Is the world ready for another Terry Gilliam movie?
That’s the question people may be asking when the director releases two very different films in the next month. After all, it’s been six years since his adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-induced Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp, failed to find the critical or commercial acclaim of his earlier hits 12 Monkeys and The Fisher King.
A new century has arrived since we last saw Mr. Gilliam, and in that time, movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and even the “Harry Potter” films have found success using the same quirky mix of comedy and fantasy that have been the key defining factor of Gilliam’s films. The musical “Spamalot,” based on the Monty Python films Gilliam directed, has found huge success on Broadway, winning a number of Tony Awards, and twenty years after Brazil, the world is looking more and more like Gilliam’s dystopian vision of the future.
Despite being a true visionary, Terry Gilliam still doesn’t get the respect that he deserves in Hollywood. 2005 may be the year that changes, as the world remembers what an important filmmaker he is with the release of not one, but two new movies. First, The Brothers Grimm, based on a script by Ehren (The Ring) Kruger, comes out nationwide on August 26. It may be Gilliam’s most commercially viable films to date with a premise that will appeal to anyone who loved the classic Grimm fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. A few weeks later, Gilliam’s next film Tideland, a smaller-scale adaptation of Mitch Cullins’ novel about a young girl with an active imagination, will make its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Needless to say, this should be an exciting year for the director, and by some twist of fate, all the stars aligned so that ComingSoon.net was able to get this exclusive interview with the director a week before he was preparing to fly to Los Angeles for the full-fledged media blitz for The Brothers Grimm. Although obviously exhausted from all the post-production work he’s been doing on both films, he turned out to be as jovial and friendly as one might expect.
CS!: “The Brothers Grimm” is a project you’ve been working on for quite some time. Why has it taken so long for this to see the light of day?
Terry Gilliam: It started way back in 2002, and I finished shooting at the end of November in 2003. I have two films in the next year. I finished off “Grimms” and went off and did “Tideland” and then came back and tidied both films up. I literally had to go off in the latter half of last year and go to Canada to shoot another film, so “Grimms” was put on hold for a bit, and then I came back and finished “Grimms” and “Tideland” together.
CS!: How did you first get your hands on the Ehren Kruger’s script for “The Brothers Grimm”? Did he write that even before writing “The Ring”?
CS!: Was it made completely outside the studio system or did you have studio backing?
CS!: Between “Baron Munchausen”, “Don Quixote” and now this, you’ve built your reputation on deconstructing folklore and fairy tales. What about doing that intrigues or appeals to you?
CS!: How did you end up choosing Matt Damon and Heath Ledger to play the two brothers and how did you decide which one of them would play which brother?
CS!: In some ways, the Brothers seem like Baron Munchausen’s personality split in half, each with their own take on reality and fantasy. Did you see any corollaries between the two films?
CS!: The movie looks absolutely amazing, and I think the team you put together was great. Can you talk about creating the look for the film?
Gilliam: Yeah, Guy Dyas, it was the second film he’s ever designed. He was quite incredible. He had done “X-Men 2” and he’s just this fantastic artist. He draws beautifully and quickly, and it was just a joy working with him. I got Gabriella Pescucci back, who had done “Baron Munchausen.” She’s spectacular. It was a really fantastic team. The trick was trying to create a world that is both magical and totally realistic at the same time, rather than escaping what I see in a lot of fantasy films where the feet are no longer on the ground. I wanted to keep our feet firmly on the ground, so that when it does become clear that we’re in an enchanted forest that it’s a real forest suddenly coming alive in different ways then you normally see. I just thought that was essential, so everybody involved, even in the computer generating animators, I kept trying to destroy their good work, because they tend to make things beautiful and floating around the place, and I just wanted to make it more realistic. Hopefully, I achieved that.
CS!: Your movies tend to have a look and vision that people automatically relate to you. If “Gilliamesque” were an actual word, how would you define it?
CS!: Lately, there seems to be a lot more movies that have that sort of feel from “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Do you feel that way, too?
CS!: Are you almost done finishing “Tideland”?
CS!: Who’s going to distribute that?
CS!: Just to show how times have changed, the musical “Spamalot” based on the Python movies is now the biggest hit on Broadway. Would you be interested in directing a film version of that like they’re doing with “The Producers” musical?
Gilliam: No, to me “Spamalot” is great, and it’s fantastic that it’s a success. I think there is talk about making a movie of it, but I don’t know where that’s got to yet, but I can almost guarantee that I won’t be directing it.
CS!: Not into musicals anymore?
CS!: Over the years, there’s been a lot of talk about you directing movies based on well-known books like Alan Moore’s “Watchmen”, Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens” and even the first “Harry Potter” for a while there. Tom Stoppard, who wrote “Brazil,” has adapted the fantasy book “His Dark Materials” for the screen, and they seem to need a director. Is that something you might consider doing?
CS!: From what I’ve seen in “Brothers Grimm”, it definitely seems like you can handle it.
CS!: Going back a bit in time, it’s been twenty years since “Brazil,” but it still has a lot of resonance, especially with what’s going on in England today. Are you surprised by how much of the things you depicted in that movie have come to pass?
CS!: At this point in your career, do you think that Hollywood is finally starting to understand you and what you do?
Gilliam: I really don’t know. I’m hoping that there’s a lot of people that were fans of my early work who are now running studios. Maybe they’ll remember how much pleasure I gave them when they were young. That’s the best I can hope for! (chuckles)
CS!: Incidentally, the trailer was very well received at Comic-Con last month and “The Brothers Grimm” was picked as the top movie for August in ComingSoon.net’s monthly readers’ poll.
CS!: So what do you think? Is the world ready for another Terry Gilliam movie or even possibly two?