I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read. A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly.
(The original interview in Le Figaro is, of course, in French.)
The New Yorker’s Richard Brody goes on to frame this as Penn throwing a hissy fit because Malick didn’t give him the chance to turn in
the kind of showy and theatrical performance for which Oscars are won. The star system, the flatteries of celebrity — and, for that matter, the temperament that makes a person become an actor in the first place — contribute much to an actor’s sense that a movie is, or should be, all about him.
Except, in this instance, the movie really is supposed to be all about Penn… or Penn’s character, that is. I don’t share Penn’s egotism about Penn, and I can’t figure out what he’s doing there and what he’s supposed to add in that context, either.