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‘Tree’ producers find balance

Eye on the Oscars: Best Picture - 'The Tree of Life'

Dede Gardner, Sarah Green, Grant Hill, Brad Pitt, Bill Pohlad

“It’s been percolating in Terry (Malick) a long time,” Pohlad says. “When we met 12 years ago, he told me the story. We stayed in touch and stayed good friends. And four-five years later, he sent me a script, and it was fleshed out a lot. And even though it was unusual and you could tell it would be challenging, I found it very emotional and accessible.”

“We looked around for different equity partners and some foreign pre-sales, but it was mostly River Road,” says Pohlad, referring to his own company. “We believed in it and wanted to provide Terry the freedom to do it his way.”

“It was trying to find that right balance between the scope of it and getting it done in a reasonable way, and doing something that would be accessible without overwhelming the audience, and yet still find a way to get Terry’s vision across.”

“Terry had already had conversations with Sean (Penn) and Heath (Ledger) by the time I became involved,” Pohlad says. “Heath ultimately decided not to do it. Then Jessica (Chastain) was in place. And then we started looking around for who would play Mr. O’Brien. By then, Brad Pitt was already on board as a producer. So we have the biggest actor in the world sitting there, and we’re pretending not to see him as a replacement. Eventually it was hard to ignore the obvious.”