Terrence Malick? At a premiere party?

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Hey, was that notoriously press-phobic director Terrence Malick in the Regent Beverly Wilshire ballroom at Thursday's lavish after-bash for the premiere of his film, "The New World"?

Sure was. And no one was more shocked than some of the New Line studio folks. "He wasn't going to do anything but Berlin," marveled one staffer.

"Are you sure that's him?" asked another partygoer, unable to recognize the infamously anti-social auteur in a suit and minus his ubiquitous felt hat.

Her companion replied, "Yeah, that's him. The bald guy." Which explains the headgear habit, akin to other follicle-challenged directors Ron Howard and Brian de Palma. No photos of Malick are posted on Wire Image or Getty Images, but there are a few shots of his pretty blonde wife, Alexandra.

Besides the stunned awe surrounding Malick's spectral appearance, the brunt of the ballroom banter was about Narnia's talking beavers trouncing the Big Ape's "soft" box office opening. One sharp-suited gal argued that good word-of-mouth will undoubtedly boost Universal's "King Kong," Peter Jackson's follow-up to his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy partnership with New Line.

"A movie that costs $200 million to make shouldn't have to rely on word-of-mouth," replied a naysayer. True. But tell that to James Cameron (if you can find his submarine), whose expensive "Titanic" took two weeks to hit the $100 million mark but went on to win 11 Oscars and take in over $600 million.

Photo: "The New World" stars Q'orianka Kilcher and Christian Bale, who skipped the red carpet, settle for a quick catch-up chat at the film's after-party.
(Eric Charbonneau / WireImage)

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