THE THIN RED SHRINE
Twentieth Century Fox owns The Thin Red Line copyright, not me (duh).
No infringement of their copyright is intended. This is my shrine to
director Malick's brilliance, and free advertising for the great and
wonderful studio, by the way. Website design, layout, summary
and analysis are my copyright.
My obsession with The Thin Red Line
Obsessed? Me? Nah. I do understand why you would think that, knowing
that I saw The Thin Red Line seven times in the theatre between January
and April 1999.
However, when I first went to see it (in my earnest desire to see all
1998 Academy Award Best Picture nominees), I didn't expect to like
it--reviewers had called it slow, too high-minded, jittery, confusing. And
it was a film about men and masculinity.
How wrong we were! I was amazed by the restless, disrupting narrative;
the brilliant cinematography contrasting the lushness of paradisical
nature with the barrenness of human war; and the mystery, tragedy and hope
of the last scenes. When I see The Thin Red Line, I am filled with wonder,
which is why I created this page. And it gives me a way to get this
stuff out of my house, otherwise known as The Shrine to the Thin Red
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June 13, 2002: Jim Caviezel (Witt) hits the road. Quoth the Hollywood Reporter:
Jim Caviezel is gearing up to star in the high-speed actioner "Highwaymen" for New Line Cinema.
Caviezel is in negotiations to take on the role of Rennie Cray, a young widower who drives the highways
hunting for his wife's killer. A dark take on the mythical road movie, "Highwaymen" follows a
dehumanized villain who uses a car as an expression of his rage against the world and the obsessed hero
(Caviezel) who is tracking him. An innocent woman gets caught in the game as the men chase each other
on the open road in 1970s muscle cars.
April 15, 2001: Actor Adrien Brody is still sore over how his role as
Fife got downsized in The Thin Red Line. In an interview with London
newspaper The Independent, he had this to say:
'"I was so focused and professional, I gave everything to it, and
then to not receive everything ... in terms of witnessing my own work. It
was extremely unpleasant because I'd already begun the press for a film
that I wasn't really in. Terry obviously changed the entire concept of the
film. I had never experienced anything like that." Brody had initially
been touted as the lead, based on the size of the role in the James Jones
source novel - he learnt a valuable, if painful, Hollywood lesson. "You
know the expression 'Don't believe the hype'? Well, you shouldn't." Since
that time, Brody has chosen projects - Spike Lee's Summer of Sam aside -
that will not resubmit him to media scrutiny.'
Poor Brody! Read the whole article here.
Want to know how to get your copy of The Thin Red Line script? I got
6627 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood , CA 90028
They sell copies of the second draft version of the script, as do
other script-selling places I've seen.
Just what is this film all about?
Despite the presence of big stars Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and John
Cusack, The Thin Red Line is not really about their characters. It is
about four men, played by up-and-coming actors, among many in
C-for-Charlie Company who are to take Guadalcanal Island from the Japanese
in 1942/1943. The four men are: Witt, who is the Christ-like moral centre,
Bell and Doll, who submerge their fears in very different private and
public masks, and Dale, who has turned savage. Each man represents
different possibilities of humanity; each man transcends who he is at the
cast and crew members
Partial film credits
Read a few key scenes from
the draft script!
The draft version of the script is different from the filmed version in a
few ways, as I sketch out here
Check out my analysis in The
Guide to The Thin Red Line! There are MAJOR SPOILERS to my analysis of
the films referred to in The Thin Red Line, but an analyst's gotta do what
an analyst's gotta do.
- 1988--producers Robert Geisler and John Roberdeau tracked down Malick
in his self-imposed Paris exile and asked him to adapt and direct D.M.
Thomas' The White Hotel. Malick declined but showed interest in
making The Thin Red Line instead.
- Over the years, Geisler and Roberdeau bankrolled Malick's adaptation
of The Thin Red Line. During this time he wrote two plays,
Sansho the Bailiff and The English Speaker. The two
producers amassed $2 million in debts.
- 1995--rumours circulated in Hollywood about Malick's return. Malick
talked with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicolas Cage, Matthew
McConaughey, Sean Penn, Matt Dillon, Edward Norton, Johnny Depp, Tim Roth
and Gary Oldman about being in the picture. Only Penn appears in the film.
- Fun fact: a copy of the script was sent to Tom Hanks, who declined
because he was going to be in 1998's other WWII film Saving Private
- Early 1997--there was a falling-out between producers Geisler and
Roberdeau and the director.
- March 1997--The Thin Red Line was almost not made. Sony
Pictures dropped its plans to produce it because of fears that it couldn't
be made for its then-$45 million budget. Fortunately, Fox studios came to
the rescue by providing most of the cash.
Late June 1997--shooting on the film began in northern Australia.
- Relations between Geisler and Roberdeau and Malick had so deteriorated
by this point that Malick barred them from visiting the set.
- 100 days were spent filming in Australia, 24 in the Solomon Islands,
and 3 in the United States, some part of which was spent filming John
Travolta and Nick Nolte aboard a real Navy aircraft carrier.
- The film was finished on time and budget.
- Malick accumulated 10 million feet of film. It was edited in ten
months so it could be released in December 1998, in time for it to be
nominated for the Academy Awards.
- Prior to the film's release, Geisler and Roberdeau allegedly violated
a confidentiality clause they had signed by giving an interview to
Vanity Fair about their long involvement with Malick and the film.
- Malick was upset at Geisler's and Roberdeau's comments in Vanity
- November 1998--apparently Geisler and Roberdeau had to sign another
agreement stating they would not attend the Oscars ceremony. If they
violated that agreement, their names would be stripped from the film and
- December 1998--The Thin Red Line had a limited release in New
York and Los Angeles and had a strong money-making start.
- Originally hired for the lead role of Fife, actor Adrien Brody found
his appearance drastically shortened. So did John C. Reilly. But they were
luckier than Bill Pullman and Lukas Haas, who were completely cut.
Malick recommended Brody to director Spike Lee for the role of mohawked
Ritchie in Summer of Sam. Fortunately, this time most of Brody's
performance remained in the film.
- Will Wallace, son of Malick's third wife Alexandra "Ecky" W.B. Malick
from a previous marriage, has the small role of Private Hoke, who is
shown AWOL on the same island with Witt in the beginning of the film.
Will's brother Todd also appears in the film as the pilot of the boat
taking the nervous soldiers to the island.
- CORRECTION: Meryl Wallace, the still photographer, is NOT Will's
sister. Will just plays her brother on TV.
- Perfectionist Malick had supervising sound editor J. Paul Huntsman
record the sounds of authentic WWII-era Japanese weapons being fired.
Huntsman also increased the impact of the sound of bullets being fired by
adding the sound made when projectiles are accelerated by slingshots.
- Wonder what the Japanese soldier is saying to Dale after the Japanese
have been taken POW by the Americans? Kaoru very kindly wrote me to
interpret: "'You will die some day,too,' over and over."
The soldier who captures Witt says, "I don't want to kill you. You have
been surrounded by Japanese soldiers. You should give in. You, you killed
my fellow soldier, didn't you. I don't want to kill you."
- The Thin Red Line earned seven Academy Award nominations.
- Meanwhile, back at the feud, Geisler and Roberdeau said they would
attend the Oscars ceremony. Malick said if they were going to attend, he
would stay home. Neither Geisler and Roberdeau nor Malick attended the
Oscars. The Thin Red Line won no awards.
- Having watched The Thin Red Line for the eighth time on the big screen
(brain to self: ouch!), I finally caught the chapter and verse that's
tattooed on young private Train's arm: Train's the young Southern man who
tells Welsh how scared he is when Welsh is shaving on the transport ship
prior to the landing. Train is also on the LCI in the one of the last
scenes of the film telling Dale that he's older "but by no means old."
1 John 4:4 says:
"Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them (false
prophets and the antichrist); for he who is in you is greater than he who
is in the world." Things that make you go hmmm?
The Thin Red Goofs
- When John Travolta and Nick Nolte are on the ship, discussing
their battle plans, the light changes visibly from frame to frame--from
bright mid-day light to late afternoon sunset time light.
- In one of the scenes depicting the initial unsuccessful assault on
Hill 210, a soldier jumps up and back to depict his being killed by
bullets or a bomb, but you can clearly see a black wire in the frame
pulling the stuntman back.
- When Captain Staros is on the phone pleading with Colonel Tall to
make a flanking move instead of a suicidal frontal attack, he tells Tall
that the time is 13:35. Instead, the time is 14:35 on Elias Koteas'
- Marty Bell writes to ask for a divorce from her husband Jack because
she's met an Air Force man. However, the Guadalcanal campaign depicted in
The Thin Red Line took place in 1942/43, yet the Air Force wasn't created
until September 18, 1947 pursuant to the National Security Act of July 26,
1947. Prior to the creation of the USAF, it was known as the Army Air
Corps. (Note: this goof appeared in author James Jones' novel.)
Thanks to Moggie, Matt for his kind generosity, Aimee and Ros for the
many spirited and intellectual discussions about The Thin Red Line, big
thanks to Frau M. and Shelley for their sustained brilliance, Karl for
everything, and biggest thanks of all to the kind visitors to this website
who give me news and information.
The fabulous bird backgrounds on the subsequent pages here come from
Roxanne's Grafix Gallery
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Last updated August 29, 2001.