Exclusive Interview With Dede Gardner On The Tree Of Life

Recently, we spoke with Dede Gardner, one of the producers of Terrence Malick’s latest film The Tree of Life.

The film has become one of the most controversial of the year. Some critics and audience members have called it stunning and a masterpiece, while others have called it terrible and pretentious.

The Tree of Life tells a story about a family in 1950s Texas. Brad Pitt is the strict, disciplinarian father of three boys. The eldest one, Jack, grows up to be an adult (played by Sean Penn) who is disillusioned and tries to reconcile the complicated relationship he had with his father. The film is presented in non-linear fashion and explores the origins and meaning of life, while also questioning the existence of faith.

Dede talked to us about her involvement with the film, her take on it and one of her upcoming projects.

Check it out below.

We Got This Covered: Is this the first time you worked with Terrence Malick or have you worked with him before?

Dede Gardner: It’s the first movie we made with him, yes. We were talking to him many years ago about another project, which is how we ended up getting involved as producers on The Tree of Life.

WGTC: What was it like to work with someone who has such a unique vision as he does?

Dede Gardner: It was a privilege and it was a pleasure. He’s an amazing filmmaker, obviously, but he’s also just a great guy and it was really fun. I think what I do for a living is a privilege, so at the very least, I’d like to think it can be a good time. But it was a joy and I believe very strongly in this movie and its story. It just felt lucky and we had fun.

WGTC: A lot of people who saw the movie have either said they loved it or they hated it. It’s had a very split consensus. What’s your take on the movie?

Dede Gardner: It spanned a lot of years of my life. I love it. That doesn’t mean everyone should or needs to. I certainly don’t expect everyone to love everything we make. I suppose I prefer everyone walking out and going, “Yeah, it was all right.”

WGTC: This movie won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Was this the first film you worked on that has won the award?

Dede Gardner: [Laughter] Yes, it was the first and most decisively will be the last. I don’t know anyone who has won it more than once. But it was such a surprise and a pleasure and awesome, just awesome. Amazing. It was thrilling. I don’t expect to ever end up in that position again. [Laughter]

WGTC: A lot of people have said that this movie seems to be somewhat inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Did Terry mention anything about that movie being an inspiration for The Tree of Life?

Dede Gardner: Not with any specificity, no. I mean, I did read that and I understand why people would say that. At least, I think I understand it. I think it’s just in terms of something new or seemingly different from the normal format hitting the world and perhaps being about some big ideas. Terry’s a student of the world and, of course, I would imagine he’s seen 2001. Tree of Life is about music, painting, science and travel. Everything is close with Terry and, as I said, he really is a student of the world and he’s constantly taking in and absorbing it. I would say the movie is more influenced by that, as I think all great movies are influenced by filmmakers’ paths and treads in the world.

WGTC: Now I saw that you’re working with Terry again on a film called Voyage of Time. Can you tell me anything about that?

Dede Gardner: No, I really can’t. [Laughter]

I mean it’s a slow and steady march, that one. There’s a lot of stuff still to do and shoot. That’s going to be time and patience, and I think it’ll be great. As of right now, Terry went off to shoot another movie and we just made Andrew Dominik’s new movie. We all had a lot of fun making Jesse James together, so it was a lot of fun to bring the band back together in a albeit very different undertaking.

WGTC: OK. What is Andrew’s new movie?

Dede Gardner: It’s called Cogan’s Trade.  It’s based on a George Higgins novel set in Boston in the ‘70s. We’ve contemporized it and I’m a bit hesitant to say what it’s about. It’s about some dumb criminals and it’s about desperation and people being desperate. It’s also about what those people do in that state, and it’s about what they do being really funny and also really sad.

WGTC: OK, cool. That’s about all that I have unless you wanted to add something about The Tree of Life or other upcoming projects.

Dede Gardner: No, that about covers it. I’m just a bit curious as to what you thought of the movie.

WGTC: Oh, I loved The Tree of Life. I thought it was a great movie. It’s very unique, very well done and just fascinating in terms of its visuals and everything else. It’s definitely on my top five best films of the year list.

Dede Gardner: Cool. I’ll take it, that’s very kind of you.

WGTC: Actually, one more question. What would you say is your favorite Terry Malick film?

Dede Gardner: Oh gosh. [Laughter]

Well, I got into the movie business because of Days of Heaven. That being said, I also had my world rocked by Thin Red Line. And I was much older and it was a different time of my life. But I love the others, too. It just depends on when you see things and when you see them again and how you’ve changed and how the world has changed. That’s the great thing about revisiting film, and the same can be said about music, books and art.

This concludes our interview, but we would like to thank Dede for taking the time to speak to us. Be sure to check out The Tree of Life, available to rent or own on DVD/Blu-Ray on October 11th.

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