New Terrence Malick Interview
Terrence Malick In conversation with Joseph Gelmis Recorded circa. 1974 Newsday film critic Joseph Gelmis planned to write an interview piece to follow his review of Terrence Malick’s Badlands, which was published in Newsday on March 25, 1974, but that never happened, and this material is presented here for the first time. (The film is also mentioned in Gelmis’ overview of the 1973 New York Film Festival [September 13, 1973]: “The advance word from those who’ve seen it is that Malick’s study of loneliness and suppressed rage in a South Dakota hamlet in the 1950s is powerful stuff.”) Questions and comments from Gelmis, who was sometimes too far from the tape recorder to be audible, have been edited for clarity. Malick’s contributions are, as much as possible, given technical limitations of the recording, verbatim. A female voice (D) can be heard throughout. This is Deborah Dobski, who married Gelmis in 1973, and between 1972 and 1979 was an assistant professor in the film department of Columbia University’s Graduate School of the Arts. The recording suggests that the three are in a hotel room – probably Malick’s, who at one point orders room service on the phone. This archival material is important, not least because the number of published interviews with the intensely private Malick about Badlands can be counted on one hand – and he hasn’t spoken much publicly since then. (Malick, moreover, appears to have embargoed transcripts of his AFI seminars, some of which detail the production of Badlands.) Friendly, voluble, polite, laughing throughout, clearly at ease in Gelmis and Dobski’s company, Malick sheds light on many things in this 15,000-word transcript, which may be the most forthcoming interview we will ever get from him. He talks about the tensions that creative freedoms offer, the production intricacies of Badlands, being part of a new wave of Hollywood filmmakers, his discomfort at talking about his own films, his time at the American Film Institute, and his admiration for Elia Kazan’s America America and Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer. We’re lucky to have this valuable material. Gelmis (on contract to Newsday when he conducted this conversation) retained very few of his interview recordings from this period, generally re-using his tapes after pulling what he needed from them. He offers this document (transcribed by Paul Cronin, 9/22) strictly for non-commercial use. [CLICK On the file below for the full transcript]
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