Holy cats, there he is: Director Terrence Malick, one of the most private filmmakers of his generation, hanging out on stage with Richard Linklater and Michael Fassbender, the latter a star of Malick’s “Song to Song,” chatting Saturday morning at South by Southwest.
The original cut was about eight hours long. “There was no part of the shooting day that was idle,” Fassbender said. “If we were on the way to a location, we were shooting on the way to the location.”
On finding the character as one goes and the improvisational nature of the shoot. “I like not having lines to learn.” Fassbender said. “It’s a very liberating thing when you’re not carrying dialogue. It’s very hard not to load an intention if I am getting lines as I go.”
Sometimes, Malick is shooting something that is not the actor. “I’ll be acting my socks off and Terry will be filming a beetle,” Fassbender said.
On setting his films now rather than in the past. Malick said he was a bit timid at setting his films in the present. “(One struggles to find) images you can use that haven’t been a part of advertising,” Malick said. “But then you find there are as many today as there were in the past.”
The original title was “Weightless.” “We had a title card from Virginia Woolf at the beginning,” Malick said. (“How can I proceed now, I said, without a self, weightless and visionless, through a world weightless…”). This ended up still being a bit of a theme.
On having, as Linklater put it, “punk rock elders” in the film. “I was trying not to be overwhelmed by these rock gods,” Fassbender said, “but I do remember that both Patti Smith and Flea, you would put the camera on them and words would just flow out. And then all of the Chili Peppers beat me up.”
Fassbender wishes there was more Val Kilmer kept in. “I was hanging on by my fingernails,” Fassbender said. “He is a force. To be in (this kind of movie), you have to be prepared to fall on your face over and over again all day. That is what I found so impressive about Val.”
On Fassbender maybe directing. “I would like to direct,” Fassbender said. “What would I like to direct? Something contained.” Which this film was not.
“I have no idea when,” he continued. “Starting as an actor, I found I was so focused for so many years on getting an opportunity to work, then focused on getting a lead role. (Now that he has done both of those things) I’ve started to enjoy more and more the collaborative process, the idea that you get the bunch of strangers together and get it to gel.”
On Austin changing. “Your film is already a period film,” Linklater joked. This is actually true, as Malick noted — Alamo Drafthouse South looks totally different now.
Linklater and Malick versus the movie: “Everything you see is the tip of the iceberg (for these characters),” Linklater said. “(To see these movies), I think it just adds a depth, a poetic memory feeling.”
In seeing the bits of pieces of their lives, Malick said, “It’s like the dialogue in the movie, ‘Can you live in this world moment to moment, song to song, kiss to kiss.’ It’s a hard thing to convey.”