Dreams  News Bulletin: July 2001
Edited by Phil Stubbs.  Published 18 July 2001.

Why is Cannes jury chair Liv Ullmann surprised?  See below

In this issue of the Dreams News Bulletin...

1. Momentum builds on Good Omens
2. Tideland project announced at Cannes
3. Gilliam completes Cannes jury duty
4. Gilliam gives more detail on Quixote problems
5. Holy Grail and Jabberwocky spruced up
6. Gilliam receives plaudits in LA
7. Terry Gilliam's top 10 animated films
8. Timothy McVeigh and the Brazil connection
9. Miscellaneous News

1. Momentum builds on Good Omens
It looks more certain by the day.  A project based on the novel Good Omens is moving forward with Gilliam at the helm. The director has written and rewritten several times the script with Tony Grisoni and the funding is in place, with Charles Roven producing.  At the start of July, Terry Gilliam spoke to Dreams, saying that he and Tony have finished what he hopes is the final draft of Good Omens.  He added, "Now we start casting and bringing on a few heads of key departments to try to work out what the thing is going to cost."

The narrative of the movie is going to be a little different to the original book, to make it work as a film.  In particular the ending has been changed. At the start of May Gilliam told Dreams, "With each pass it becomes even more loosely based on the book. Perhaps the fans will never speak to us again."

Neil Gaiman, who wrote the book Good Omens with Terry Pratchett, was at the Book Review in Huntington, NY in mid June plugging his new book American Gods.  An Aint-It-Cool-News reporter was there.  On the subject of how involved he and Pratchett are in the production, Gaiman replied, "Not at all! Why would we want to be? The book was a Gaiman and Pratchett book. With the film, we want to see a Terry Gilliam movie!" Further, he observed that, even in the event it turns out to be a "bad" Terry Gilliam movie, he'd still prefer that to the vast majority of "good" films churned out by the industry.

Gaiman also said he is optimistic that the project will happen, though Pratchett disagrees with him.  A typical conversation between him and Pratchett is as follows: Terry Pratchett's mantra: "It'll never happen." "But what if Gilliam does manage, against odds, to make a really good movie?" "It'll never happen." "Well... imagine, will you, that the film is made, we're in the theatre, walking down the aisle with movie stars behind us! What do you think?" "It'll never happen." 

2. Tideland project announced at Cannes
At Cannes in May, it was announced that Gilliam would be working with producer Jeremy Thomas to bring a film called Tideland to the screen.  This project is based on a recent novel of the same name by American Mitch Cullin.  Before the book was published, the author sent it to Gilliam, who lavished it with praise and snapped up the film rights quickly.  He also arranged for Tony Grisoni to work on the script.  Terry told Dreams early July, "Tony is almost finished with the first draft of Tideland which we are doing with Jeremy Thomas... sometime in the future."

Tideland therefore appears to be Gilliam's next scheduled project after Good Omens, and has been described by the director as "Alice in Wonderland meets To Kill A Mockingbird meets Psycho". For more information, and more quotes from Gilliam see the Dreams Tideland page.

What do you think? Put your thoughts to the Dreams Messageboard

3. Gilliam completes Cannes jury duty
Terry Gilliam served on the Cannes jury in May 2001, a duty he is unlikely to repeat. He arrived to face the press with other jury members (including Liv Ullmann, Edward Yang and Julia Ormond) wearing an irreverent T-Shirt with large letters "Can be Bribed".

Gilliam turns up for jury duty
with irreverent T-Shirt

After initial shock, Liv Ullmann
finds the T-Shirt endearing

The members of the jury

Terry Gilliam and daughter Amy
arrive at the Cannes HIV charity event

Several weeks after the festival finished, Gilliam wearily told Dreams, "I'm just recovered from Cannes jury duty which was very exhausting.  2-3 films a day, starting at 8:30am.  Unable to leave and discouraged from sleeping during showings.  Put me right off films for the next year. Luckily there were 5 or 6 excellent films.  Hostage syndrome developed amongst the jury members as the 2 weeks ground on.  Cannes has become my place of punishment.  Fear and Loathing was eaten alive there a couple of years ago and then this!  Luckily, I've now done my duty and a repeat is unlikely."

Terry took the photos below for French website Telerama.  There are more photos, plus audio files of Gilliam's commentary to download.  At the website, click on Cinema, then Cannes 2001, then L'oeil de Terry Gilliam.

Reflection of a Security Guard

Security Barriers

Liv Ullmann

Edward Yang and his wife with a
better digital camera than Gilliam's

Julia Ormond

4. Gilliam gives more detail on Quixote problems
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Gilliam's cherished film project that was halted one week into shooting in October last year [2000], is still attracting a great deal of attention in the media. [See News Archive for more history on this project]  Terry Gilliam was the guest on the BBC Radio4 programme, On the Ropes - in which famous people talk to BBC journalist John Humphries about particularly tough times in their lives.  Immediately after the broadcast, the interview was available as a downloadable file at the BBC Radio4 website.  Gilliam commenced by talking about the appeal for him of the Quixote story.  "I think I'm the reincarnation of Don Quixote. I keep reading reviews of my stuff and they all seem to be referring to this.  I'm obsessed with the idea of an old man whose dreams and his will power are greater than reality, and as I get older I become more and more obsessed with it... as one probably would."

Gilliam and Johnny Depp on set

For Gilliam, it was extremely important that Jean Rochefort was in the movie.  "A phenomenal French actor, he had spent nine months learning English.  A 70-year-old man who rides show-jumping horses.  This has always been the problem with Quixote - finding an old actor who can ride.  We found one who could do everything but the English, so we got him to learn his English.  He learned his English, we finally started shooting, but he developed a prostate infection that attacked five days after the start of shooting.  The plug was pulled.  It was over.  End of movie.  But that was last year, and I'm trying to buy the script back now"

Humphries pressed Gilliam into revealing more about the details of the Quixote shoot...

Day 1: "We are out in this desert land north of Zaragoza. We knew there was a slight problem but we thought we could work around it.  This desert land is where NATO does its bombing runs but it's a great landscape.  And we were supposed to be notified when they would be doing their bombing runs.  Well of course it didn't quite happen that way.  So you've got F16 fighter-bombers coming in blasting the place while we've got horses and a chain gang!

"The first day went reasonably well except that Jean Rochefort had got this prostate infection - just two weeks before we started shooting.  This is a man who was like a 50-year-old, he was vigorous. He's never missed a day's shooting in his life. He's extraordinary, but this infection started creeping in.  Sitting on a horse he was slow, he was in pain, but we got through the day. It wasn't a great day but we were off and running. Everything looked beautiful, it was majestic."

Day 2: "We go out to our bombing range desert set and then we started shooting and then the wind started building up and it was kind of like the Wizard of Oz with Dorothy running for cover. And the crew began the run for cover as this blackness came sweeping towards us. And it hit. And it was one of the Old Testament kind of tempests - the kind they don't do anymore. And it just started and then it went and went, and by then I realised we were in big trouble and I walked out into this tempest.

"While the rest of the crew is huddling under these makeshift things and I'm out there watching the heavens open up and saying to me: Do not do this film. It's all over. Every crime you've ever committed against humanity is being punished, now, to you, personally.  It literally did start opening up and it started hailing. The winds were howling, the desert landscape suddenly became waterfalls.  It was extraordinary and, hiding underneath this rock, it finished and when I turned back, the set was gone.

"Everything's gone, it's been washed away.  There's been a flash flood that has washed the equipment - everything - away and by then I was joyous, with hysteria.  I think it was the most wonderful feeling.  To be free of this burden that had been plaguing me for all these years.  It was like I could go home now.  And in fact I broke open a bottle of champagne to celebrate our first insurance claim."

Day 3:
"The next day we cleaned the cameras. We cleaned the gear trying to get the costumes back together washing. It was just a complete disaster"

Day 4:
"But we got it back up and running on the fourth day.  We started shooting and things looked awful because the ground now was a different colour soaked with water; it hadn't dried out.  Jean had got on a horse and you could see he was in pain but he insisted that he could work.  The producer said 'We must keep shooting.'  The first assistant director said, 'I'm not letting him stay on this horse. He's in pain.'

"Half the day was lost with this argument, and finally I went to Jean and asked 'What do you want to do, because I can see you're in pain?'  He said, 'If I don't shoot today I'll be so depressed over the weekend I'll die!'  So he was on the horse for an hour, walking and it took two men to lift him off.  He was back to Paris and in the hospital the next day - and that was our Don Quixote.

"It was quite extraordinary in that the insurance company said ,'You've got a month to reschedule or recast.'  And neither of those things were possible in the time because the schedule was so tight.  We were in cathedrals and palaces; we were very limited.  And we had actors for different days that we could only have for those days.  It was impossible so they pulled the plug, and sold off the costumes and the sets - it all just went away.

"In fact we have videotapes of the last day with this cart that Quixote was at one point supposed to be put in to which was a cage when he's taken away as a madman. And that was the last thing I saw being loaded onto the truck and disappearing somewhere into Spain.

"There some weird side of me that was almost relieved because of my memories of Munchausen. The scars are so deep. I was aware that we had actually big problems down the line and just possibly the problems would have reared their head later and they would have been even worse and the build up to this whole thing, the putting it together dealing with this multi-lingual multi-cultured group of people - French, Italian, Spanish, English.  It had been such a strain and I was actually exhausted on the first day of shooting.  I'd never experienced it before - going onto the set and there was no joy in me.  I was burnt out before we started shooting, and I actually feared that I would never have gotten through the film.  So there was a very selfish side of me thinking that I've been let off the hook.

"The problem is now what are we talking about 7/8 months later it still claws because at the end of Munchausen nightmare we had a film, and there are many people who think it's wonderful - so I'm a happy guy.  But with this one, after all that, there's nothing there.  I've got a couple of VHS tapes of what we shot.  You can see that it's magnificent.  I immediately leapt into other work writing scripts and things.  People say, 'Give it up', but the script is too good.  There's the possibility of making a really great film.  If I felt I was just doing an OK film it wouldn't be the same, but this is something I really believe we got right.  And those things obsess you."

Gilliam concluded, "I need a war around me to survive."

Further, in mid-June, it was reported by Variety that Jean Rochefort is fully recovered from the ailment that forced him out of Quixote.  In fact he is getting ready to shoot his first feature since then, the French actioner Blanche.  Rochefort will play 17th century French statesman Cardinal Mazarin.  Also appearing will be Gerard Depardieu and Antoine de Caunes.  "He's completely recovered," Rochefort's agent said.  The actor who underwent an operation and spent three months convalescing after suffering a double disk hernia recently completed a 90-minute episode of Les Boeuf-carottes, the French TV series in which he stars, and he is shooting another to wrap at the end of June.  The $10.5 million Blanche, directed by Bernie Bonvoisin, starts lensing in September.

5. Holy Grail and Jabberwocky spruced up
a. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
In recent months, the second Python feature, Monty Python and the Holy Grail which was directed jointly by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, has been released in the States in a new print.  For more details of the screenings around the US, visit the official Holy Grail website at PythOnline.  Further, a DVD of Holy Grail is nearing completion as of early July, and Gilliam described it to Dreams as "a corker."  Gilliam also spoke about the Holy Grail re-release to Time Out New York.  A selection of the quotes are below.

Is it true that you didn't have enough money to shoot one scene, so you just pasted stills of the actors into a book, which you filmed off your living-room floor?
Yes. And one shot of a forest is actually a photo from a calendar. We just put some candles in the foreground to give it a heat glaze, and zoomed in. And the animals that are thrown up in the air? Those are actually toy cows from a railway set. We wanted to do a proper medieval epic. But we were saved from that kind of mediocrity by a lack of money. It's always been our salvation. Because you've got to be clever or ridiculous. One of the two.

What was the best lesson you learned on set?
That you can get through it no matter what - I've seen what you can do with nothing. I've never had a film where I've had enough money. But that pressure has always maintained a kind of adrenaline rush. If I had everything, I think I'd just relax and enjoy myself - which is the last thing you want to do when you're making a movie. I find the whole process incredibly painful.

Yet you keep going back.
I don't know what else I would do. I'm not equipped to do anything anymore. I don't even draw properly - my artwork is basically birthday cards for my family.

What did you learn back then about working with actors?
What I learned is that I couldn't work with the Pythons - I'd never work with them again as a director. They didn't respect me: they just thought I was the American animator who couldn't speak English. I look back at it and say, I can't imagine we could do that again - be that naive and energetic and plough through everything no matter what. You just did it.

b. Jabberwocky
As previously reported by Dreams, Terry Gilliam's first film as solo director has been restored with a new soundtrack.  Gilliam commented about this to Dreams in July, "We did a new stereo mix for the new Jabberwocky DVD.  It proved to be a quantum leap for the film.  I was blown away by how much more atmospheric and intense the film has become. I think the DVD is being released this autumn. A new print of the film is popping up at various festivals in the US and will be touring later in the year."

6. Gilliam receives plaudits in LA
Gilliam filed a report with Dreams about two awards ceremonies he attended in Los Angeles at the end of June 2001. He was given the Vision Award from the Filmmakers' Alliance and a few days later joined the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.

"Just returned from LA where the Filmmakers' Alliance gave me their Vision Award on June 26.  Probably the heaviest award I have ever received.  This pile of metal is given to those foolish filmmakers that have inspired this group of struggling, upstart, would-be filmmakers trying to work in the oppressive shadow of the Great Beast, Hollywood.  They invented the award last year.  Mercedes Ruehl flew in from New York to introduce and lavishly praise me (in hope of future employment, obviously) and hand the pile of metal over.  She was brilliant, articulate, funny, and wise.  Of course, her career has plummeted since working with me and bagging an Academy Award.  Amanda Plummer was also there, as luminescently mad and wonderful as always.  The big surprise was to bump into Derek O'Connor who has been in three of my films and, as a result, left England for San Francisco many years ago.  All these celebrations took place at the Director's Guild of America's theatre.  They co-sponsored the event.  The food was interesting."

The photo (right) of Gilliam with Mercedes Ruehl was taken at the Filmmakers' Alliance ceremony by Antony Berrios.  Gilliam told Dreams, "You do appreciate that this is an important award from the the Filmmakers' Alliance that I hold in my hand and not a vibrating sexual device."

A few days later, Gilliam went on to a Python event, "On June 29, Python was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.  Eric Idle was there representing Python and sang several of our hits backed by an all-star chorus.  Robin Williams introduced him.  I was going to join in and sing Sit On My Face with Eric.  But, the Bowl said no when they heard I was planning to do it in the traditional way - in the way we had performed it years ago in the very same place - with long French waiter's apron and no trousers or underwear.  I thought it would be the appropriate thing to do.  The organizers of the event didn't agree.  They felt that mooning the assembled charity givers with my 60-year-old arse would not go down well.  I felt that censoring Python at this late stage in our career was way out of line.  WAY OUT OF LINE!  So, I bailed out.  Eric carried on."

Terry Gilliam interviewed at Bristol Animation festival
7. Terry Gilliam' s Top 10 animated films
On April 27 2001, Terry Gilliam headed for the West Country and appeared at Animated Encounters, Britain's leading animation festival in Bristol, where the Aardman studio is based, home of Wallace and Gromit.  At his gig, Gilliam presented his "Desert Island Cartoons", ie those animated films he would take with him to a desert island were he to be marooned.

The films are listed below, but you can find more of Gilliam at the website of newspaper The Guardian: Gilliam's Top 10 Animated Films

The Mascot
(Wladyslaw Starewicz, France 1934) "absolutely breathtaking, surreal, inventive and extraordinary.  This is where it all began."
(Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen, US, 1940) "every film I have made features a scene with somebody in a cage - a trait I attribute to watching Pinocchio."
Red Hot Riding Hood
(Tex Avery, US, 1943) "The magic of Tex Avery's animation is the sheer extremity of it all."
Out of the Inkwell
(Dave Fleischer, US, 1938) "This was when I first discovered surrealism."
Death Breath
(Stan van der Beek, US, 1964)
Les Jeux des Anges
(Walerian Borowczyk, France, 1964) "Walerian Borowczyk was a twisted man whose films were infused with a unique cruelty and weirdness."
Dimensions of Dialogue
(Jan Svankmajer, Czechoslovakia, 1982) "Svankmajer's stop-motion work uses familiar, unremarkable objects in a way which is deeply disturbing."
Street of Crocodiles
(The Quay Brothers, UK, 1986) "the Quays have created that world in a manner which hypnotises me, but which I don't fully understand."
(John Lasseter, US, 1989) "John Lasseter's work was the first digital animation that had genuine life in the characters."
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Trey Parker, US, 1999) "Their stuff is so shoddy that it is miraculous that it works at all."

8. Timothy McVeigh and the Brazil connection
An article by journalist Jon Ronson in UK-based newspaper The Guardian sent shudders through some Brazil fans.
  In a revealing piece about Timothy McVeigh, people who had met him said that he was known as both Tim Tuttle and Tim Buttle.  Fans will recall that Buttle was a character in Brazil who was wrongly arrested and killed, and Tuttle was the Robert de Niro character who fought against the state.  Ronson's intelligent article, which did not make the link between McVeigh's pseudonyms and the film Brazil, can be found at The Guardian's website.  McVeigh himself was unavailable for comment.

Brazil: the
First Draft

9. Miscellaneous News
  • Dreams was very sad to hear about the death of writer Douglas Adams on 11 May 2001.  Adams was a writer of enormous wit and original ideas.  Terry Gilliam knew Adams, and often rumours were made of Gilliam directing a version of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.  Gilliam said several years ago, "This sort of comes and goes occasionally, but it's never gotten anything more than saying, 'It's an interesting idea, but...' We've never worked out a script or anything."  A memorial event is being planned for the author in London in September.
  • Gilliam was interviewed by Total Film magazine (UK) in their August 2001 issue.
  • Terry Gilliam was interviewed as part of Jonathan Ross's Film 2001 programme on BBC1tv on June 28 2001.  He spoke about how the appeal of animation for him was its ability to create an abstraction rather than to mimic reality.
  • The French Utopiae Sci-Fi Film Festival in Nantes is to run a Terry Gilliam retrospective later this year.  It is not clear at the moment whether Gilliam will be attending, but I understand that Neil Gaiman and Brian Aldiss will be there.  It is to run from October 30th to November 4th 2001.
  • Four people won copies of Brazil: The First Draft - a book containing - in full - the first draft of the Brazil script by Terry Gilliam and Charles Alverson, edited by Bob McCabe.  Copies of the book (pictured right) will be going off to four lucky winners around the world who were selected by the Dreams random number generator, and who have been notified.  The answer to the question was Bob Hoskins, who appeared in Brazil and also a recent adaptation of Don Quixote.

Dreams welcomes contributions. If you wish to send relevant comment, letters, analysis, news - 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. July 2001.

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