NPR FOR THE DEAF: There Will Be Blood


When Sissy Spacek started her film career, she was told to lose her heavy Texas accent. But her famous drawl became one of her greatest assets when Terrence Malick cast her in his 1973 crime drama Badlands.Spacek played Holly, a teenage girl from South Dakota who became an accomplice on a cross-country murder spree. The film, which also starred Martin Sheen, was narrated in Spacek’s distinctive Southern voice.How she got the role remains up for debate. Spacek says that Malick remembers auditioning one of Spacek’s friends, only to become charmed by Spacek herself after she interrupted their meeting. Spacek says she remembers the story a bit differently. “I just had a meeting and showed up at his house,” she tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “He would give me little pieces of paper that he would pull out of his pocket. And I would unroll them, and it would have a line of dialogue on [it], and he would ask me to read them. And when I did, he would just laugh. And that was always a good sign with Terry.” Spacek was cast in the movie immediately. She details what it was like to work with Malick — as well as other directors like Robert Altman, David Lynch and Brian De Palma — in her memoir, My Extraordinary Ordinary Life, which traces the four-decade career that has seen her star in such landmark films as Coal Miner’s Daughter and Carrie. MORE

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PREVIOUSLY: Terrence Malick averages about one film every seven years, but it’s always worth the wait — he is widely regarded as a director’s director and A-List actors wait in line to work with him. He has not made a film that critics don’t consider great. His new one, Tree Of Life is no exception. If you like that, you’ll like Badlands, Malik’s bleak, beautiful 1973 directorial debut, starring a young and very James Dean-esque Martin Sheen and the always-great Sissy Spacek as young lovers on a killing spree across the American prairie. Set in the Badlands of Montana, it’s a twisted American fairy-tale about growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, pointless rebellion, the fine line between infamy and celebrity, and the blood that stains the vast open spaces of the American West. Kit (Sheen) and Holly (Spacek), want to be Romeo and Juliet but the law and the land won’t let them — and so, there will be blood.

Badlands is based on events that took place between 1957 and ‘59, when 20 year-old Charles Starkweather and his 14 year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate [pictured, below left] went on the most notorious killing spree in American history since Bonnie and Clyde, starting with Fugate’s family. However, the the Starkweather-Fugate rampage was a lot less romantic and a lot more brutal than Malick’s script. Starkweather murdered Fugate’s mother as well as her stepfather and infant half-sister. When they finally were caught after killing eleven people in all, Starkweather blamed several of the murders on Fugate. The story of Starkweather and Fugate was the inspiration for Nebraska, arguably Bruce Springsteen’s best album. In 1994, Oliver Stone basically re-made Badlands as a post-Reagan pre-Millenial acid trip and called it Natural Born Killers. MORE

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