WHEN Terry Gilliam is directing anything can happen – in front of or behind the camera. Creative is one word to describe the former Monty Python member. Unfortunate is another.
Gilliam has brought us some of the most extraordinarily visionary pieces of cinema in the last 35 years, but has often been plagued by setbacks. Some humorous. Others tragic.
Gilliam started off being ‘the Yank’ behind those now iconic Python cartoons, like the big foot that comes down and squashes anything in its path, and is credited with directing the greatest comedy of all-time (my opinion), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1979), and partly directing Life of Brian (1979). And who can forget Time Bandits (1981)?
Things started going a little pear-shaped in the mid’80s. While filming Brazil (1985) Gilliam temporarily lost the use of his legs because of stress. With his next film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) costing $46million to make and only earning $8million worldwide at the box office would not have helped his state of mind.
He managed to churn out The Fisher King (1991), the brilliant 12 Monkeys (1995) and the trippy Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) without too much trouble but disaster struck with The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. While the film was in the early stages of being made in 1999, the set was destroyed by flood and actor Jean Rochefort, who was playing the title character, suffered a herniated disc. Production cancelled.
After the under performing The Brothers Grimm (2005), Gilliam’s next project would suffer the worst fate of all when sadly star Heath Ledger died in the middle of filming.
There is no doubt that fact alone will make The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) a must watch.
Terry Gilliam with Verne Troyer
After a brief suspension of production, Gilliam carried on and completed the movie, casting not one but three actors to take over from Ledger in playing a character named Tony. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell are all portraying transformations of Tony as he travels through a dream world.
That said, it’s certainly looks and sounds like one of those totally wacky and wonderful fantasy movies we’ve all become accustomed to from Gilliam. Well, the ones that have been completed anyway.
The film centres around a 1000-year-old immortal named Doctor Parnassus (played by veteran Christopher Plummer) who leads a travelling theatre troupe that offers audience members a chance to go beyond reality through a magical mirror in his possession.
Parnassus had been able to guide the imagination of others through a deal with the Devil (Tom Waits), who now comes to collect on the arrangement, targeting the doctor’s daughter (Lily Cole).
The troupe, which includes a sleight-of-hand expert, Anton (Andrew Garfield), and a dwarf, Percy (Verne Troyer) and joined by the mysterious outsider Tony, embarks through parallel worlds to rescue the girl.
The whole thing, particularly the storyline, Waits as the Devil and of course having Farrell, Law, Depp and Ledger all play the same character in one movie, sounds fascinating, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it.
The word is Depp, Farrell, and Law opted to redirect their wages for the role to Ledger’s young daughter, Matilda, who had been left out of an old version of Ledger’s will, while Gilliam altered the part of the credits saying “A Terry Gilliam film” to “A film from Heath Ledger and friends.”
The movie is out late October.
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