Terry Gilliam’s Ten Movies They Wouldn’t Let Me Make — Mar ’97
Illustrator/animator/director Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys) is profiled/interviewed in 1991 — from his early days with the Monty Python comedy troupe (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Monty Python & The Holy Grail) through and including his now legendary Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, Brazil and The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen.
Lost in La Mancha is a mesmerizing documentary about the unmaking of a movie—Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, starring Johnny Depp, which began filming in Spain in September 2000 and shut down several weeks later after a string of calamities. The moviemakers, Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, had previously shot a documentary on the making of Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys and the director gave them complete access to the Quixote production, which they joined in Madrid eight weeks before filming began and stayed with until the post mortem. Gilliam even had himself wired with a special microphone that would allow Fulton and Pepe access to his every moan and whoop. —Masterpiece Theater
Every movie has its own “making of” story, but, no matter how fascinating the account, it’s unusual for the unexpurgated truth to emerge into the public realm. 1995’s Twelve Monkeys is a rare exception. Director Terry Gilliam, intrigued by the concept of having a record of the creative process (and wanting “witnesses” in case the studio attempted to renege on a deal and wrest away control), hand-picked film makers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe to fashion a behind-the-scenes documentary. The result, The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, is a fascinating examination of what goes on when the cameras are turned off. And, while The Hamster Factor began as a look at the making of Twelve Monkeys, it quickly became a portrait of the creative genius behind the process: ex-Monty Python member and maverick film maker, Gilliam. —The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys
Rob Hedden’s 30-minute on-set documentary What is Brazil?, included on the DVD release for the film. The documentary, basically a television plug for the coming release of the film, combines clips from the film, on-set footage and interviews with the cast and crew to form a quick overview of ‘Brazil’ and to hopefully entice viewers enough for them to see it at the cinemas. Curiously, there is no mention whatsoever of Gilliam’s epic struggle with Universal chairman Sid Sheinberg to have his film released in its original form in American cinemas. One must presume that the documentary was completed before these events took place.
Audio commentaries you have to hear:
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989) CC LaserDisc commentary with director Terry Gilliam
- 12 Monkeys commentary with director Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven
- The Fisher King CC LaserDisc audio commentary, a wonderful and fascinating scene-by-scene commentary by director Terry Gilliam. There’s so many levels to a Gilliam picture and it’s fascinating to have him open the layers of creativity
Robert Redford and Paul Newman in a publicity shot promoting their episode of Iconoclasts in 2005.
I first met Paul Newman in 1968, when George Roy Hill, the director of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, introduced us in New York City. When the studio didn’t want me for the film — it wanted somebody as well known as Paul — he stood up for me. I don’t know how many people would have done that; they would have listened to their agents or the studio powers. —Robert Redford Remembers Paul Newman
This is essential viewing, Iconoclasts: Robert Redford on Paul Newman (2005):
Previously on Cinephilia and Beyond:
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) screenplay by William Goldman
- William Goldman talks about screenwriting and his own past
- William Goldman, Creative Screenwriting, VOLUME 8, #5
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Writer Commentary with William Goldman
For the avid Sellers fan, this is the jackpot—the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. The Peter Sellers Story UNCUT: As He Filmed It, a very rare 3 hour version (not 90min condensed rebroadcast version). Using a unique collection of his own home movies shot between 1948 and 1977 and discovered years after his death, this film presents an intriguing and intimate portrait of Peter Sellers. Told in his own words, and including many well-known personalities from Stanley Kubrick, Sophia Loren and Robert Wagner to members of the Royal Family, in particular Princess Margaret and Prince Charles, this revealing film builds a fascinating and definitive record of a unique genius.
With endless thanks to Peter Lydon
Edge of Outside (2006). An hour-long documentary designed to celebrate the spirit of the independent filmmaker from D.W. Griffith to Quentin Tarantino. Interview footage and film clips are blended together to form a chronological approach to the subject matter. Profiles of important figures within the independent film industry include John Cassavetes, Stanley Kubrick, John Sayles, Woody Allen, Roger Corman, Samuel Fuller, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, Arthur Penn, Spike Lee, Peter Bogdanovich, Sam Peckinpah, Nicholas Ray, and Henry Jaglom. The documentary compiles new and stock interviews with important filmmakers including Cassavetes, Corman, Bogdanovich, Fuller, Scorsese, Welles, Penn, Sayles, Ray, Peckinpah, Lee, and Jaglom. The program also covers important movements in the history of independent cinema such as the Italian neorealism and the French New Wave. The documentary makes it clear in the emphasis that an independent film is not simply a low-budget film, but instead, accurately defines the genre.
Remembering Ray Harryhausen, 1920 — 2013
Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK’s own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations.
“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS.”George Lucas
“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made — not by me at least.”
“In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation.”
“His legacy of course is in good hands. Because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans.”
“You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics “do it like Ray Harryhausen.”
“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”
“His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us.”
“Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.”
“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”
The Harryhausen Chronicles documentary, narrated by Leonard Nimoy, covers much of his work with some great close-ups of his puppets and lots of advice from the master himself. In the introduction Ray Harryhausen says: “Fantasy is a dream world and I don’t think you want it quite real. You want an interpretation and stop motion gives it an added value that you can’t catch if you try to make it too real.”
The Harryhausen Chronicles in six parts combined with a YouTube playlist.
Photographs from the 25th Anniversary Blue Velvet Exhibit held in the Dennis Hopper Building, 20 Princess Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, November 9th through the 13th 2011. All of the photos were taken on location during the production of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet in 1985 by Peter Braatz.
Mysteries of Love is a 2002 documentary about David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, directed by Jeffrey Schwarz. The documentary includes clips from the film, footage and photographs from behind the scenes, and interviews with Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and others.
The Complete Citizen Kane (1991, BBC). The most complete investigation in the origins and making of one of the most important films in cinema history. This excellent documentary was created as an Arena Special and includes interviews with Welles from BBC interviews in 1960 and 1982. It also includes an interview with Pauline Kael discussing her controversial “Raising Kane” article. The finest most insightful work ever done to date on Citizen Kane.
With thanks to Citizen Welles
All the essential documentaries on Orson Welles, including Orson Welles: The Paris Interview (1960), Filming ‘The Trial’ (1981), The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996), Shadowing the Third Man (2004), Orson Welles: The One-Man Band (1995), With Orson Welles: Stories from a Life in Film (1990), Filming ‘Othello’ (1978), F for Fake (1973), Orson Welles with French film school students, Orson Welles “Its All True” Citizen Kane and RKO, and seven-minute video of a very young-looking Welles (he was 23 at the time) addressing an onslaught of press members on October 31, 1938, the day after The War of the Worlds broadcast.
An one hour documentary about the problems in the making of Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986), Into the Valley of Death is an powerful, brutal and honest look on not only the film, based on a true story, but also the whole brutality that took place in El Salvador in the 1980’s with dictatorships financed by U.S. government.
Featuring interviews with Stone, James Woods, James Belushi, Richard Boyle (the journalist who lived the experiences that later became the movie, he’s portrayed by Woods on screen) and the U.S. Ambassador in El Salvador at the time Robert E. White, the documentary presents a small background of what was happening in the country; the difficult process of making the movie on location there and also in Mexico; the budget problems that made Oliver Stone refuse his payment in order to assure all the horses he needed for a battle scene, among other disasters and problems. What fascinates me the most here is how candid the interviewers are, specially the actors frankly speaking about the duel of egos they had with each other, and their dislike for the real figures they were portraying in the movie, of whom they met in a disastrous party.
But the best testimony comes from the ambassador, arguing about how different his persona was portrayed in the movie (Michael Murphy’s character) and is views on how bad the Washington bureaucrats acted in El Salvador, denying or overlooking the killings and abuses committed by officials and the government. Purely informative, with very good footage from the movie’s behind the scenes and also some disturbing images of the real deal in the Central America’s country, “Into the Valley of Death” will make you look at Stone’s film in a different way, more respectfully and more thoughtfully. You’ll really need to watch it again and examine that your perception on it will be changed. This is featured as bonus material of “Salvador” DVD.
On the Set of A Woman Under the Influence
John Cassavetes, America’s greatest independent filmmaker, died in 1989. The wonderfully titled I’M ALMOST NOT CRAZY… captured Cassavetes on the set of his last personal film, LOVE STREAMS (1984). “We’re making a picture about inner life,” we hear Cassavetes saying. “And nobody really believes that it can be put on a screen. Including me. I don’t believe it either—but screw it.” We then see the director in action on the last day of the LOVE STREAMS shoot, after which he tells us that his sole theme is the search for love. Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes’ wife and the leading lady of most of his films, testifies that her husband has an affinity for characters who are borderline crazy. “I hate entertainment,” he admits, maintaining that most movies are mere “fluff.” Later he observes that audiences tend to remember his films even when they hate them. I’M ALMOST NOT CRAZY… ends with a freeze frame of Cassavetes and Rowlands at work, their arms around each other’s shoulders.
“Backed by Cannon Films, which also made LOVE STREAMS,” Variety reported, this documentary “by no means stands as a promotional piece, emerging rather as an evocative glimpse of one of filmdom’s genuine mavericks.” Those who revere Cassavetes and his films will embrace I’M ALMOST NOT CRAZY… as a rare and invaluable chronicle of their hero doing and talking about what he loved best: filmmaking. Those who don’t should gain new respect for the man, his methods, his passion, and his absolute commitment to his own unique vision of the human comedy. —I’m Almost Not Crazy…: John Cassavetes: The Man And His Work
Great stories from Peter Falk, back in ‘93.
Charles Kiselyak’s A Constant Forge—The Life and Art of John Cassavetes is a detailed journey through the career of one of film’s greatest pioneers and iconoclasts. Assembled from candid interviews with Cassavetes’ collaborators and friends, rare photographs, archival footage, and the director’s own words, the film paints a revealing portrait of a man whose fierce love, courage, and dedication changed the face of cinema forever.
Rare footage, John Cassavetes directing. From the French TV series “Cinema Cinemas,” a 1983 feature on Cassavetes directing the movie Love Streams (1984), which Cassavetes both wrote and directed.
After the critical and commercial success of “The Deer Hunter,” Cimino embarked on an even more ambitious project. Based on a script he originally submitted for production in 1971, “Heaven’s Gate” dramatizes the Johnson County War of 1892, a bloody battle that the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) waged on local immigrant settlers (in fact, the original title of the film was “The Johnson County War”). After placing a bounty on several settlers, the WSGA hired killers to decimate the settlers, claiming that the offending immigrants were “anarchists” and cattle thieves. Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken, the latter of whom previously worked with Cimino on “The Deer Hunter,” co-star in the film with Isabelle Huppert, Brad Dourif, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Jeff Bridges, and Mickey Rourke in support. Unfortunately, the legacy of Cimino’s film – and his Malick-ian tendencies and whims – has mostly been similarly one-sided. Its production famously went over budget (it cost $44 million, which wasn’t chump change in 1979, and is almost $140 million when adjusted for inflation), and behind schedule (so much so that the movie exceeded its original $7.5 million budget by 400%). —Lookin Back At Heaven’s Gate
Just two years after Michael Cimino’s 1978 Vietnam epic, The Deer Hunter, took five Oscars, Hollywood’s newestwonder boy/auteur made one of its biggest flops ever, the $44 million Heaven’s Gate. The fallout turned him into a pariah, and then into the Howard Hughes of directors, living in virtual seclusion and refusing to be photographed, which sparked endless rumors. Now, posing for his first portrait in 20 years, Cimino gives the author the lowdown on his radically altered appearance, his first novel, and his latest screenplay—as well as an unprecedented glimpse into his decidedly eccentric mind. —Michael Cimino’s Final Cut
Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate tells an intriguing story, with on-camera input from many of the people involved, but not Mr. Cimino, and apt comparisons with other notorious film disasters. But Michael Epstein, the writer and director, wants to have it both ways. He spends much of his time making the case that Mr. Cimino was out of control, causing the movie’s problems, then pronounces the result “a beautiful, ambitious film waiting to be discovered.” Kris Kristofferson, the film’s star, expresses the opinion that “Heaven’s Gate” was “used by powers that be to stop a way of filmmaking, where the author was the director and was in control of the money.”
“Final Cut” is based partly on the 1985 book of the same name (with a different subtitle) by Steven Bach, a United Artists production executive when the film was made. He recalls, on camera, seeing Mr. Cimino’s first cut of the film. It ran 5 hours and 25 minutes. The film’s talking heads are entertainingly philosophical, like the costumer who says, “We thought we were making the next `Gone With the Wind.’ ” It’s also interesting to know that Jeff Bridges, who played John H. Bridges, kept the whorehouse set as a country home. —Behind the Scenes of a Colossal Flop
Here is a link to the complete playlist on YouTube: Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate
This documentary (made in 2004, 24 years after the movie’s original release), Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate (and based on an even better book) will prove an absolute delight for screenwriters who are curious about the script into production phase – and are even more concerned with how bizarrely the Hollywood system works. This documentary is candid and revealing in every sense. You won’t believe how out of control things get. At the end of the day, though, it all goes back to the script, doesn’t it? Had this movie had a crazy production and not emerged a relative bore (or a “cinematic waste,” as Roger Ebert put it), the production story would’ve been painted far differently, I’m sure: Cimino as a crazed genius struggling against movie executives who didn’t understand his wondrous vision. Sadly, this one didn’t turn out like Apocalypse Now. I advise you track down the script and then watch this: the insights are spectacular. —10 Essential Documentaries That Every Aspiring Screenwriter Needs To See
Previously on Cinephilia and Beyond:
The Deer Hunter — Michael Cimino commentary track
An amazing dissertation on one of the most important genres of American film, written by the legendary screenwriter of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” Not for everybody, but worth it for those willing to take the time to read it in full.
The Rules of Film Noir (2009) is a must see programme for all film noir connoisseurs:
The Film Noir – Filmex - 1971
by Paul Schrader
The Hidden Angels of Luchino Visconti. This is the title. It tells of the man, the great man and director that he was, through the eyes of his closest collaborators, through never-before-seen images of Mario Tursi’s personal photographic archives. He was the photographer who followed Visconti his entire life. In this documentary Visconti’s camera operators who have given back to us the vision of his genius and contributed to his greatness: in silence, without fanaticism or exaltation, and for this reason they are his “Hidden Angels”. There are many ways of framing a landscape, a face, as there are many ways to tell the story of a man, his life, his passions, his character, his movements, sending a message to the world.
A vintage short, Visconti’s Venice, filmed during the movie’s final street stalking sequence, assembles generous behind-the-scenes footage with English interviews from star Bogarde, and director Visconti. Billed by the narrator as the centre of Italy’s ‘film triumvirate’ (flanked by Frederico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni), Visconti’s characterized as an exacting director with “uncompromising demands,” and Death In Venice certainly contains an obsessive amount of nuances and lengthy, artfully composed takes.
Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice
by Alexander Hutchison
Literature/Film Quarterly, 1974
This is essential viewing: From Russia to Hollywood: The 100-Year Odyssey of Chekhov and Shdanoff (2002). From Czarist Russia’s Moscow Art Theatre to Hollywood’s biggest film, narrator Gregory Peck joins an A-list of Hollywood stars to take us through the odyssey of two Russian born Hollywood legends: The great acting teacher Michael Chekhov and the amazing director George Shdanoff. With actors Anthony Quinn, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Jack Palance, Patricia Neal, Mala Powers and many more — we follow the lives of those who made Hollywood what it is today.
Michael Chekhov and George Shdanoff were Russian expatriates who came to Hollywood and became two of the best known and most influential acting coaches in the film industry; Chekhov was nominated for an Academy Award for his work in Spellbound, and as a teacher he and his associate Shdanoff helped guide the careers of Leslie Caron, Patricia Neal, Gregory Peck, Rex Harrison, Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood. From Russia to Hollywood provides a glimpse into their lives and careers as Chekhov flees Russia for Germany after the Communist government expresses its displeasure with his productions for the Moscow Art Theater (Stanislavsky considered Chekhov a genius, but the government considered him ideologically unsound). When the Nazis began to rise to power, Chekhov relocated to the United States, where he taught acting when not busy with his own career on the stage and screen. Here, several of Chekhov and Shdanoff’s better known students discuss their work and how their teachings effected a generation of Hollywood actors. —Mark Deming
This is a gem: Michael Chekhov: THE MASTER CLASSES (complete 1955 recordings)
The great Russian actor, director and teacher Michael Chekhov (1891-1955), nephew of the famous playwright Anton Chekhov gives his final testament on theatre and the art of acting personally from his lecture hall in Hollywood, California from the last year of his life. He was Konstantin Stanislavsky’s (1863-1938) greatest disciple (from 1912 to 1918) and went on to further and surpass his master’s techniques and ideas. He incorporated world philosophy and spiritual ideas (called Anthroposophy) into his art which he stumbled upon in 1918 from the famous German philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whom he met for the first time a few years later, in 1922. This is as close as one can get to personally knowing Rudolf Steiner himself through one of his greatest pupils.
Chekhov quietly continued his Anthroposophical theatre work up until his death on Sept. 30, 1955. Some of Chekhov’s many students include: Anthony Quinn, Gregory Peck, Jack Nicholson, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Palance, Anthony Hopkins, Elia Kazan, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper and Yul Brynner. Chekhov’s colleagues, friends, and associates include: Sergei Rachmaninov, Max Reinhardt, Stella Adler, Edouard Schuré, Alfred Hitchcock and Marie von Sivers (Marie Steiner). This 5 hour collection of lectures is divided into four parts:
- Multi-Layered Acting — Avoiding Monotony (starts @ 1:15:05)
- Awakening Artistic Feelings — Love (starts @ 2:32:37)
- Guiding Principles — Overcoming Inhibitions (starts @ 3:49:47)
The extensive sub-listings for each category are too numerous to list, so I will leave them for you to be surprised by, and yours to discover!
On the set of The Last Movie directed by Dennis Hopper
The American Dreamer (1971), a documentary portrait of Dennis Hopper is one of the great lost films of the early seventies. Made in 1971, as Hopper was basking in the glory of his Cannes winning film Easy Rider, and before the release of his second film The Last Movie (which would turn out to be a colossal bomb), The American Dreamer was filmed mostly around Hopper’s ranch in New Mexico and finds the bearded director (who could have strayed from the cover of The Band’s second album) baring his soul (and his ass) for the camera. Hopper’s musings on art, filmmaking, photography, sex and politics are wonderfully pretentious, including an incredible sequence where Hopper, with the need to feel “self conscious” strips off his clothes and walks down a sleepy LA suburban neighbourhood, balls naked. In between bouts of Hopper firing off various hand guns and rifles, and indulging in some softcore grappling with 2 girls in a bathtub, we see a pensive Hopper overseeing the endless editing on The Last Movie, while trying to stave off Universal who are anxious to see what Hopper did in Peru with all their money.
The American Dreamer remains commercially unavailable today; apparently the film has been kept out of circulation by Hopper himself, which is not surprising as the film is hardly a flattering portrait. In one unnerving sequence, he indulges in, some rather Manson-like group sex with a bunch of groupies, (which he calls a “sensitivity encounter”), and at one point, Hopper mentions that he has visited Manson in prison. In a cringe worthy sequence, Hopper declares he is a male lesbian — I’d rather give head to a woman than fuck them… Basically, I think like a lesbian. The American Dreamer was co-written and directed by L.M. Kit Carson who would go on to write Paris Texas and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Part 2. The soundtrack is composed of awful folk songs, written for the film — at one point the track The Screaming Metaphysical Blues goes — Here’s to Mr. Hopper who traded in his chopper (?) with the two best songs, Outlaw Song and the title track are by The Byrd’s Gene Clark. The film may not be officially available but can be found through the usual channels, and for Dennis Hopper fans and students of American independent Cinema, it is required viewing. —Plutonium Shores
Previously on Cinephilia and Beyond:
Easy Rider LaserDisc Commentary with writer/director/actor Dennis Hopper
This binder contains countless production used storyboard copies of the complex Special Visual Effects shot for James Cameron’s undersea science fiction epic The Abyss. Also included is a Film Crew contact list, a two page prop inventory, and two humorous documents, one a memo written in the voice of a southern person from Gaffney, South Carolina where The Abyss was filmed and a cartoon of an Alien NTI mocking the I Want My MTV with “I Want my NTI” instead. The binder is dated 9/26/88 and is an interesting look into the production of the film.
This is one of the best motion picture documentaries I have ever watched. It is right up there with Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, the documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now. James Cameron opens the documentary by talking about something he feels is cold, dark and made up of unrelenting pressure: the movie business. The documentary really gives the viewer a good idea of how The Abyss was a challenge on many different levels. Not just on a technical level. The documentary also shows how it was a challenge, both emotionally and physically, for all the cast and crew involved in the project. It would soon be considered by many to be one of the toughest shoots in film history.
It was interesting to learn about the innovative underwater equipment developed just for the film, plus seeing how some of the best underwater photography for a motion picture to date was accomplished. James Cameron has a reputation of being difficult to work with and this film shows why this may be the case. It is up to the viewer to decide whether or not this is true once the viewing experience is complete. If you have not seen the film you will have a great appreciation for what went into the making of this underwater epic. If you have seen The Abyss, you will enjoy the movie even more than you did before.