News Bulletin: April
In March 2002, Terry Gilliam put the Good Omens project on hold due to the difficulty of finding an American backer for the project. Apparently funding had been secured for all territories outside of the United States, but no studio would commit to American rights. And that left a big hole in the financing. Speaking to Andrea di Piramo in Italy in March, Gilliam said, "There's a problem... no money... a small problem. We don't have enough money... I have worked on Good Omens for 15 months every day and I believed it was all ready. What I have learned with time is that things do not become easier after having made many films. The problems are always the same ones, but when one becomes trusting too much, the truth is ready to demonstrate the contrary." [Translated from Italian] More on Good Omens is below.
This leaves the question: what project will Gilliam turn to in the absence of a Good Omens deal? The project that is likeliest to be Gilliam's next film is Tideland, based on the novel of the same name by author Mitch Cullin. It was announced at Cannes in 2001 that Gilliam would direct a film version of Tideland, with Jeremy Thomas producing. In fact Tony Grisoni (co-writer of Fear and Loathing, Quixote and Good Omens) has been at work on the script for Tideland.
There is also a vague hope that The Defective Detective might be resurrected from Development Hell. Talking to Andrea again, Gilliam said, "It's a film that I would like to make one day because it's a great script...maybe the moment has now arrived... I think there exist some scripts that need to "marinare" a little, as you say in Italy, then without warning, they jump outside and they are ready for being made. The funny thing is, I received a fax from London, on Monday evening [18 March]. I will meet the producer who owns the rights for the film...so I will talk about the film." [Again, translated from Italian]
2. Author Mitch Cullin speaks about Gilliam and Tideland
LA-based writer Tim Woo has written an article for Dreams following an interview he conducted with Mitch Cullin. The conversation reveals what Cullin thinks about the prospect of his book being turned into a Terry Gilliam film. Says Cullin, "You know, I sent Terry the book before it came out, because I wanted him to see it and hopefully enjoy it, and I wanted him to know how much his work has meant to me. In a way, books are a benign way to make contact with those people who've been your dream weavers, and Terry is certainly one of mine. No one believes me when I tell them this, but I wasn't trying to sell him on it as a movie. Maybe, I thought, he'd give it a blurb, or at least acknowledge my work in a note, something like that. I knew he had other projects going on, and I'm not presumptuous enough to think that what I create must be made into a film. In fact, aside from Whompyjawed, I've always thought my books would be tough to film well. That said, once the ball got rolling on Tideland I was delighted, amazed, and a bit doubtful. Still am, actually."
3. Gilliam to exec-produce forthcoming Brothers Quay feature
It was announced at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2002 that Terry Gilliam is to be executive producer for the next feature film to be made by the Brothers Quay. The film is to be called The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakes. "Audiences are searching for a chance to journey into completely new, untravelled, mind-stimulating universes…the very kind of films the Brothers Quay create", said Gilliam at Berlin. This film is due to be shot in Germany in 2003.
Terry Gilliam has long been
an admirer of the Brothers Quay, who have created a series of bizarre, compelling
stop-motion animations throughout the eighties and nineties. In 1995 they made
their first (and so far only) feature film, Institute Benjamenta. Like
Gilliam, the Quays are American filmmakers based out of London. Gilliam, talking
to Dreams, paid tribute. "The Brothers Quay are interesting
because these two guys from Philadelphia come to England and they do Polish
cartoons, Polish animation because they were so influenced by Polish animators
and that's what they do. And they're wonderfully talented and they spend more
time doing puppet animation and they do lots of sets for opera and theatre that
are brilliant. They're just brilliant at atmosphere and strange, quirky, odd
things. Institute Benjamenta has got some odd incredible moments in
it. It's a bit long, it's a bit slow but and these moments happen and it's great.
It's kind of a dream world you sort of float in there. And it's so unfashionable.
Its not what movies are about these days. It seems to be it's the kind of movie
that was made 50 years ago, 60 years ago somewhere."
In March 2002, teasers started appearing for Nike's World Cup 2002 advertising offensive, directed by none other than Terry Gilliam. The main advertisement, which has now been shown around the world, features some of the world's greatest footballers taking part in a secret tournament. The advert was commissioned by the European HQ of the multinational sportswear company. Director Gilliam was working with Nicola Pecorini as Director of Photography and set designer Stefano Maria Ortolani. The advert, shot at Rome's Filmhouse Studios, is set in the belly of a cargoliner. Within the cargoliner is a massive cage with turf.
Gilliam directed for production company @Radical Media and agency Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam. Footballers who are in the advert include: Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Davids, Van Nistelrooy, Totti, Vieira, Thierry Henry, de Nilsson, Nakata, Wiltord, Luis Enrique, Figo, Ljungberg, Saviola, Thuram, Roberto Carlos, Crespo and Cannavaro. And the great Eric Cantona makes a special appearance. The advertisement is now available to download at http://www.nikefootball.com
For more coverage on the advert, including stills and exclusive behind-the-scenes shots, go straight to the Dreams Nike advert page.
5. Good Omens put on hold
In March 2002, Terry Gilliam decided to put Good Omens on hold as it became difficult to secure enough money to make the film. At the end of 2001, Gilliam - having completed a script - was still fairly hopeful that a deal could be arranged.
On January 25 2002, things were looking up as Neil Gaiman said, "The Good Omens movie news sounds good. They're gathering together the last of the money and hope to be shooting by summer. I shall keep my fingers crossed. ('It'll never happen' points out a phantom Terry Pratchett, very sensibly, in my ear.)"
Further momentum was provided on 14 February 2002 by a Variety report that that the two leading roles in Gilliam's Good Omens have been offered to Johnny Depp and Robin Williams. While this has not been confirmed, the journal states "He's got two promising films he wants to do back-to-back. Gilliam is in talks with Johnny Depp and Robin Williams to star in Good Omens, which he and long-time writing partner Tony Grisoni adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, about the battle between heaven and hell to track down the newborn antichrist after it is misplaced at the hospital."
Justin posted the following to the Dreams Messageboard on 17 February 2002: "I just met Neil Gaiman at a convention yesterday and got a chance to talk with him about the Good Omens project. He told me that he had lunch with Gilliam last week, and there are major developments afoot, but Neil was sworn to secrecy. He did imply, however, that casting was nearly finished, and explained that Renaissance Films is very eager to put this film out. He said that what we are basically looking at is that in about two weeks time, one of two things will happen: funding will finally be in place, and the shooting schedule and cast list will be released, or the whole project will be put on that already crowded shelf, and Terry will begin filming Tideland."
But no deal came to light, and on 20 March 2002. Andrea posts on the Dreams MessageBoard - who claimed to have just interviewed Gilliam in Italy, and has 25 minutes on video to prove it. "He talks of everything... Good Omens collapsed and on Monday he met the producer who owns the rights for The Defective Detective. Good Omens collapsed because there was no money to do it. He said also that if he doesn't do a movie this year he'll go crazy", said Andrea.
On 22 March 2002, over to Neil Gaiman at his website for clarification: "Someone asked me whether I knew anything about the rumours that the Good Omens film had collapsed. Not that I know of. They've been having trouble putting together the money (65 million plus) for some time, and the last time I saw Terry Gilliam he mentioned that if it didn't happen soon, he'd go off and do Tideland, which will cost infinitely less, because if he didn't make a film soon (given what happened to Quixote) he'd go crazy. As far as I know, if that happens, it means that Good Omens simply goes down to next-on-the-list while the producers spend the intervening time trying to nail down the financing.
"The script is good, the cast seem committed, and the producers have the foreign financing in place. What they need is a US studio to commit some money (I think it's about $15 million) to the project, and no US studio seems ready to take the plunge yet. My attitude on all Hollywood things is not to expect any of them to happen until I'm sitting at the premiere eating my popcorn. Worrying about the ups and downs of getting a film made could drive anyone to drink."
6. Lost in La Mancha premieres in Berlin, and wins US & UK distribution
On February 11 2002, Lost in La Mancha - the film about the collapse of Gilliam's Don Quixote project - received its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. As pictured above, Gilliam attended the premiere with directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe.
"We have previously done a picture about making a film, but I don't know how many other films there have been about one that collapses," said producer Lucy Darwin to Screen International. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which starred Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp, was halted after six days' shooting. "Terry wanted us to do another film with him and it was always going to be about the pre-production and production stages, how you get a film off the ground. But what we could not have expected was for it to fall apart in front of out eyes," said Darwin. "I'm sure that anyone interested in film-making will be fascinated, but it is told in a very consequential fashion and we expect a wider public to be interested too." Lucy Darwin recently spoke to Dreams about Lost in La Mancha and her work on 12 Monkeys, can be found at the Lost in La Mancha feature.
Screen International has reported that distribution rights have been sold for North & South America and also the UK. IFC Entertainment has bought North and South American rights. IFC has indicated that it intends to give Lost In La Mancha a theatrical release through IFC Films as well as a TV outing on the Independent Film Channel. Optimum Releasing has picked up UK rights to the film, and will give the film a theatrical outing in 2002.
At Berlin, Gilliam also expressed his hope that he would regain the rights to his Quixote project, so he could resurrect the picture sometime in the future. He said to Screen International, "It's taking longer than I had hoped, [but] I'm told after Berlin I may be getting the answer I'm looking for." Gilliam hopes still to use the same cast - with Jean Rochefort, Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. "It was a great cast. It's still in my head that way." While he admits that it took him a week to recover after watching Fulton and Pepe's film, "At least there is something there, something tangible. And there is some footage that might convince future investors to come forward - if I play it right, I can continue making this film for the rest of my life."
7. Lost in La Mancha directors speak to Dreams
Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, the two directors of the documentary film Lost in La Mancha spoke to Dreams in February after they returned from Berlin. The pair, who also made The Hamster Factor, about the filming of Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, spoke extensively about how the documentary film came about, their relationship with the Quixote cast and crew, and editing struggles.
"We were in Madrid for eight weeks before the start of principal photography," said Keith. "Our original intent had been to document as much of the pre-production process as possible. With The Hamster Factor, we had devoted about 45 minutes of the film to the very rarely documented aspects of post-production. We wanted our new project to cover the uncharted territory of pre-production and how a film gets off the ground - mostly because it was a part of the filmmaking process about which we were very curious."
Despite creating a compelling disaster-documentary movie, Louis regretted, "We did not enjoy watching Terry's film collapse. This was the hardest part of the process because at times, hanging around with the camera started to feel exploitative. As a filmmaker (in either fiction or documentary), you're trained to look for conflict because that's what makes for good stories. But as a documentary filmmaker, it can become difficult to watch your subjects deal with conflict. When you spend so much time chronicling people's efforts, you want them to succeed, and when things start going wrong, you find yourself wanting to put the camera down and help out. So at the same time that we knew we were getting great footage, we didn't always feel good about it. At one point as the film was falling apart, we even approached Terry and told him that we felt uncomfortable shooting, that it seemed to us like we were just exploiting his misery. He replied, "Someone's got to get a film out of all this mess, and it doesn't look like it's going to be me. So it had better be you. Keep shooting!"
The full interview can be found at the Lost in La Mancha feature within this website.
8. Farewell to Spike Milligan and Barry Took
Spike Milligan, one of the most original and influential figures of 20th century British comedy, died on 27 February 2002. He made an enormous impact on Gilliam, especially through the Goon Show on radio, his input to Richard Lester's The Running Jumping Standing Still Film and also his British TV shows of the 1960s, which broke the ground of comedy.
Gilliam wrote a eulogy to Spike Milligan for Pythonline, in which he concluded, "I never thanked him properly for opening the doors to English humour for me and being the illegitimate father of Python - now it's too late - he's already gone and pissed off this mortal coil. Spike was always way ahead of the rest of us."
Also departing from this world was Barry Took, on 31 March 2002. As comedy consultant to the BBC in the late sixties, Took played a major part in bringing together the six members of Monty Python for a sketch show. Took was best known as a generous writer and broadcaster across BBC radio and television.
A new Holy Grail DVD has been released in the UK with an enormous amount of bonus material. It includes a documentary of some of the locations used, and two different commentaries - one by Gilliam and Jones, and another by Idle, Palin and Cleese.
In order to help publicise the Holy Grail DVD, Gilliam was interviewed by The Grauniad in which he recalled the directing duties on that film.
The Pythons are busy working on a new book - a Python Anthology, which I understand will be a large encyclopaedic affair, selling at about £40 ($60) - more news will appear here as it arrives.
Gilliam has provided an introduction for the Criterion DVD release of the French film Les Enfants du Paradis. This film is one of Gilliam's favourite films of all time. The film is referred to as Children of Paradise in the US
As reported by Variety in February 2002, "Gilliam has exited the United Talent Agency and signed with Endeavor, which will try to heighten his Hollywood profile."
Dreams has spoken again to The Tiger Lillies, whose excellent show Shockheaded Peter (see Dreams news April 2001) is currently in London again for a limited run. Gilliam said last year that he was going to work with them - on a theatre project based on some of Edward Gorey's texts. The latest news is that the Tiger Lillies have now recorded the music for the Gorey show for a CD. This took place in Summer 2001, involving both the Tiger Lillies and the Kronos Quartet. "The project is still going", said Adrian Stout of the band, "but I think that we won't be doing anything with Terry until 2003 now as he is very busy."
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Phil Stubbs, Edinburgh. April 2002.