‘To the Wonder’ producers and Ben Affleck on Ebert’s final review

Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck in Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder."
(Mary Cybulski / Magnolia Pictures)

When news broke a week ago of the death of film critic Roger Ebert, his last published review at the time was a lukewarm notice of sci-fi film “The Host.” It seemed more fitting when a review of “To the Wonder,” opening Friday, was published posthumously.

Ebert had long supported the work of filmmaker Terrence Malick. “To the Wonder,” with a love triangle storyline said to be drawn partly from Malick’s own life, is a mystic-minded meditation on romantic love and religious faith. The film stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko.


At the Los Angeles premiere of the film Tuesday night, Ben Affleck spoke to the Associated Press of the “profound honor” of having a film he was in be Ebert’s last review.

“To have this be the last movie that he reviewed and to have it viewed through this sort of transcendental lens of a man at the end of his life is as important as anything that’s ever happened around movies in my career,” Affleck said.

During a Q&A; following a showing of “To the Wonder” at an L.A. Times Indie Focus Screening Series event Wednesday night, producers Sarah Green and Nicolas Gonda also spoke about having their film marked in this unexpected way.

“Roger was a genius critic and an extraordinary man and someone who will be missed forever in our world. I knew that we’d been trying to set up a screening for him and then he’d asked for a blu-ray and then I was devastated to learn he was gone,” said Green. “And then absolutely floored to find out he had in fact written a review and then that it was so beautiful. It was very moving.”

“One thing I find really interesting,” added Gonda, “and I don’t know if he did this for all his reviews, but when he delivered his review it was marked ‘for use as needed.’

“And for filmmakers, for us who work with a visionary filmmaker, Malick’s films require people to act as messengers, to help others understand them and help them from that vantage point. So ‘for use as needed,’ obviously that review has been very, very useful this week and it’s opened up a lot of people’s minds and hearts to see the film differently.”

Few if any other major directors remain as far outside the spotlight as Malick, who has not given a major interview since the mid-'70s, is rarely photographed and doesn’t participate in promoting his films.

So when Malick released a statement aknowledging the review and calling Ebert “a man of kindness and generosity,” it was an unexpectedly public moment from a very private man.

“Terry is somebody who has been very moved by the way Roger championed cinema and how he’s opened many doors and paved many paths for filmmakers to take on very ambitious work,” added Gonda. “So I think he felt a real need to voice how moved he was by all of Roger’s contributions.”


Roger Ebert’s last thumbs up: Terrence Malick’s ‘To The Wonder’

Despite Malick’s absence, Affleck, McAdams promote ‘To The Wonder’

Remembrance: Roger Ebert, film’s hero to the end

Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus


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