Threads of History (continued)
For Kilcher, her character's wardrobe proved to be a great help in getting touch with the character.
"My costumes were so authentic, which helped to make me feel more like the character," Kilcher says. "There was a total contrast between what Pocahontas wears in Werowocomoco and then later in the film, with corsets, long dresses and high heels."
John Smith and Pocahontas were far from the only characters whose costumes received elaborate touches. For the "consummate king" Powhatan, West made an opulent mantle which consisted of four deerskins and 30,000 hand-sewn beads depicting the king's 34 realms. The piece was re-created mathematically from the original, which is currently on display in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England. Meanwhile Christian Bale's John Rolfe was dressed in tweed suits of the period that were befitting a Middle Class Englishman, a cut above the first wave of colonists.
Just as it was important for West to use authentic materials for the English and Native American costumes, she also sought absolute realism in the armor that was required.
"Armor didn't change much from Elizabethan times until the English Civil Wars in the 1620s, but there's not a lot of really lovely armor that exists that's really authentic," says West. "The period-correct armor was either fabricated by us or was discovered in Italy. I loved Terry's image of the English coming up from the shore in ungainly, clanking armor into this virgin, pastoral, pristine, utopian landscape and its barely adorned people. The visual analogy is amazing."
In addition to the costumes, a particularly crucial aspect of The New World's characters were the hair and makeup designs which called for a variety of looks ranging from colonists in various stages of health to Natives who were walking works of art with elaborate body paint, tattoos and unusual hairstyles. Responsible for such meticulous work was makeup designer Paul Engelen and his staff, particularly department head makeup John Bayless and key makeup artist David Atherton, as well as hair designer Joani Yarbrough and key hair artist Phillip "Mr. P." Ivey. Atherton and Yarbrough had long experience working on Native American film projects, including Dances With Wolves, but The New World would push them to the limits of their creativity.
The elaborate designs came about after much trial and error. "We had about four weeks of solid experimentation," notes Engelen, "developing different techniques, textures and ingredients for the paint."
Adds John Bayless, "Terry loves texture, and not necessarily anything that looks freshly painted. In The New World, you see a look that has probably not been seen on screen before. We want a look of worn paint that isn't touched up all of the time so as to look pristine. If we're shooting in the rain, we want it to look as though the paint had to deal with the rain, so we'll leave it alone and give it a more natural look.
"Terry wanted us to stay with organic colors, trying to stay away from bright reds, or colors that you can't find in the nature that surrounded the Natives," says Bayless. "We've actually added clays, sand and mud to get more texture than what you're normally accustomed to seeing, with the idea that the paint comes from the ground, from the leaves and flowers, very organic in terms of application--by hand or by stick, and not by brushes."
It got to a point where the Native cast, Core and Zone One warriors began to apply their paint themselves each morning. "They got their hands in there and started developing their own designs, as part of their overall spiritual preparation," notes Bayless.
Extraordinarily, several warriors said that they discovered their particular patterns while dreaming.
"On this movie, one of our primary costumes is our makeup," says actor Michael Greyeyes. "And every time my character appears in the film, he has a different look. I thought it was a brave move, because it shows a community that was dynamic and not set in stone.
Sound and Post Production
"What would a Carolina Parakeet sound like?" This was a difficult question because the species has been extinct since the 1920's. However, in 1607 Virginia, the parrot would have been one of the more colorful and noisy inhabitants of Pocahontas' world, and it was important to Malick that the sounds of The New World be as historically accurate as the costumes and sets.
To this purpose, the production contacted the Macaulay Library at Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology which houses the largest collection of animal sounds in the world, with more than 160,000 recordings including 67% of the world's birds. Curator of Audio Greg Bundy took on the challenge of finding a Carolina Parakeet stand-in. Although no recordings of the parrot exist, based on body size and beak shape, Greg determined that the song of the Aratinga mitrata or Mitred Parakeet would be a good approximation.
According to The New World's Supervising Sound Editor and Re-recording Mixer Skip Lievsay, "…sound can be used as a texture, a profound element the way music is used. (Malick was) very interested in exploring this as a concept… and gave an unusually high weight to the impact of the sound textures, most of which are real recordings from Jamestown Island itself. The balances he's asked us to deliver are very exotic, almost surrealistic."
Editor Hank Corwin comments that Malick is "…like a painter. There are no conventions. He reacts to the immediate circumstances of the film and the sound, he's very pure. He went to the AFI and he's classically trained , but he is able to question the very basic premises of editing, even the juxtaposition of two shots. He tries so hard to go for the truth."
The Natives of The New World
The remarkable diversity of The New World features an incredibly diverse cast includes and the casting of the Virginia Natives appearing in the film in the film was no exception. Actors flocked to the production from all over the United States with representatives of the Kiowa, Seminole, Lakota, Pawnee and, from Virginia itself--the direct descendant ancestors of the Powhatan empire--Chickahominy, Pamunkey, Rappahannock, and Upper Mattaponi tribes taking on roles in the film.
Making an extraordinary contribution to The New World were the 17 young men who comprised the Core Warriors, who would be trained in the various skills necessary to portray Algonquian Indians of the time. This multi-talented group hails from all over the United States, with many tribal affiliations Hailing from all over North America, with many different tribal affiliations, this multi-talented group, who would demonstrate their skills at dance, combat and song with amazing talents for dance, movement, musicianship, song and incredible physical dexterity.
"They became a tribe of their own for this movie, and it was a very profound thing to watch," notes Sarah Green. "On a daily basis they blessed each other, cleansed each other with sage, cleansed and asked for protection for us. They created a spirit around the movie that I believe everyone felt."
Actor/choreography Raoul Trujillo adds, "I was given a chance to choose about 10 of the Core, so I was able to select a group who were all dancers. We have breakdancers, powwow dancers, all kinds, all athletic. I knew them enough to know that bringing them together was going to insure that we had this innate sense of spiritual power in the group. We all took on the task of representing the Powhatan people with a sense of commitment and responsibility."
The Core also represented a cross-section of Native America. Their group leader was Larry Poirier, a highly experienced actor and filmmaker of Lakota heritage from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, a man of deep, quiet convictions with a strong sense of responsibility to the past…and to the future. The 17 members of the Core underwent an intensive two-week "boot camp" training before the start of filming, which saw them working on song, dance and movement with Trujillo, bow and arrow, spear and gunfire instruction with armorer Vern Crofoot and fight work with stunt coordinator Andy Cheng. Also participating in this training camp were many primary Native female extras, who learned such traditions as pottery, fish netting, weaving, hides, cooking and sign language from animateur Buck Woodard and adviser Frederic Gleach (the extras portraying the Core Colonists also shared some of this training, working in swordmanship, shallop rowing and the like). Also participating side-by-side with the Core Warriors during much of the preparatory training was Q'orianka Kilcher, who was treated like a little sister.
"The Core was an amazing, amazing group of people," she later recalled. "Although I'm of South American Indian rather than North American heritage, we all share cultures and problems throughout history, and I was totally accepted by them."
The commitment to historical accuracy in the film even extended into the challenging area of language. The production team hired Blair Rudes, an Algonquin language expert who was charged with teaching this language to all of the actors portraying Virginia Natives as well as translating large chunks of dialogue from Malick's script from English to Algonquian. As a result, this tongue--which has been virtually extinct since 1780--will be heard again in the film as a spoken language.
In an effort to establish early on that The New World would be dedicated to a more accurate depiction of Native culture than what is often showcased in "Hollywood" films, the filmmakers invited Chief Stephen Adkins of the Chickahominy Tribe to bless the production before they started shooting. It was the beginning of what blossomed into an excellent relationship between the filmmakers and tribal leaders.
"Early on, we invited the chiefs, the assistant chiefs and the representatives of the Virginia tribes to come and see what we were doing, and participate as much as they liked," Green recalls. "They were, understandably, suspicious. At our first meeting, Chief Adkins gave me a strong and honest talking to about what this meant to them and how they'd been portrayed in the past. Over time, he became a friend, someone we could call on to answer sensitive questions about ritual and what was appropriate to show. Ultimately, he trusted us enough to appear on screen in a scene with Pocahontas."
The production's Native American actors were also impressed with the production's dedication to accuracy.
"I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, and there were a lot of so-called Native films coming up," recalls August Schellenberg, who plays Powhatan in the film. "Some of the scripts were just horrible, and I'd say 'I'm not interested in doing this. It has nothing to do with Native American people.' You know, those days of, bless him, Jay Silverheels and 'You betchum, Red Ryder' are gone. If something is detrimental to Native people, I will not have anything to do with it whatsoever."
Wes Studi echoed Schellenberg's beliefs.
"I'm sure that audiences will walk away from the film with a better understanding of the enormous birthing pains that came about in the creation of a nation that we now have," says Studi. "It's not always pretty, but sometimes the coming together of two cultures can become a wonderful thing. I think that many of the points brought out in the script will lend itself toward creating a better harmony in the world that we live in today."
At the very least, many in the Native community are hopeful that The New World will help alleviate some of the misunderstandings about their culture.
"I think it's time that the world knows who we are and I'm hoping that The New World helps to tell that story," says Chief Adkins. "It remains to be seen, but I'm confident with the exchanges that I've had with the folks who put this film together that a lot of the myths surrounding the existence of Indians in Virginia will be dispelled. At our initial meeting with the producers, we asked them some rather pointed questions, and they didn't sidestep the issues. I have high hopes that this movie, although historical fiction, will be representative of a way of life that my forebears knew and enjoyed. I hope that it will telegraph to the world some of the injustices that my people faced, and will further let the world know that we still exist today…that we overcame the adversities…that we became stronger, that we are still married to our culture, to our heritage, and that will continue to the end of time."
A Vision Comes To Life
In the end, The New World represents the telling of a classic story through the eyes of one of this generation's greatest most distinctive and original unique filmmakers. And as far as the people in the production are concerned, that story could not have been in any better hands.
"Terry is rather like a professor someone from a distant university world who's stumbled into the world of show business, and refuses to be seduced by it in any way, doing it his way and only his way," says Plummer. "He's the master of his dream, his vision, of which we are all the offspring."
Producer Sarah Green also summed up the experience of working with Malick on the film.
"Terry Malick is the most extraordinary director I know," says Green. "He's all heart, and all and instinct, and works in a way that is so organic and beautiful. His work speaks to the heart of humanity, and gets under your skin. He's a mystery, a magician and an alchemist. What we accomplished on a Terrence Malick this film shouldn't have been possible to accomplish., and we all do it because we believe in him and in the spirit of the moment. I think he has a trust and a faith in people which comes through in the way he writes and the way he works with them.
"As with all of Terry's films, there will be many ways of interpreting The New World," concludes Green. "I don't think that the title only refers to what the English colonists called America when they 'discovered' it. I think what Terry might be saying is that the true America has still not been found. But the dream and potential still exists, and there is always time for a new beginning. The new world still awaits us. We were working with the idea that, however far America may have wandered from its true purpose and first promise, that the true America still waits to be discovered - still awaits us."
Rolfe's last voiceover is the only quote known to have come directly from Pocahontas: "She gently reminded me that all must die. 'Tis enough, she said, that you, our child, should live."
Rolfe, fearing his son would not be able to survive the arduous voyage back to America, left him in England and made the crossing alone. He died in the wars that Powhatan's brother, Opechancanough, played by Wes Studi, unleashed against the English. They never saw each other again.
According to David Price in "Love and Hate in Jamestown", "It would be another five years before they would learn the extent of their naiveté (as regards Opechancanough), but they would learn… On Friday, March 22, 1622,… ,… the colonists and the native interacted in their everyday manner until the native abruptly began their assault….At the morning's end, at least 347 English were dead, and possibly as many as 400. The colony's population beforehand had been roughly 1,240, so the mortality amounted to somewhere between a quarter and a third of the colonists…. 'Beside them they killed, they burst the heart of all the rest.' (wrote William Capps in a letter to a friend.)"
Smith never married, and never left England, though he had plans to return to New England. He spent eleven years after his return