The ex-Harvard philosopher, and New Yorker hack began his film career working on scripts for films such as Dirty Harry but rapidly raised the finance to direct Badlands, a hauntingly beautiful but ultra-violent road movie (mercilessly ripped of by the recent and vastly inferior Natural Born Killers) that launched Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek (above) into superstardom. Malick followed up on the promise of that first film with Days of Heaven, another gorgeously photographed movie that used the expansive Texan countryside that Malick grew up in as a backdrop for its sombre story and notably showcased Sam Shepard in his first screen role.
Then, suddenly, the screen went dark on Malick's career. There were reports of a project about a prehistoric man, but nothing more was heard. A dirth of interviews and the director's insistence on privacy (Malick would ask that those who worked with him on scripts called him at payphones) started tongues wagging and soon the rumours were coming thick and fast - Malick was seeking spirituality in India; had become a hairdresser in Paris. The director became to the film world what Elvis was to The National Enquirer, and he wasn't even dead.
News that Malick is about to shoot a sequel to From Here to Eternity called The Thin Red Line, should, then, be taken with a large pinch of salt. But there's no doubting the excitement the idea has already stirred up in Hollywood. And who knows? Perhaps one of modern cinema's great myths is about to step onto the set and become a man once again?