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On Location In Australia

Because Guadalcanal could not sustain a full motion picture crew, as well as other logistical considerations, THE THIN RED LINE was filmed primarily in the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia. A critical four weeks of filming in Guadalcanal followed the Queensland shoot.

In Australia, over 200 actors and extras, in combat gear, were put through their paces by two production units running simultaneously. The Queensland locale was ideal for at least two reasons. According to George Stevens, Jr., a noted filmmaker in his own right, "We had Australian crew members who were talented, resourceful and who wouldn't rest until the work was done right."

In addition, the Australian locale's grassy fields and the adjoining sea was a close match to the topography of Guadalcanal. But those grasses - and a nearby cattle ranch - also presented some special challenges. "We continually had to hide the cows and try and keep them from eating the sets," remembers Jack Fisk. Since much of the battle was fought on these grassy fields, the filmmakers had to be able to rejuvenate the grass and keep it growing for almost five months. "We also fluffed and transplanted the grass," says Fisk. "We learned some great tricks to make it last as long as possible."

Landscaping challenges, of course, were only a small part of Fisk's responsibilities in Australia. Since period wardrobe and props were in short supply, Fisk and the production's other artists had to build virtually everything from scratch, including seven aircraft, two thousand uniforms to their original military specifications, rifles, tents.. .even an airstrip and a plantation.

But perhaps the most challenging aspect for Fisk was anticipating Malick's next move. "Terry is not easy to predict, but that's why I love working with him," Fisk enthuses. "His perspective is extraordinary - he sees things differently than most people.

"Terry's work really begins when he arrives at the set and sees it populated with actors and extras," Fisk continues. "We'd then start to change things around and mold them to what he saw. It was a very organic and unpredictable process, and much of it was dependent on light."

To that end director of photography John Toll, a two-time Academy Award winner (for "Legends of the Fall" and "Braveheart"), made significant contributions to the film's look. Comments George Stevens: "John is an incredibly imaginative and resourceful cinematographer. Early on Terry and John decided to film primarily in natural light to give the picture a distinctive look; John executed that with remarkable skill, under the most arduous conditions."

Malick's unique methods also impressed the actors, among them John Cusack, who plays Captain John Gaff. "It was certainly never boring with Terry," Cusack offers. "He's very intuitive - sometimes we'd be in the middle of a shot and he'd suddenly see something interesting elsewhere and he'd go right over and shoot it."

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