Jessica Chastain Talks "Nature Vs. Grace" In 'The Tree Of Life' & Terrence Malick's Loose Attachment To The Script

Remember when Terrence Malick’s “The Tree Of Life” was scheduled to come out on December 25th of last year? Well, that date came and went with the director taking his now trademark lengthy time editing the film, but at least we know the project now has a confirmed distributor in Fox Searchlight. The downside is that the film won’t be hitting theaters until sometime in 2011, so until then, we’ll take whatever scraps of information we can get.

The latest insight comes from Jessica Chastain, who stars in the film alongside Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Speaking with the LA Times at TIFF, she revealed the film is about “the conflict between ‘nature and grace’ — which she defined as the conflict between a spiritual life and one of a more primitive survival. Her character represents the former, while Pitt’s stands for the latter. ‘And the children have to decide which path they want to take,’ she said.” While, its hardly revelatory — these are pretty much the kind of elements that swirled around the film from the start — it might give a solid foundation for Pitt’s apparently uncompromising, bastard-like turn as a 1950s father and the repercussions it has on his son played by Sean Penn (decades later, obvs).

The other little nugget of info that won’t be of any surprise to Malick fans is that the film will probably not represent the script. We read it this summer, and certainly had high praise, calling it a remarkable piece of work, but as per usual, Malick is really only using it as a blueprint. As Chastain recalls, if she didn’t remember her dialogue, Malick would instruct her to “just say what you remember” and in one instance, where she pointed out that a child actor might be too old for the part on the page, Malick gently admonished her saying, “Oh, Jessica, no one reads the script.”

With Terrence Malick now in production on his next film, you might be eager to presume that he’s done with “The Tree Of Life” but you can bet he will continue to tinker with it until the last possible moment. And with 2011 now a long way off, it gives the director even more time to play with “The Tree Of Life” and get it to his exact liking.

So the wait continues for “The Tree Of Life” but if there is any silver lining, with another film in the pipeline, Malick seems to be working at the fastest clip of his career.