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Next winter's ''The New World'' has us guessing

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Oh, that Colin Farrell, always the bad boy — be he carousing at the local pub, galloping through ancient Mesopotamia, or, as we find him in his next historical venture, sailing up the James River in 17th-century Virginia. Farrell plays John Smith, leader of the early colonists (including Christian Bale and Christopher Plummer) and would-be paramour to Pocahontas (14-year-old Peruvian Indian newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher). ”It is the birth of a nation, but also the loss of a culture,” he says of World. ”It follows the story of John Smith and Pocahontas very closely — but it is directed by Terrence Malick, and the way he wrote and shot it was quite abstract. I’ll be interested to see what happens.” He’s not kidding. While most agree that the Days of Heaven auteur is a genius, he’s even more of a mystery, making just three movies in three decades, the last being 1998’s The Thin Red Line. And after Malick rejiggered that film so extensively in postproduction that a lead character played by Adrien Brody was almost entirely excised from the final cut, nobody will be exhaling until opening day. ”There’s very few definites with Terry,” Farrell says, laughing. ”I don’t know if John Smith’s even going to be in the fookin’ movie! Who knows?!”

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