The elusive Terrence Malick makes a surprise appearance at SXSW with Richard Linklater and Michael Fassbender


Terrence Malick behind the camera for 1973’s "Badlands." (Warner Bros.)

After skipping the opening night premiere of his latest film "Song to Song," an experimental love-triangle melodrama set against the backdrop of the Austin, Texas, music scene, notoriously reclusive filmmaker Terrence Malick made a rare public appearance Saturday morning to discuss the film with star Michael Fassbender and fellow filmmaker Richard Linklater.

The trio dove into Malick’s intensely immersive and improvisational filmmaking methods, in which no time is wasted and no opportunity for filming is missed. With the exception of a 30-minute break for lunch, Malick’s crew is constantly shooting, or recording the many voice-overs that float over scenes in the final film, shot in and around Austin.

“I don’t think we could have survived any more," said Fassbender. "Once we started going there was no stopping."

Michael Fassbender at the SXSW panel Made in Austin: A Look Into "Song To Song," where director Terrence Malick made a surprise visit.

Malick, who lives in Austin, was not expected to appear at SXSW — or anywhere, really, given his reputation for staying out of the limelight. Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, and Berenice Marlohe flew into town for Friday’s opening night world premiere of the film at the festival’s opening night where Malick was a no-show.

Then — surprise! — there Malick was, in the flesh at SXSW, seated next to Fassbender early Saturday morning.

As divisive reviews continued to roll in from critics who loved and hated the tres Malickian drama, the soft-spoken filmmaker, 73, revealed that his initial "Song to Song" cut ran a whopping eight hours.

The final film, which Broad Green Pictures is set to release March 17, runs a languid 120 minutes — and that’s without scenes featuring Christian Bale, Benicio Del Toro and Haley Bennett, who were all apparently left on the cutting room floor.

The elusive Terrence Malick is seen at the 2012 Fun Fun Fun Fest with actress Rooney Mara filming one of many scenes at Austin music events for the movie that eventually would become "Song to Song."