It must have seemed a match made in heaven: TERRY GILLIAM,
he memory of it all still brings out Teny Gilliam in a
cold sweat or hot flushes. Or both at the same time. But
he's still not given up on seeing his long-cherished dream of making a film based on Cervantes‘ Don Quixote.
Gilliam had nursed the idea for more than a decade. It all seemed set two years ago when he started shooting in Spain. The script had been honed to precisely the right tone. the budget from European sources would allow Gilliam‘s ﬂamboyant visual imagination to have full rein and Johnny Depp was hired with veteran French actor Jean Rochefort cast as Quixote.
Six days into the shoot of The Man who Killed Don Quixote. the impossible dream began to crumble. Just as Depp was about to shoot his scenes a flash flood engulfed the set. washed away equipment. while mud covered props and costumes. Rochefon. who had arrived feeling ill. was flown back to Paris for a double hernia operation: then the insurers put the final nail in the coffin by withdrawing cover.
The horrible reality of it all remains vivid. partly because it is all etched on Gilliam‘s consciousness and partly because documentary filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe chronicled the disintegration in fascinating detail for Lost in La Mane/1a. tagged. ‘the unmaking of Don Quixote‘. Gilliam allowed Fulton and Pepe free access. a privilege helped by the fact that he and many of the crew knew the duo from The Hampster FUCIUI'. a documentary they made about 12 Mon/(qu whose star. Jeff Bridges. narrates the new film.
‘We are in a business in which everything is bullshit and a lie.‘ says Gilliam in typically ebullient fashion. ‘Evcrything we 6 THE LIS1’ 1—8 Aug 2002
filmdom’s most unpredictable maverick, and Cervantes’ equally impulsive Don Quixote. Then disaster struck. Words: Richard Mowe
do is artifice. We write stories and we fake everything. Some of those lies get close to the truth and others don’t. In some ways this is my only contact with the reality of those events. which is why I was detennined that Keith and Louis had to be as truthful as they could be. And there was a selfish aspect to it. because it was useful to have a kind of diary of what was going on.
‘I can’t say I like watching the film. because it usually takes me a week to recover from it. It would have been worse. however. if they had not been there to chronicle the events. At least there is something tangible; and some of those images just might encourage future investors to come forward.‘
Gilliam remains upbeat about whether The Man who Killed Don Quixote eventually will resume shooting. Lawyers are wrangling over the rights to the script. ‘Once we get the script back then we have to re-finance it and off we go. If I play my cards right.’ he says. ‘then I could continue to make this film for the rest of my life.’
Although the first time around he was adamant that he should make the film with European money. Gilliam has become less choosy. ‘I have no idea where the new money might come from. but I am happy to take it from anyone. I definitely would be less discriminating than the first time. As for the casting of Depp and Rochefort, I‘m happy with them if they would be available. They’re still in my head that way. And the script also would stay the same because. even though I say it myself. it’s a fine piece of work. I’m not sure what
‘We are in a business in which everything is bullshit and a lie’