THE THIN RED LINE
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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