One of Mickey Rourke's deleted scenes, from the Criterion Blu Ray

Terrence Malick

Malick on the set of The Thin Red Line.

1998, filmmaker Terrence Malick released The Thin Red Line, his first film in 20 years. The production of the film attracted significant attention, with a multitude of actors approaching Malick to star in the film. The final cast (which includes Sean Penn, George Clooney, Nick Nolte, John Travolta, Jim Caviezel, Adrien Brody, John Cusack, and Jared Leto) is extensive. However, many actors saw their roles shortened or deleted when the film was released. In addition, while the final cut runs nearly three hours, the original cut was two hours longer. Despite much demand and interest, those missing two hours have never been seen by the general public.


After Malick completed the arduous process of editing Days of Heaven, he moved to Paris and disappeared from public view. He attempted to start other projects, including a biopic of Joseph "The Elephant Man" Merrick (which was later directed by David Lynch), a biopic of rock star Jerry Lee Lewis, and an adaptation of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer.

But Malick never got past pre-production of a project until producer Bobby Geisler hired him to write and direct an adaptation of James Jones' novel World War II The Thin Red Line. Malick began working on the film in 1989, and it would be another nine years before the finished product was released.

During the production, many actors approached Malick about starring in the film. He reportedly met with people like Nicholas Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Josh Hartnett about starring in his movie. Although many people who were considered were not cast, Malick still built a very large ensemble for his film.

After he completed shooting in the Pacific, Malick and his editors were tasked with whittling the reported million feet of footage shot down to a feature length movie. The editor's first cut ran five hours. Malick at first refused to watch it, knowing full well that Fox, who distributed the film, would never release it. However, he was forced to do so after the editors threatened to quit. He sat with the editors and selected which footage to use[1]Malick wanted to put out a much longer cut that featured more scenes with the Guadalcanal native, but the studio demaned the final film run three hours or less and include as much battle footage as possible. The final film runs two hours and 51 minutes.

As a result of the editing, many actors had their roles cut completely. Bill Pullman, Mickey Rourke, Viggo Mortensen, and Gary Oldman all shot scenes for the film but are not in the final cut. Billy Bob Thorton recorded three hours of narration that was not used. George Clooney and John Travolta had much larger roles, but their final screen time only lasts a few minutes.

Probably the most reduced role was that of Adrian Brody, who played Corporal Fife. In the script, his role was advertised as the lead and had the most dialogue. Brody though that the role would provide him with his big break. However, in the final version, Brody only has one line of dialogue and is barely on screen at all. Brody was upset with the change, saying, ""I was so focused and professional, I gave everything to it, and then to not receive everything ... in terms of witnessing my own work."[2]

Bill Pullman, Viggo Mortensen, Gary Oldman, Jason Patric, Martin Sheen, Mickey Rourke, and Billy Bob Thorton all are mentioned in the film's credits under "special thanks." However, with the exception of Rourke, none of the footage they shot for the film has ever been released.

Blu-ray release

When famed home video label The Criterion Collection announced they would be releasing a Blu-ray of the film, many cinephiles hoped that the famed deleted scenes would finally surface.

The Blu-ray does include some of the deleted scenes, including extended scenes with Adrian Brody and George Clooney as well as scenes with Mickey Rourke. [3]  However, this is only a fraction of the material cut from the film. As Malick oversaw the production of the Blu-ray, it may be assumed that he prevented any more scenes from being included. However, neither the famously reclusive Malick nor The Criterion Collection have ever confirmed or denied this.

It's likely that the rest of the cut footage is held by Malick or Fox. However, no one has indicated that it will ever be released.


  1. What of that Five-Hour Cut of The Thin Red Line? Retrieved 29 June '14
  2. Interview with Adrian Brody Retrieved 29 June '14
  3. The Thin Red Line Blu-ray Retried 29 June '14
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