Dreams News Bulletin: February 2000
Edited by Phil Stubbs. Last Updated 20 February 2000
In this Issue...
1. Popcorn announces Quixote deal
2. Good Omens - latest
3. First Draft of Brazil to be published
4. Brazil First Draft co-author speaks to Dreams
5. Gilliam and Roger Pratt talk about their working relationship
6. Actor Peter Jeffrey dies
7. Gilliam gives Belfast masterclass
8. Dreams News Miscellany... BFI... Gilliam hoaxed... German book... Cusack Books... Film 99... Book Winner

Don Quixote as drawn by Dore

1. Popcorn announces Quixote deal
As of early February 2000, Terry Gilliam was still awaiting the elusive deal he requires to make his film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote this year. However, on February 16, London-based movie site Popcorn announced a deal...

"Terry Gilliam finds a financial backer.

After several years of pitching his script for 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' around Hollywood, Terry Gilliam has finally found some money to make the project, here in Europe.

Four European companies are teaming up to finance the movie, based on Miguel De Cervantes's classic satire about a 17th century wandering knight.

Gilliam came close to getting the project off the ground last year. At that point, Penelope Cruz and Madeline Stowe were also thought to be attached, but in the end the director couldn't raise the $48million budget. That figure has been pared down to $30million and it looks like work will start as soon as possible.

Johnny Depp has long been attached to star in the film. It will be the second time the actor has worked with Gilliam, their first encounter being for the screen adaptation of Hunter S Thompson's novel 'Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas'."

Dreams, hoping this scoop is correct, is following this closely and will publish further information as it is available.  For more history on this project, see the Dreams Quixote page.

2. Good Omens - latest
According to reliable sources, Gilliam and Tony Grisoni have stopped working on the adaptation of Good Omens to the big screen. In early December, it was announced that Gilliam would direct a film of the novel Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Charles Roven was named as producer, and also it was stated that Gilliam would set to work with Fear and Loathing co-writer Tony Grisoni on a script. However, in the absence of a firm deal on a prospective Good Omens film, Gilliam and Grisoni have decided not to proceed at this stage on script development.  Follow progress at the Dreams Good Omens page.

3. First Draft of Brazil to be published
In August 2000, the First Draft of Brazil is to be published in book form. Terry Gilliam and Charles Alverson wrote this early version of the script in the Summer of 1979. This news is likely to delight many fans of Gilliam and Brazil who will now be able to understand and study the development of the film. The publication will also help to highlight the contribution made to the film by Charles Alverson, who was not given a script credit on the film when it was released. The script is to be edited by Bob McCabe with a variety of extra features.

The First Draft of Brazil, which has been examined by Dreams, is a fascinating document, and it is fascinating to see how much of the shooting script was written before Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown were involved. The scene that is most familiar is the restaurant sequence.  The main characters are present in this first draft, but they became, on the whole, different creatures in the final film.

Speaking to Dreams, Bob McCabe said, “The latter part of the last century was tied up with the contract negotiations - I was here in the UK, but Charles Alverson was somewhere between Tokyo and Belgrade (although thankfully he surfaced briefly in London) whilst Terry who’s normally just up the road from me, kept disappearing to Italy, Paris and LA on a regular cycle.”

According to Bob, the book is to be called “Brazil – The Evolution of the 54th Best British Film ever made. A first draft screenplay by Terry Gilliam and Charles Alverson. Edited and with an introduction by Bob McCabe”

The paperback book, running to about 160 pages is due to be published by Orion on 15 August 2000, priced at £9.99, and there probably will be a limited hardback printing at the same time. Publication will actually be both in the UK and in the US, and the book will comprise the full, original first draft screenplay, plus an introduction by Bob, incorporating new interviews with Terry and Charles – both of whom, according to Bob, seem to remember events significantly differently. It will, in short, be the full story of the movie we all know and love, before it became the movie we all know and love. In addition there will be a good number of illustrations, and an Appendix comprising the first 5-page outline Terry wrote and presented to Charles before they began work.

4. Brazil First Draft co-author speaks to Dreams
Charles Alverson, who worked with Gilliam on the First Draft of Brazil in 1979, spoke to Dreams from his farmhouse in Serbia.  He revealed how the book came to be published. "Because, as I understand it, Bob McCabe, semi-biographer of Gilliam, convinced Orion that it would be a Good Thing. I, feeling a bit restive due to not having had any credit for Brazil when it came out or since, had been thinking about publishing the First Draft myself but probably would not have done it. Frankly, I don't know what sort of person will actually buy the book of a 'first draft' of a film that went through so many versions, but what the hell.”

Alverson, who also wrote the Jabberwocky screenplay with Gilliam, is clearly pleased that the book is to be published, “I'm glad and not just for the money I am allegedly going to get out of it. Though I am not the world's greatest fan of Brazil as a film, I feel that I did make a serious contribution to it and would like some credit.  Besides, it has been ten years plus since any book had my name on it, and that is a long time.”

Though there is no doubt that the concept, themes and outline characters had been created by Gilliam before he commenced writing with Alverson, it will be difficult after all these years to isolate precisely what was Alverson's contribution. To that problem Alverson says, “Damn, that is tough. Of course I can point to some specific gags which I put into the first draft (the coffin full of offal which gets knocked over; the cloud of yes-men who follow Sam's boss around, the desk cut in half by a wall, etc.) but when you have a collaboration on which two people worked very closely for over nine weeks, it is very hard to separate out who did what. But, if one looks at the first five or so page idea Gilliam sent me and then our draft and then the shooting script, I think an unbiased person (i.e. me) would have to say that I made a serious contribution to laying down the basic storyline. Of course, there are elements in the final film I had nothing to do with.  I mean: no one (not even I) can say that this is not a Gilliam film, but a lot of the less-visual aspects of the world he created came from me… I think.”

I asked Alverson what he had been up to since working with Terry. He said, “Hell, I don't know. It's been twenty years, and it went like a flash. I published one more novel, wrote a lot of crap journalism, wrote more novels that never got published, compiled joke books, wrote kids books, took jobs and quit them, went aboard more sinking ships as the rats left than I like to think about, hack-wrote until my whelkins rang and generally stayed alive. I think. The Nobel Prize Committee is not mulling over my qualifications.” And as for his future, “God knows. I am working on a novel, which I hope will be finished this year. I am living in Serbia where there is little or no work and don't mind a bit. My biggest ambition is to win the one million pound top Premium Bond Prize. If you have any influence there...? I'd like to stay alive a few more years... if nobody minds.”

5. Gilliam and Roger Pratt talk about their working relationship
In a program Behind the Camera broadcast on BBC2 on 14 November 1999, before a screening of The Fisher King, Roger Pratt and Terry Gilliam spoke about their working relationship.”

Terry Gilliam: Making movies to me is about images besides everything else. It’s like making a painting so the cinematographer is absolutely critical. I mean he’s the paintbrush that actually puts the dab onto the canvas. One of the great things I like about Roger was that he took a long time when he decided he was a director of photography. Many ways I forced him into doing some of it quicker than he might have wanted to.  Brazil set Roger up in a lot of people’s minds as being a great cameraman, and he’s moved on to do all sorts of things.  Roger is very cautious about what he chooses to work on.  He wants to work on things he believes in.

Roger Pratt: The Fisher King is my particular favourite. On the one hand we have New York, the real gritty New York, and on the other we had this fantasy world-the world the Robin Williams character had in his head.

TG: One of the most satisfying things is being in New York with a New York audience, watching the film and they come out of the cinema and they say "I’ve never seen New York like that". And these are the people who’ve lived there all their lives.

RP: Terry Gilliam used to walk around New York, sometimes with me looking for locations or sampling atmosphere and he saw this castle, which in fact is a New York arsenal, fell in love with it and decided that that would be the home of the Holy Grail. I think it’s a wonderful image in the middle of all that hi-tech hi-rise building.

TG: The castle in The Fisher King was a location we found by chance. It’s an old armoury.  It was built probably in the 30s and it’s a castle and I said "Well that’s fantastic". Roger said, “We gotta use it.” I said, “No we can’t use it that’s what we’d expect in a Terry Gilliam film.” But I wasn’t trying to do a Terry Gilliam film and I turned to Roger. He took a month and a half to convince me to use the obvious thing – the castle. So that’s what was nice working with someone like Roger, who is intelligent, who is not just thinking about the light and what the cameras are doing, he’s thinking about the film.

RP: Fulfilling Terry’s dreams is the most difficult thing that I’ve ever come across. Although he is articulate in some respects the subtleties of what he’s trying to do are often hidden.

TG: It’s an odd one because on one hand you’re trying to show the information that is necessary but on the other hand you’re trying to create a mood which is not about information but is, in some ways, in some movies, more important.  So it’s a hard thing to define what you’re doing.

RP: His particular challenge is that he is almost certain to use wide lenses so that has lots of implications in terms of close ups.  It means that you never can forget the set because the set is present in a close-up.  It's not very flattering to have a 10mm lens below your nose whoever you are, but a belief in what Terry’s trying to do helps to forget that and do what he says really. The station sequence in The Fisher King had a long gestation. It was really just a scene of the Robin Williams character watching his girlfriend go home. On the recce Terry dropped out the famous remark, "Wouldn’t it be good if all the commuters were dancing?"  Well everyone’s jaw dropped. Now Grand Central station is at least 200ft high and its about 100 ft long. It’s a huge cathedral-like place.  At the one end there’s this huge window - it’s so big. Five floors of walking you can walk across the window made of glass and I said well when can we shoot this sequence and the Grand Central Station authorities said you’ve got to shoot it at night we can’t possible have you in here during the day.

TG: I remember Roger’s biggest issue was the mirror ball - the disco mirror ball in the middle of this thing. I’m not sure if it was his idea or my idea. That’s the problem at this point is: whose idea was it? The central information kiosk at Grand Central was going to rise up and there was going to be a string quartet playing there and on top there was a mirror ball.  We didn’t do the rising quartet, but we did do the mirror ball - which made it magical!

RP: I said to the key grip Mark Miller I’ll have to cover that window with tracing paper and Mike didn’t even bat an eyelid but said "I’ll get my Dad to do that he could probably do it in about 3 days." And then I said to my gaffer Jim Burnett another wonderful guy I’ll have to light it and he said "Ah, I’ll put this huge light called the Moscow light up 5th Avenue. And you’ll be ready in 40 minutes." And in fact that’s what happened. I do think that for my part – I’m an enabler; I don’t force a style or dictate to the director. We cinematographers supply requisite tools to help achieve a vision, create feeling.

TG: one of the reasons I like working with Roger is were old mates do this without any bullshit without any sort of academic intellectual or theoretical nonsense.

Jeffrey with Penelope Keith: A scene from Stanley Prince's play Moving
6. Actor Peter Jeffrey dies
Peter Jeffrey, who played the Sultan in Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and who was one of Britain’s leading character actors, died aged 70, on Christmas Day last year. Jeffrey, who lived near Stratford-on-Avon had a long career on stage and television, and had recent success in BBC dramas Our Friends in the North and Middlemarch. Before that, he had appeared in The Avengers, Doctor Who, The Jewel in the Crown and Dennis Potter's Lipstick on your Collar. He is survived by his wife, Jill, and seven children.

7. Gilliam gives Belfast master class
Terry Gilliam gave a master class in Belfast on 24 November 1999 with assorted directors and producers, organised by the Northern Ireland Film Commission. Harry Hamill, who runs computer animation company Another World in Northern Ireland was there and sent details through to Dreams.

Harry (pictured below with Terry) found Gilliam very easy to talk to and a person who really doesn't mind sharing his vision and experiences.  "Clips from many of his films were shown and afterwards (although he had to rush off for a BFI meeting) he found time to talk to people individually and even sign posters etc. Gilliam was a very nice down-to-earth bloke who spoke to me as an animator, trading different stories.

"Terry was coming over to Belfast for a meeting of the BFI board of governors anyway so he kindly agreed to do a master class. He was interviewed for a while but generally the whole thing was very relaxed.  He took questions from the small audience (it was invite only and for production companies, directors etc)."

8. Dreams News Miscellany... BFI... Gilliam hoaxed... German book... Cusack Books... Film 99... Book Winner

  • At the end of 1999, Terry Gilliam was reappointed to the board of the British Film Institute by the UK's culture minister Chris Smith for a further three years.
  • In January 2000, a programme Trigger Happy TV was broadcast which featured a hoax played on Terry Gilliam.  The director was interviewed while surprise mock fisticuffs took place behind.  Gilliam looked puzzled.
  • A book about Terry Gilliam is to be published in Germany. Called Terry Gilliam und seine Filme, it is authored by Welf Kienast and Armin Rainer and will be available later this year.
  • Cusack Books, a company that sells second hand books and sources out-of-print books has come to the attention of Dreams. It specialises in books related to television memorabilia, and in particular Python spin-off books. Dreams recommends this company, whose catalogue can be found at www.cusackbooks.com
  • At the end of 1999, the BBC show Film 99 with Jonathan Ross published a list of its Top 100 movies, as selected by its viewers.  Brazil came in at number 52, and Twelve Monkeys at number 95. The trailer that appeared on the show to encourage viewers to vote featured about a dozen films to jog viewers’ memories, and one of movies featured in the trailer was The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Sadly, this Gilliam work did not feature in the list.
  • Dreams is pleased to reveal that Alec Usticke from Tarrytown, New York State won the copy of Bob McCabe's Dark Knights and Holy Fools (right), offered as a competition prize in the last news bulletin. Publishers Orion gave it to Dreams, which is always happy to receive gifts, irrespective of whether they end up as competition prizes.

Dreams welcomes contributions. If you wish to send letters, analysis, news or any information regarding Terry Gilliam and his work, then please email me. Thankyou to everyone who has emailed - keep in touch. Tell me what you think of Dreams, good or bad. Send your comments to me at phil@dreams.u-net.com

Dreams is one of the smart.co.uk family of websites

Phil Stubbs, Edinburgh. February 2000.
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