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

Olga Kurylenko, left, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams arrive at the premiere of "To the Wonder."
(Dan Steinberg / Invision / Associated Press)

At most Hollywood premieres, the star of the movie doesn’t have to convince the audience to sit through their film.

But that was the case at the unveiling of Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder” Tuesday night, as Ben Affleck implored a theater full of people to stick with a movie that didn’t follow a linear structure.

“I have probably said more up here than I do in the entire film,” he joked to a crowd at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center. Indeed, as a man torn between a French beauty (Olga Kurylenko) and his hometown love (Rachel McAdams), Affleck barely utters more than a few sentences throughout the entire movie.

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As for Malick, the famously press-shy director of the film, he stayed far away from the red carpet. The producers of “To the Wonder” said the filmmaker was at home in Texas editing his next picture, but Malick is almost never spotted at the premieres of his movies -- something his actors said they understand.

“I don’t think it’s the easiest thing to talk about,” McAdams said on the red carpet. “He comes from a time when directors didn’t necessarily have to pimp out their films.”

Though he wasn’t in attendance Tuesday evening, Malick was by all accounts a forceful presence on set. He gave Affleck copies of Walker Percy’s “The Moviegoer” and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” to help him get into character. And over the course of the shoot, he urged his actors to be prepared to act even during off-hours.

“He basically said, ‘Hey, is it OK if we walk into your room and start filming you first thing in the morning?’” Kurylenko recalled with a smile. “He never did it, but that was the metaphor of the way he shoots -- you have to wake up as the character.”

It’s a lot of work to put in for an actor -- especially ones who aren’t sure their performance will make the final cut. Rachel Weisz, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet and Barry Pepper were all part of the original cast, though none appear in the movie’s final version.

McAdams insisted that even if that had been her fate with “To the Wonder,” she would have treasured the chance to work with “a master.”

“I think I would have enjoyed it even if I had been cut out of the film because I would have gained a lot of experience from working with him,” the actress said. “It taught me to be organic and in my body and let go of a lot of expectations.”


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