Fiona Shaw On Malick’s The Tree Of Life

Exclusive: 'It's a portrait of America'

Fiona Shaw On Malick's The Tree Of Life

by Phil de Semlyen |
Published on

Correction: Fiona Shaw is, of course, Irish, not British as previously reported.

Sweetening the sad but not entirely unexpected news that The Tree Of Life's UK released has been pushed back again, we're happy to bring Malick tidings. Fiona Shaw, best known as the horrid Petunia Dursley in Harry Potter and one of Ireland's most talented stage and screen actresses, lifted our spirits by chatting about her experiences with the screen legend that is Terrence Malick.

As you can see from the full transcript, Shaw happily chatted about every aspect of the Malick experience. First things first, though, we had to ask the obvious question: what's it all about? "It's about everything," Shaw told Empire. "It's about a family and it's about time and space. It's a portrait of America. [Malick's] not just telling a life story but a story that stretches over decades and beyond. "

Read all this how you will, dinosaur fans, but one thing's for sure: more than most directors, Malick's films come together in the editing suite - as Clooney and co can testify from their time on The Thin Red Line. "I think he shot about 35 films and made the one that he wanted, but he kind of knows all along," explains Shaw. "He's like a Renaissance painter. He and Sarah Green, his wonderful producer, devoted years of their lives to this film. That takes huge amounts of money, but they made it because they know it will last."

Our favourite Shaw insight, though, is into Malick's means of working with his actors, a process that could be best described as seriously relaxed. "He rang me up and just said, 'This is Terrence Malick, I’m doing a film and I wonder could you help me with it'.” Shaw laughs. "He said, 'I’d like you to write your own part,’ and I said, 'What?!?' and then I wrote this stuff based on the character he described. When we came to filming, he said, 'Where would you like to film these scenes? Would you like to do them indoors or outdoors?' He is so fundamental in his understanding of what he’s doing that it doesn’t really matter to him whether you film it in a garden or a kitchen."

Read the fascinating thoughts of Fiona Shaw in full here. Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life will be in a cinema near you very soon. We promise.

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