years ago, Brad Pitt dropped out of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, which prominently featured the mythic tree of life. Now, he’s dropped out of Kevin MacDonald’s State of Play to (maybe) star in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. I’m sure Aronofsky’s made his peace with Pitt’s abrupt departure (which almost killed his passion project for good); if not, he’s probably reliving a good deal of rage right about now.

Pitt, on the other hand, just traded up in a big, big way. While Kevin MacDonald’s stock is on the rise based on The Last King of Scotland (which looked great even if the screenplay was completely mechanical), he’s not exactly Terry Malick, is he? Interestingly, Pitt would be replacing Heath Ledger on the Malick picture*, who was initially set to co-star with Sean Penn. According to Variety‘s Michael Fleming, Penn will likely stick with Tree of Life, though he’ll first have to finish up work on Gus Van Sant’s Milk. This means Malick probably won’t get started with principal photography until the spring (which I’m sure he’s taken into account, as seasons mean everything to the feel of a Malick film).

Meanwhile, MacDonald is coping with the loss of another A-list star from State of Play, but it sounds like Ben Affleck is pretty much a done deal to replace Ed Norton. State of Play should’ve been filming already; hopefully, this additional delay doesn’t chase off its impressive supporting cast (Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman).

*About which little is known, though it’s speculated that it concerns the evolution of man.