
He grew up on a farm and worked as a farmhand before studying philosophy at Harvard. After graduating he went to Magdalen College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar but left before finishing his thesis (on Martin Heidegger) after a disagreement with his advisor. He moved back to the United States and taught philosophy at MIT while freelancing as a journalist.
Turned down an offer to direct The Elephant Man (1980).
Wrote an unused draft of Great Balls Of Fire!
Notoriously withdrawn from public life, his friends, such as Martin Sheen, have always remarked that he is a very warm and humble man who prefers to work without media intrusion.
Phi Beta Kappa student
He was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame in March 2002 in Austin, Texas.
His grandfather was an Assyrian Christian immigrant to the US.
Terrence Malick is step-father to actor, producer, and director, Will Wallace.
[on Badlands (1973)] I tried to keep the 1950s to a bare minimum. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything. I wanted the picture to set up like a fairy tale, outside time, like Treasure Island. I hoped this would, among other things, take a little of the sharpness out of the violence, but still keep its dreamy quality.
[on working with Martin Sheen on Badlands (1973)] Martin Sheen was extraordinary. He's a very gifted man. He's from a working class family, so he had all the moods down for the film. And when he wasn't before the cameras, he was helping in the background, wrapping cables, packing up light reflectors. One day I found him going around a gas station and picking up aluminum snapback lids from soda cans. He knew they didn't exist in 1959.
[on The New World (2005)] I knew it would have a slow, rolling pace. Just get into it; let it roll over you. It's more of an experience film. I leave you to fend for yourself, figure things out yourself.
[on his future] There's a good many pictures I'd like to make, we'll see how many I'll be allowed to make.
[on his methodology] I film quite a bit of footage, then edit. Changes before your eyes, things you can do and things you can't. My attitude is always let it keep rolling.
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