The Release of The Brothers Grimm

by Phil Stubbs

In May 2005, it was announced that The Brothers Grimm would receive its US release on August 26 2005. At the time, the director was busy finishing both Grimm and another film, Tideland. In July, Terry Gilliam attended the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival in Switzerland. "Agent Orange" was there and filed a report for the Dreams Messageboard.

"Gilliam mentioned that over $30 million was allotted for the promotion of Grimm. He also showed a promotional clip for the film, which began much in the same way as the trailer on the net, but then went on in more detail to introduce the Brothers, including a cameo of Gilliam's son receiving one of their business cards. This seemed to be a consciously chosen ruse to give us a little taste of Grimm, with Gilliam interrupting the clip saying that a terrible mistake had been made and that he was not supposed to show anything relating to Grimm at the conference.

"Overall, he also seemed to have some kind of a gag order - or maybe just a personal thing - to not talk to much about Grimm. Even his reference to the marketing funds for the film was somewhat ironic in response to a question regarding the astronomical cost of Hollywood films these days, as he asked the audience how many films could be made with the marketing budget of Grimm alone.

"He also took the opportunity to take a stab at the Weinsteins, referring to them as "the Brothers Grimmer", but mentioned that the opportunity to finish his version some time after the wrap and his disagreements with the Brothers was a nice luxury and would be the ideal way to make better films, having the distance from the material over time to improve it. He says it's a better film for it. He also said Grimm's success will have a bearing on the realization of his future projects. So fingers crossed that Grimm is a great success!!"

Grimm Brothers Heath Ledger and Matt Damon with Cavaldi (Peter Stomare)

In an interview with Dreams at the end of July, Gilliam confirmed that Grimm was now finished. And it appeared that Gilliam and the Weinsteins had put aside any differences with respect to the film and were now working together to market the film. Gilliam said to this website,

"The important thing is that the Weinsteins really like the film now. A year ago we reached the point where there was great disagreement about what the film was. And rather than doing what you normally do: i.e. have a head butt contest, and the biggest ego wins, and the film suffers, I went away I went away and did Tideland to let the air clear, go back to our quarters. And come six months later, they asked me to finish the film, so I've done it. And it's good.

"Harvey said when he saw it that he was laughing and he said he loved it. He didn't realise how funny it was, until they'd put the music and all the effects on and when they cleaned up the dialogue. So it's a happy ending there. The screenings we've been having with the press, we've been getting really good reactions."

Other interviews and articles about Grimm
In August, Gilliam went over to the US for the marketing of Grimm, which involved countless interviews. As the release date of Grimm approached, many magazines and websites ran Grimm articles and interviews with Gilliam. Here are a selection:

Gilliam interview by Jack Mathews, New York Daily News
Gilliam interview by Ken Plume, IGN Filmforce
Guy Dyas (production designer) interview at IGN Filmforce
VFX World on Grimm's effects

Website and advertising
The official Grimm website was launched on 29 June. This developed up to the release of the movie in the US, into an enormous resource featuring very many stills, examples of artwork, storyboards, costume design, an a substantial interview with Gilliam.

The official website of The Brothers Grimm

Website Film Threat wrote an interesting article on the US marketing of Grimm, summarising that "the inconsistent presentation of the funny aspects of the movie have me thinking Miramax just doesn't know what to do with it and are trying everything. Unfortunately that doesn't create a consistent brand message and therefore weighs down the entire campaign."

US Premiere

The LA premiere of The Brothers Grimm took place at the DGA theatre in Los Angeles on August 8, 2005.

Above - Heath Ledger, Charles Roven,
Terry Gilliam and Bob Weinstein - all
celebrating the picture's release

Right - Peter Stormare at the premiere

On August 10, there was a special preview of Grimm in New York City. Gilliam attended, and there was a Q&A with movie critic Joel Siegel. Max Evry attended and wrote a piece that is featured here at Dreams.

Just before the US release of Grimm, Gilliam went back to Switzerland for the Locarno Film Festival. He received a Leopard of Honor, for "career achievement", alongside Wim Wenders and Abbas Kiarostami.

US Reviews
The reviews in the US press gave Grimm a mixed response, hardly the critical mauling that was reported in the UK. Here's a few favourable reviews:

"A wildly wondrous reinvention of the story of the chroniclers of dark, occasionally horrific, child-pleasing fairy tales... The Brothers Grimm is a celebration of the power of stories. Legends and myths, it tells us, should never be mocked or ignored. They may turn out to be real.
Jim Fusilli, Wall Street Journal

"If only summer movies were, as a matter of course, this inventive, this modest, this interested -- even derisively -- in cultural legacies, this faithful to concept and setting."
Village Voice

The literary siblings are portrayed as clever con artists who bilk superstitious peasants by exorcizing bogus monsters - until a real threat challenges their courage as well as their improvisational skills. Gilliam has rarely been more inventive, energetic, or just plain funny.
David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor

But the favourable reviews were slightly outweighed by the negative ones by a ratio of about 60:40. Roger Ebert found much to admire, but dismissed the film overall. The New York Post sought to lay the blame with the script and the Weinsteins, whereas Rex Reed in the New York Observer found fault with the director.

"Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimmis a work of limitless invention, but it is invention without pattern, chasing itself around the screen without finding a plot. Watching it is a little exhausting. If the images in the movie had been put to the service of a story we could care about, he might have had something. But the movie seems like a style in search of a purpose."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"This aimless epic about a pair of charlatan brothers sinks under the weight of a problematic script, questionable star casting, hamfisted editing -- and penny-pinching by Gilliam's latest patrons, the Brothers Weinstein."
Lou Lumenick, NEW YORK POST

"Mr. Gilliam has no clear idea what he's doing, so the movie is nothing more than noise, costumes and disjointed special effects that do not make an acceptable substitute for the sense of tempo the rest of the film sorely lacks."
Rex Reed, New York Observer

US Box Office
The Brothers Grimm opened to a respectable first weekend of $15.1m, and gained the number two slot behind The 40 Year Old Virgin. After the first weekend, a rather desperate press release from the studio was put on the website:

"IF THERE IS ONE THING YOU SHOULD BE DOING THIS LABOR DAY WEEKEND, IT IS TO GO SEE THE BROTHERS GRIMM AT YOUR LOCAL CINEMA... THE BROTHERS GRIMM opened across the US and Canada last Friday (26th August). It came in at number 2 in the box office and this long Labor Day weekend is a chance to push it up to NUMBER 1 where it totally deserves to be... The movie is a PG-13 but is ADORED BY CHILDREN OF ALL AGES and it's a great choice for parents to take their children to, and kids to go see at the cinema... Please spread the word..."

By the third weekend, the total customer spend had risen to $33m, as displayed in this summary from Box Office Mojo, vs the reported production budget of $80m plus.

Venice Film Festival
The push for European cinema revenues was kicked off at the Venice Film Festival, where Grimm held its screening on 4 September. The film was in competition for the Golden Lion which eventually went to Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain.

From Venice... Terry Gilliam (left), Monica Bellucci (above), Matt Damon and Heath Ledger (above right) and all joined by Lena Headey (below right)

Here are some highlights of what Gilliam said at the press conference:

"I like the fact that my films have always encouraged bad and good reviews. The most depressing thing would be a review that was just mediocre. That would kill me. I have no problem with the fact that people don't see the film or don't like it, because there is as many people out there who love it. Everybody has their opinion - and some people are wrong.

"I hate being dragged into genres. I like movies that are full of a lot of conflicting and interesting things. I want to make films that inspire people to explore their imagination. We live in a world that is defined by numbers and calculations - and there is very little room for myth and dreams. I think we need both of those things in our lives, to make life worth living. Children really love my films. They haven't lost their ability to dream, to imagine - they are open-minded. As we get older the world seems to close in. I'm trying to break that shell open occasionally. This is just one more desperate attempt to do so.

"One of the things we concentrated on with Grimm was detail. Everything is tactile, so that you actually believe the world before you is real. Just because these days you can do so much with CGI, it's not necessarily a good idea - sometimes it's better to keep things small. The fairytales I remember as a child were about people, the stories came out of characters, out of the forest that you invariably went into. I hope that with this film we've created a world that's closer to the fairytales that all of us have read and been affected by."

And Matt Damon said:

"The fact that Terry was directing the movie sold it to me. Heath and I were both surprised and felt pretty lucky that there was a Terry Gilliam movie available to us. Originally Terry wanted us to play the opposite roles, but we petitioned him to switch roles because we wanted to do things a little differently than we had a chance to so far in our careers. But no sales pitch was needed for the film, a Terry Gilliam movie sells itself."

Release outside the US
In September, the official website published the following release dates from around the world:

La France
United Kingdom
New Zealand

Septiembre 9, 2005
Septiembre 9, 2005
September 23, 2005
Syyskuu 23, 2005
Octobre 5, 2005
Oktober 6, 2005
Oktober 7, 2005
Ottobre 7, 2005
Oktober 13, 2005
Oktober 14, 2005
November 4, 2005
November 4, 2005
November 24, 2005
December 1, 2005

In September through to November, Terry Gilliam toured many countries plugging the film singlehandedly, without the stars. Mid September, Gilliam visited the Lund Film Festival in Sweden to attend the premiere of Grimm. The honorary Finn the Giant Award was presented to the director in the Crypt of the Lund Cathedral (pictured).

Gilliam was interviewed while in the crypt by the festival's website. Asked about how he creates the look of a "Terry Gilliam film", he said, "We do a lot of research to begin with, especially if you work on a movie like The Brothers Grimm where you want to recreate the historical period it took place in, in this case the beginning of the 19th century, you look a lot at paintings. I was looking a lot at fairy tale book illustrations, Arthur Rackham, Gustave Doré and Caspar David Friedrich, everybody from all the worlds. You gather ideas and images and you try to make them real and at the same time that’s going on you try to develop the characters and that’s probably, well to me, it has become more important than the look of the films. But if you have a fairy tale world it’s got to look believable and it’s going to look enchanted and you got lots of special effects in the movie, around 800 effect shots."

Around Europe, Grimm fared much better than in the USA, striking number one slots in Spain, France and Germany. And at the end of October, Gilliam headed off to Japan to promote the picture, where it eventually scored a place at the top of the opening weekend chart.

Gilliam with actress Aya Ueto in Japan

UK poster (click to enlarge)
Grimm was released in the UK on December 4. Again, Gilliam promoted the pic solely (except for a bit of help from Jonathan Pryce) - with the director appearing on Frank Skinner's ITV chat show, the BBC's Film 2005, the BBC's Breakfast tv show, and he also joined BBC Radio broadcasters Simon Mayo and Jonathon Ross on their shows. Gilliam attended the UK premiere earlier in the week which was part of the annual London Film Festival. Dreams attended the UK premiere... click here for more details. The director also found time to visit the Leeds Film Festival where he also had the honour of unveiling a new train. The film opened at number 4 in its initial weekend in the UK.

Some further links from around the world about Grimm:

BBC website interview with Gilliam
More to follow

Gilliam then headed over to the Czech Republic and Hungary. He attended the Czech premiere in Prague, and while he was there, he went to the launch of a new retail venture. The filmmaker told Dreams, "In Prague they have opened a shop at the Svetozor cinema, just off Wenceslaus Square, called Terry's Socks - named after my under-footwear. It is a kind of film haberdashery selling books, specialist DVDs, posters, good strong socks for filmmakers, and other movie paraphernalia. I was there for the grand opening on November 10 and it now displays one of my bright yellow only-slightly-used socks... not for sale." Gilliam then went over to Budapest to further plug Grimm.

Gilliam at the launch party for "Terry's Socks"

On November 19, Gilliam was back in Sweden, being presented with a "Visionary Award" at Stockholm International Film Festival within the "Face2Face" strand. The director told Dreams, "They weighed me down with the heaviest award in the film business... a 7 1/2 kilo solid bronze horse. It is called The Visionary Award. Apparently bestowed on people who don't need spectacles to create spectacles."

Late in November 2005, the book Dreams and Nightmares, by Bob McCabe, was published in the UK. It tells the story of the production of The Brothers Grimm. The story told has quite a lot of conflict, and a review of this book will appear soon at this website together with an opportunity to win some copies.


Finally at the end of November, Grimm was launched in Australia, where it hit the number one spot.
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