The casting process for Terrence Malick's 1998 film The Thin Red Line is legendary. Serving as Malick's return to filmmaking after a 20-year hiatus, everyone in Hollywood wanted to apart of the film. Some were even willing to do it for free or help pay for parts of the production. It got to the point Malick had to announce he wouldn't be accepting any more voluntary auditions. Though, those who got to even audition didn't exactly get an easy time either, with most auditioning without a script or any lines of dialogue to work with. As described by Justin Theroux today while being interviewed by Variety about his new Apple TV+ show The Mosquito Coast...the audition itself felt like a frantic battle. One where he didn't impress.
In talking with Variety, he spoke of it as was one of the “worst” auditions of his career. With no script or lines of dialogue, all he knew was it was a war film...and with that he didn't even know which war the film took place in. Here's how Theroux described it:
“I go into the room, and it’s the casting director and a couple chairs. She’s like, ‘Get behind a chair and pretend like you’re in a foxhole or something, like smoking a cigarette.’ And they’re filming it. They’re just like, ‘Get behind the chair and pretend you’re in a battle.’”
Theroux goes on to describe that, with this limited blocking, he decided to tip over the chair and pretend to pull out pins from a grenade:
“I don’t know what war we’re fighting. I don’t even know what the movie is about. It’s a war movie, that’s all I know. It’s like telling a painter to paint the house without giving them brushes. I don’t know. I need words to say. So that was a particular humiliation.”
Besides going on to star in such projects as the show The Leftover, in ironic Theroux went on to succeed as a screenwriter and co-wrote the 2008 action comedy Tropic Thunder which also happened to focus on a frantic production of a war film. All-in-all, it seemed to work out just fine for the actor/writer. Stay tuned!