Dreams News Bulletin: January
1. Gilliam shoots large-scale advert for sportswear manufacturer
In December 2001, Terry Gilliam shot an advertisement for a leading sportswear manufacturer. It is rumoured to feature an international cast of footballers in a cargo liner, with cages and scorpions. Created to be shown during the World Cup television coverage in 2002, the budget for the advert is reportedly enormous and consequently it should be shown pretty extensively around Europe. Gilliam was filming north of Rome, at Filmhouse Studios. Further rumours suggested he worked with Fear & Loathing's DOP Nicola Pecorini and the art director Stefano Maria Ortolani.
2. Gilliam silent yet optimistic on Good Omens project
Gilliam is keeping silent on Good Omens as the go-ahead on the project is expected soon. The shooting script is finished, and provisional casting decisions have been made. At the end of December 2001 as he left the UK on a skiing holiday, Gilliam remained optimistic that a deal would be finalised to allow the film to be made in 2002, though there might have to be some changes to the script to bring the budget down. While Gilliam is reluctant to name names, he hinted that the lead character - Crowley - may be played by an American actor as an American character. The prospect of an American in Britain being in the script might allow Gilliam - himself an American in Britain - to explore autobiographical themes in the film.
Neil Gaiman, who co-wrote the novel on which the script is based, is proving to be a good source of news for this project. While Gaiman is unable to make public specific details of the project, he can at least relate some replies Gilliam has sent to his emails.
In August 2001, Gaiman posted to his website the response Gilliam gave when asked how the project was going. Gilliam said, "I'll warn you in advance that we created a very different climax. And we dropped favorite characters. We added some scenes involving cattle drives in the Old West and song and dance sequences from our favorite Bollywood films. We also tried to make the Metatron more Jewish for the sake of the financiers. Woody Allen would be perfect...or maybe Mel Brooks. Then there is the snuff movie that Crowley is producing which we get to see in utterly graphic detail...we thought it would make him more active in believable evil. And we eliminated most of the comedy. I felt it held the book back from being the 'great and profound work', which we hope the film will be."
Speaking to Reel.com in the Autumn, Gilliam said, "We're in the process of trying to get the money. We want to be shooting next Spring. I've got a couple of big actors in two of the parts, and we're trying to see if somebody's now going to give us all the money we need to try and do it. Unfortunately, it's quite expensive, this one, the most expensive thing I've ever done. And that's exactly the process we're in; I can't tell you who's in it yet, or any of those things."
On November 12 2001, the Chicago Sun-Times "exclusively revealed" that Joseph Fiennes and Christophe Lambert would be playing the two angels Crowley and Aziraphale in the film. Soon afterwards, Gaiman's website refuted the item.
And on 7 January, John Nefastis sent a report to Aint It Cool News. He had spoken to both Gilliam and Gaiman in the previous couple of weeks. Gilliam said that he planned to start filming Good Omens in April, and that they've been sorting out the final script re-writes and the budget. Nefastis states that Gilliam said reducing the book into a two hour film has been a tough process, and some more work was needed on the script to bring the budget down. "It's a tricky thing when you take a book like that that's so dense, so full of wonderfully funny, smart writing, and you try to reduce it to a two-hour-plus movie. And some of my favourite stuff from the book is not in there. It's like cutting limbs and arms off of this child, and hoping there'll still be something left of it at the end. It's such a big special effects film it's ridiculous. Every scene has got something in it. And I've got to create heaven and hell."
Nefastis commented that Neil Gaiman was looking forward to the movie. Gaiman said, "The last thing I've heard he has figured out a way to put the footnotes in. He's very proud of the footnotes. He told me there will be pointy arrows, during scenes like the baby swap. In the scene where we have three babies moving round he wants signs with 'Baby A', 'Baby B' and 'Baby C'. And I thought: Good, he understands the book, he understands how to do it more than I ever did."
Gaiman continued: "Terry Pratchett and I went out to Hollywood together and had one of those great awful, aborted film experiences which everyone should have, that was magnificently dreadful. After that we said 'We're done on anything to do with Good Omens films, forever'. And we spent years saying no to anyone who wanted to buy it. Then Terry Gilliam came along and it was like 'Not only can you buy it, we'll happily pay your cab fare home.' We liked him. People say are you involved in the film, and we say 'no'."
Gilliam was a fan of the Beatles, and Harrison admired the Python tv shows. The musician came to the rescue of the Python project, Life of Brian when its nervous backers pulled out. In supporting Life of Brian, Harrison and his colleague Denis O'Brien created Handmade Films, which was to fund a great number of British films throughout the 1980s. One of these films was Time Bandits, for which Harrison also provided the closing song. The film proved to be a breakthrough for Gilliam's career.
Not only that, but Harrison was also a major influence on Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It was Harrison who showed Gilliam some old texts of Rudolph Raspe's original Munchausen writings and challenged the filmmaker to turn the stories into a film.
Harrison therefore had an enormous impact on Gilliam's film career. The two were friends; it was reported in the Daily Mirror at the end of 2000 that Harrison turned up to Gilliam's 60th birthday party in N. London and entertained all of the guests by playing music.
6. New Jabberwocky and Holy Grail Special Edition DVDs released
In Autumn 2001, Special Edition DVDs of Jabberwocky and Holy Grail were released. Both were packed with extra features such as director dialogues and behind-the scenes footage. In September, Dreams was updated with an enormous new Jabberwocky feature, created with the assistance of the film's producer John Goldstone. Further, Terry Gilliam introduces the new Criterion edition DVD of Fellini's 8 1/2. The Jabberwocky and 8 1/2 sleeves are pictured below.
8. Vision Award - Gilliam's acceptance speech
Here is the full text of Terry Gilliam's acceptance speech, as he accepted the Vision Award from the Filmmakers' Alliance. For more details of this event, see the July 2001 news page. This text was sent in by Craig J. Clark.
I came out here to meet a group of starving and struggling independent filmmakers called Filmmakers Alliance. I'm sure the amount of money you spent to fly me and my wife out here could have made several films, so I hope I'm worth it. And I apologize for keeping your films from being made. I hate speechifying, so I may ramble a bit if you don't mind. I've been talking all day, trying to plug this extraordinary organization because for people to band together, for support and morale, is really important. Judge each other, rather than let the executives do it who run this tiny little town that dominates the world's culture.
I have to go back a bit. You're looking at a product of Panorama City up here. I didn't grow up in London or New York. I still haven't, hopefully--grown up, that is. But I so desperately wanted to be in the movie business. I wanted to direct films from way back when, but I didn't know how. I hated the studio system and I didn't want to fetch coffee and work my way up. I made a smart decision early on when I quit working at the Chevrolet assembly plant on Van Nuys Boulevard: I decided to never ever work for money again in my life, but to take jobs for joy and pleasure. Yet, here we are in a town that revolves around making money and divides and separates people with managers, agents, business managers and lawyers. All these people that can live off you, for years to come if you're lucky. Or, in my case, they don't live off me because I don't make any money and haven't for many years. So I apologize to my agent, lawyer, and all those people whom I am not keeping in the style they have grown accustomed to. The other decision I made was to be in control of whatever I did--total control. It actually destroyed my career for years, because it closed almost every door that was available to me. Luckily, I stumbled onto cartoons and eventually I got where I wanted to go. I was very lucky to be part of Monty Python, because we were a little gang. We gave each other support and criticism and, together, we were unstoppable.
I have been extraordinarily lucky to get where I got, because when we made Holy Grail, Terry Jones and had never directed a film before. People were dodging taxes in London. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Elton John were all trying to get out of punitive tax situations. So they gave us money and off we went. We learned on the job. And from day one it was a disaster. But somehow we got through five weeks of filming. When I look back, I realize there is no way we could ever make that film again. It was very unique and special to be allowed control of what we did and to make our own mistakes. That is the key thing. It's the one thing I fight for and I hope you continue to fight for.
Make your own mistakes, not the mistakes of some studio executive who's worried about his career. Every film I've made has been a product of my mistakes. Luckily I've been surrounded by good people who pick me up all the time. When I'm being stupid and egomaniacal and convinced of the rightness of my own ways, they point out the truth of that situation. Again, that is what's important about the Filmmakers Alliance. Pick each other up. Don't be polite about it. Be brutal to each other, be tough. Making films is a great privilege. Speaking to large numbers of people is a great privilege. You've got to be very tough on yourself and co-workers to try to be the best. I say time after time that the director might be in the way of a good film, so fire me if necessary.
What's so wonderful is to work with people who all come together to make something greater than all of them, greater than any individual. In some way we do have an effect and we do occasionally change the world. In The Fisher King, I directed a waltz sequence in Grand Central Station. Now, on New Year's, an orchestra plays there and people waltz for real. Somehow the fantasy became reality. Maybe it was always real but nobody saw it.
What I want to do is make films that astonish people, that astound people, and I hope you want to do that too. It's easy to make money. It's easy to make films like everybody else. But to make films that explode like grenades in people's heads and leave shrapnel for the rest of their lives is a very important thing. That's what the great filmmakers did for me. I've got images from Fellini, from Bergman, from Kurowsawa, from Bunuel, all stuck in my brain. All these bits of shrapnel have formed whatever I am, in front of you now. And those are the kind of films I think you should aspire to. This industry is always looking, desperately, for talent that will do its bidding. Don't do it. Never, ever. Do your own bidding. Be driven from within.
I'm trying to cut through the bureaucracies that surround executives who try to dignify what they do. I was talking to the head of a studio a couple of years ago and I asked her, "What do you do?" She said, "We make films." I said, "No you don't, you stop films from being made. When you consider the number of scripts that arrive on your doorstep each day, how many do you make?" I don't think she appreciated that.
I've worked very hard to burn bridges in this town, but no matter how hard I tried, I failed. I still get offers of work. So I don't know where to go. I'm counting on you people to help burn bridges as well. Make your own bridges. Good luck in the future and thank you for this award thing, whatever it is. It's a real nice thing. This will clean my toilet brilliantly. Thank you very much.
For more info about FA and events call 310-281-0093 and visit www.filmmakersalliance.com [Originally printed in the Fall 2001 issue of MovieMaker Magazine, No. 44, Vol. 8]
Also, as posted by Craig J. Clark on the Dreams MessageBoard, "Movie Maker" magazine also features an interview with Terry Gilliam in the current Fall 2001 issue. It won't be available online until the Winter 2002 issue hits the stands.
9. New Gilliam interviews on Web
Here are some new weblinks featuring interviews and articles with Terry Gilliam:
Gadfly online - an interview, Autumn 2001 by Jonathan Kiefer.
Reel.com - an interview, mainly in support of the rerelease of Jabberwocky
BBC Surrealism - an interview with respect to the Surrealism exhibition at the Tate Modern
US Radio Interview (KCRW) - Interview with Elvis Mitchell. You'll need a Real Player for this one, download it from here
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Phil Stubbs, Edinburgh. January 2002.