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
Terry Gilliam’s first published work.
Thanks to Richard Kolkman, who kindly gave us these original copies of the “Courier” newspaper from dad’s high school, Birmingham High School in California, and Denis Kitchen, who made the connection and organised the delivery, we now have prints of dad’s earliest published works (from 1956 & 1957) & I’ve found the original sketch of “The Beast of Birmingham”… Enjoy!
“Discovering Dad” aka delving into Terry Gilliam’s personal archive; a blog dedicated to showing of Terry Gilliam’s personal stash of movie memorabilia and production work, in the words of the blogger (and Terry’s daughter):
In October 2011 I took on the mammoth task of organizing my father’s archive - all his work from pre-Python days, as a cartoonist, photojournalist & assistant editor for Help! magazine, through all his original artwork and cut-outs for Python animation, posters, logos and generally everything Python, to his storyboards, designs and sketches for his feature films and other non-film related projects (including his opera of “Faust” and that infamous Nike commercial). Why!? Because I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by my father’s amazing work all my life and I think it should be seen by everyone so I am organizing the archive so it can eventually be put in a book and an exhibition. Along the (dusty) way I have uncovered absolute gems. I have set up this blog to share my journey and some of the “gems” I find along the way… Enjoy.
“HOLLYWOOD’S BEST FILM DIRECTORS” is a half hour show that offers a distinctive peek inside the creative minds of Hollywood’s best directors. A personal and insightful look into the lives, influences and original style of today’s top film directors. A fascinating profile that explores each directors unique process for creating some of the most memorable and enduring movies of our times.
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Michael Mann
- Milos Forman
- Ron Howard
- William Friedkin
- Curtis Hanson
- Michel Gondry
- Atom Egoyan
- Terry Gilliam
- Bryan Singer
- James Mangold
- George Lucas
- James L. Brooks
Please enjoy some of our programs in this screening section. These are no trailers, what you can watch are the full length shows.
This commentary track is only available on the Criterion Collection LaserDisc of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. A different commentary track is available on the 20th Anniversary Edition Baron Munchausen DVD. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
The film is one of the most famous fiascos in film history. Coming in over budget (originally $23.5 million, but finishing at $46.63 million, it put a black mark on Gilliam’s career from the studio’s point of view. However, the film has gained cult favorite status over time, and Gilliam’s career did not suffer substantially. (It should be noted that in the United States, the film was not widely released due to financial issues at Columbia Pictures, which was in the process of being sold at the time. It was reported to have done well with audiences in the places where it could actually be seen. Box office revenue was approximately $8 Million.
Gilliam was left somewhat embittered by the experience and in interviews has often used Munchausen as a shorthand for a fiasco. Among Gilliam’s films released on DVD, Munchausen is the only one without a director’s commentary track (he did, however, record a commentary track for a laserdisc, which, as of June 2007, has not been re-released on DVD. However, in a commentary track on the DVD edition of Tideland, Gilliam now says that Munchausen is one of the films that his fans most often cite as a favorite (along with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). Gilliam noted the irony of the situation, adding that an artist can never really tell what work they produce will actually endure.
Baron Munchausen, on-set photography by Peter Marlow.
With thanks to Kinoimages.com
Terry Gilliam’s Award Winning 20 Minute Short Film The Wholly Family.
The last we heard about Terry Gilliam’s 20 minute short film “The Wholly Family” was well over a year ago, when it took home Best Short Film at the European Film Awards. Not bad at all for a movie that got its start as project sponsored by pasta company Garofalo as part of an annual series of films about Naples. Well, Gilliam took took that basic premise, ran with it and now, you can finally watch it.
After doing a brief festival circuit run (mostly in Europe), and being available to stream (again, mostly in Europe) those of us stateside can finally sit down with the movie as it has wormed its way online. Penned by Gilliam, the film stars Cristiana Capotondi, Douglas Dean, Nicolas Connolly and Sergio Solli in a typically fantastical story where a visit to a market winds up leading a kid into the kind of dream world that the director has practically trademarked at this point.
Here’s the official synopsis, followed by the film:
A crowded street in Naples city center, plenty of shops selling presepi. A wealthy American couple and Jake, their 10 years-old child, try to push their way through the crowd. While husband and wife argue which street to take, the boy is unwillingly separated from them. —Kevin Jagernauth
“An inspired bit of Christmas fun from Terry Gilliam. This originally aired in 1968 on the British TV show for kids, Do Not Adjust Your Set.”
Gilliam was asked to prepare something for a special show to be broadcast on Christmas day, 1968, called Do Not Adjust Your Stocking. Looking for inspiration, he decided to visit the Tate Gallery. In The Pythons: Autobiography by the Pythons, Gilliam remembered the project and how it figured into his emerging artistic style:
“I went down to the Tate and they’ve got a huge collection of Victorian Christmas cards so I went through the collection and photocopied things and started moving them around. So the style just developed out of that rather than any planning being involved. I never analysed the stuff, I just did it the quickest, easiest way. And I could use images I really loved.”
Ho, ho, ho.
Behind the Scenes of Brazil
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.
So… what is ‘Brazil?’ Unfortunately, none of the cast and crew members seem to have any idea about this, either. Co-writer Tom Stoppard admits that he “doesn’t even know why it’s called ‘Brazil.’” Rather than trying to explain the symbolic meanings behind the events of the film – which would be impossible to an audience that is yet to actually see it – this documentary serves to pique the viewer’s curiosity, to persuade them to find out for themselves what ‘Brazil’ is.
The on-set interviews with the cast and crew members are interesting enough. Terry Gilliam sits himself down on a step to share a few moments with the camera crew, tracing through such production problems as the complex visual effects, the casting decisions and the difference of work habits between himself and co-writer Tom Stoppard. Stoppard and Charles McKeown, the other co-writer, also appear in the film. Special effects supervisor George Gibbs, model effects supervisor Richard Conway, prosthetic make-up artist Aaron Sherman and model photographer Tim Spence are also included to relate their experiences in producing ‘Brazil.’ Many of the main cast members (no Robert De Niro, unfortunately) also give interviews about their roles, with Michael Palin, in character, being the stand-out, pretending to be an upper-class acting veteran and giving his interviews into the telephone.
Hedden’s documentary, ‘What is Brazil?,’ basically exists to pose that question, and never really attempts to answer it in any specific way. The interviewed cast and crew members each offer their own opinions: Gilliam calls it “the impossibility of escape from reality,” and then, more enigmatically, “it’s late night shopping and terrorist bombing.” Michael Palin amusingly declares the film to be “a Viking musical,” but I’m not sure if many would agree with his individual assessment. Perhaps Charles McKeown’s brief description is the most appropriate: “it’s like lifting the top off Terry Gilliam’s skull… and glimpsing inside.”
Previously on Cinephilia & Beyond:
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.
In addition to being Thanksgiving, today is Terry Gilliam’s birthday, which is plenty in of itself to be thankful for. Here’s a short compilation of three groundbreakingly weird cartoons by Gilliam that were broadcast on British TV shows The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine and Do Not Adjust Your Set between 1968 and 1971. “Don the Cockroach,” “The Albert Einstein Story” and “The Christmas Card.”
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
Former Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam is one of cinema’s premier fantasists, a creator of films notable for their stunning visual style and their iconoclastic sensibility. With Brazil, Gilliam created the ultimate film of bureaucratic hell, and then experienced his own version of the narrative when Universal tried to bury the film’s release. Ironically, the same studio later financed and released Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, which was the number-one film in the country when Gilliam spoke at the Museum. He greeted full-house audiences twice that weekend—with 12 Monkeys and Brazil—the latter on the day of the blizzard of ‘96.
The original continuity folder (script, polaroid photos & all) from Time Bandits.
Previously on Cinephilia & Beyond:
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.
To Gilliam’s credit, he kept the filmmakers around even after the point of no return. He probably realized that the only movie that was going to come out of this horrendous experience was , and so he might as well play along: A movie about a non-movie, after all, is better than no movie. The surprise of this film, for those who have followed Gilliam’s contentious career through such movies as Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, is that Gilliam comes across as an equable soul who is trying to do right by everybody. His well-publicized clashes with studio heads over budget overruns and creative control seem a distant memory on the Quixote set.
Since Gilliam was able to finance the $32 million movie entirely with European funds, thus bypassing Hollywood altogether, he seems initially optimistic at the prospect of making his dream project without studio interference. He had been preparing for over ten years to make Quixote, and it is clear from the documentary that he sees himself as a modern incarnation of a man tilting at windmills. Even after the project is kaput, we see Gilliam talking about getting it restarted. But he also asks, “Is it better to leave the film in my head?” We see a couple of sequences from the film-that-might-have-been, including one with a marauding giant bearing down on the camera as his flabby stomach sways, and they have the baroque too-muchness that is Gilliam’s visual trademark. Was a masterpiece lost?
There’s no way to know. Fulton and Pepe began their project believing they would be privy to a magnificent venture. Instead, they found themselves with a front-row seat at a full-scale disaster. (Truth be told, such a turn of events must be every documentarian’s hidden wish.) Watching Lost in La Mancha is like witnessing a slow-motion train wreck, and it recalls two other first-rate movies about the making of movies, Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, which is practically a companion piece to Werner Herzog’s folly Fitzcarraldo, and George Hickenlooper’s Hearts of Darkness, which documents the meltdown on the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and is an unparalleled chronicle of how bad things can happen to good people.
With Gilliam’s Quixote project, the difficulties didn’t appear to be as endemic or ego-driven as they were in the Herzog and Coppola films. The main problems seemed to be bad planning and bad luck. Jean Rochefort, the French actor playing Quixote, shows up ill and unable to ride a horse; other cast members, including Depp, arrive late; the soundproof soundstage is anything but; an important desert location turns out to be one mile from a nato bombing range; a heavy storm floods the location and impairs equipment. Investors in the project visit the location around the same time the insurance adjusters descend.
Gilliam is indefatigable throughout most of this, and yet when it becomes clear his dream will be deferred, he shuts down; he has been emptied out by the experience. Most veteran directors have projects they once dreamed of making but never did, and perhaps it is those movies, and not the ones that were realized, that have the greatest hold on them. I once interviewed David Lean about the reissue of Lawrence of Arabia, and he spent most of his time describing to me, in exact detail, a sequence about the rounding of Cape Horn from his aborted Mutiny on the Bounty. This 80-year-old man looked absolutely vibrant at that moment, as if he were watching the movie being played out before his eyes.
There are many other examples: Orson Welles, who also had a Quixote project curtailed early on (we see some of the footage in Lost in La Mancha), spent much of his career publicly ruing the films he never got to make. And then there is Robert Altman, who is quoted approvingly in the ads for this new documentary, calling it “truly heartbreaking.” What must it have been like for him in the seventies to have his Ragtime project, with a script by E. L. Doctorow, taken away from him in his prime? The careers of many of our greatest cinema mavericks are littered with stillborn or never-born projects; to some extent, this is true of all artists, but because of the expensiveness of the movie business, it is particularly true of movie artists. As you watch Lost in La Mancha, your heart goes out to Gilliam. The documentary is much more than a case history; it’s a worst-case scenario made flesh. By Peter Rainer
Source: New York Magazine
The Criterion release of Time Bandits ports over features from the original LaserDisc release. We get an audio commentary with director Terry Gilliam, actor/co-writer Michael Palin, and actors Craig Warnock, John Cleese, and David Warner. All of them were recorded separately for this edited track.
Gilliam dominates the track as he covers many components of the production. Actually, he goes over pretty much everything; from sets to stunts to effects to the origins of the story to the script to working with the actors, it’s all here. Gilliam tosses in a lot of great stories from the set as well and makes his part fun and entertaining. Warnock shows up the second highest amount of time and he gives us a nice “kid’s eye” view of the proceedings. Palin lets us know how he and Gilliam collaborated on the script and provides a few other details about the flick. Warner and Cleese give us some notes related to their parts and help flesh out the commentary. Overall it’s a very solid and informative discussion.
- Time Bandits Dialogue Transcript
A wonderful and fascinating scene-by-scene audio 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.
“Only we know that,” Gilliam says at one point when he divulges some offscreen trivia, “We and the owners of the Criterion collection”. Which is a damn shame, because presently (and for years) this informative and enjoyable commentary has been available only on now-obsolete laserdisc, despite the petitioning of film fans to get it ported over to DVD. Gilliam demonstrates an amazing capacity to talk about the film from beginning to end without pause, seemingly on the fly. He finds something to say about every scene and covers every base imaginable. It’s a treat to hear him openly enjoying the film’s performances and odd inspired and unscripted moments. He’s also very canny/mindful about how to structure films that will ‘play’ for an audience.
The Fisher King shooting draft, by Richard LaGravenese