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Terrence Malick & ‘The Moviegoer’

Did you know this about the film director Terrence Malick? [1] I did not know this until a reader pointed it out last night:

Next came a proposed adaptation of Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer, about a man in New Orleans who connects to movies more easily than he does to everyday life. Given that Julia Roberts and Tim Robbins were attached at one point in 1994, it seems fair to assume that Robbins was to play the title role. Projects from this time period apparently had a very high failure rate as it is, but once pre-production on The Thin Red Line began in earnest and The New World followed, Hurricane Katrina apparently dashed any hopes of this Louisiana-set film getting made: “I don’t think the New Orleans of the book exists anymore,” Malick said at an extremely rare question-and-answer session prior to the release of The New World in 2005. Unlike many other aborted projects, it seemed likely at one point that he would have served as both writer and director on The Moviegoer.

Terry! Come to the Walker Percy Weekend [2]! I will pretend not to recognize you, and we can drink whiskey and talk about To The Wonder and the metaphysics of light in the Middle Ages, but you will not have to be too afraid of being bored to death by my pretentious self, because honestly, you can only get just so pretentious when your fingers smell of boiled crawfish.

How on earth would you make a movie out of The Moviegoer?

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Terrence Malick & ‘The Moviegoer’"

#1 Comment By Derek Leaberry On April 28, 2014 @ 8:47 am

Rod, you’re a writer and can figure it out if anybody can. The relationships of Binx and Kate and Binx and Lonnie would have to predominate. The problem with The Moviegoer is the lack of action. Much of the novel revolves around Percy’s musings on philosophical and cultural ideas. What is interesting or funny in a novel is hard to make interesting to a moviegoer.

[NFR: That was my thought too: it’s an interesting novel, of course, but it’s a novel of ideas, and the stuff that makes it so interesting happens in Binx’s head. — RD]

#2 Comment By eric nelson On April 28, 2014 @ 9:34 am

I’m sure all your readers have certain posts that occur on a semi-regular basis that remind them why they keep coming back to read you, Rod. For me, as much as I love the politics and culture, on some primal level my endorphins start flowing each time I check your blog because I never know when I’m going to read something like this. I mean, where else can I read a 250-word post on the backstory of unmade Walker Percy films where the gitty author concludes with a plea to a media-shy, philosophical auteur? Everyone’s got their favorite Dreherbait. I’m so glad this stuff is in the mix.

#3 Comment By Paige Belle On April 28, 2014 @ 9:34 am

Malick would be perfect: all of Binx’s wry meditations would be done as voice-overs.

#4 Comment By Franklin Evans On April 28, 2014 @ 10:06 am

Rod, I don’t think this is too much to ask: If Malick does show up, I want to be a fly on the wall. 😀

[NFR: You and I need to work out a secret signal, in case one of us spots Malick, we can let the other one know, so we can talk to him without frightening him. 😉 — RD]

#5 Comment By Alan Cross On April 28, 2014 @ 10:22 am

The old New Orleans still exists. It exists in the neighborhoods and the people. Malick said this in 2005, when everything was in doubt, of course, but it is still there. Plus, the purpose of a director is to find what was once lost.

I very much wish I could attend the Walker Percy weekend. I discovered him a few years ago through a link by Russell Moore about his essay “Stoicism in the South.” From that essay, I just expanded out. He was brilliant and helped put to words what I intuitively knew about the South but had never been able to voice.

#6 Comment By Paul Maher On April 28, 2014 @ 10:27 am

Malick’s screenplay for The Moviegoer did appear on ebay a couple of months back. I didn’t jump fast enough to buy it, but the mystery would have been made plain had I did.

#7 Comment By Franklin Evans On April 28, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

It’s a deal, Rod. I’m thinking yelling sauve qui peut, might serve to thin out the crowd for a getaway.

I’ve decided that if I win a big lottery, I’ll spend the money independently producing difficult book adaptations. If they don’t work out, it would only be my money, but if they do work… I have a list, and The Moviegoer is more than welcome near the top of it.

#8 Comment By Derek Leaberry On April 28, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

And a few notions. A modern director would film Binx and Kate in their carnal endeavor on the train to Chicago. Naturally, the actress playing Kate would be shown naked. But if Brideshead showed Diana Quick topless, I guess nudity in The Moviegoer would be par for the course. Binx kicking the dog Rosebud would get the SPCA up in arms. Aunt Emily would be a villain as she has absolute values. It is too late for a Bill Holden cameo walking Bourbon Street. The Latin Mass at the Smith’s parish church might be confusing to modern Catholics and might upset the Pope.

And who to play the vital parts. Meryl Streep or Sally Field as Aunt Emily might work. But I don’t keep up with modern actors. Binx is 30 and Kate 25. Binx is unable to decide whether to go on the Big Search or stay with the Little Way going to movies and dating his secretaries. Who would play Binx? And Kate the mental case. Who would play her? Of course, Lonnie would have to be played by a child with a crippling disease to make the role work. Perhaps the child actor could become a Harold Russell of his time, hook-handed Russell winning an Oscar for his role in Best Years of Our Lives.

In the end, a filming of The Moviegoer would have to be low-budget that pleases important reviewers who would provide the impetus to get people into the seats. Most probably it would get a short run, lose money, and be out on DVD within months.

#9 Comment By Franklin Evans On April 28, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

Derek, let’s strike a blow for bringing back ars gratia artis as a valid mantra. 😀

#10 Comment By ArgleBargleZarg On April 28, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

The entire time I was sitting through that piece of crap Noah, I kept thinking to myself, “If only Terrence Malick had directed this.”

#11 Comment By Lancelot Lamar On April 28, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

I think if anyone could do it, artfully with sensitivity, Malick could.

#12 Comment By Patrick Connelly On April 29, 2014 @ 12:41 am

Malick Bait: “And there I have lived ever since, solitary and in wonder, wondering day and night, never a moment without wonder. Now and then my friends stop by, all gotten up as young eccentrics with their beards and bicycles, and down they go into the Quarter to hear some music and find some whores and still I wish them well. As for me, I stay home with Mrs. Schexnaydre and turn on TV. Not that I like TV so much, but it doesn’t distract me from the wonder. That is why I can’t go to the trouble they go to. It is distracting, and not for five minutes will I be distracted from the wonder.” –The Moviegoer

#13 Comment By joe On January 12, 2017 @ 12:29 am

Terrence should make the movie. obviously, since Hollywood refuses to make movies like this — it doesn’t have racist and sexist stereotypes, extreme violence and car chases, rather it is about faith, love and meaning — an independent studio might pick it up.