Dreams: 2011 News Blog

Edited by Phil Stubbs

January 2011
In January, Terry Gilliam has been shooting a new short film, The Wholly Family, in Naples. On this project, he has teamed up again with cinematographer Nicola Pecorini and costume designer Gabriella Pescucci. Shooting in Naples took place from 10 to 16 January, and there was a further day of greenscreen work in Rome on Thursday 24 January. Funding came from the Garafalo pasta company, which has funded Italian film in recent years.

Gilliam on set with actor Cristiana Capotondi

A report featured on an Italian tourism website - looking like it has been translated into English from original Italian (but you'll get the basics from this)...

“See Naples and then shoot”, must have thought Terry Gilliam, who has recently finished to film The Wholly Family. On the screen, the Parthenopean city and the Phlegrean seaside for a short-film signed by Pasta Garofalo. The cast includes Capotondi as protagonist, Douglas Dean, Nicolas Connolly, Sergio Solli. Showing that tourism can be promoted also through the city’s natural sets.

The visionary director of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has chosen, for his key scenes, beautiful, realistic and interesting locations. Word of Gilliam. Among the sets, the Ospedale degli Incurabili, the Ospedale delle bambole, San Gregorio Armeno and the ex asilo Filangieri, the Succorpo Vanvitelliano and the Guglia di San Gennaro. The Phelgrean area is also present with the Casina Vanvitelliana di Bacoli and the Grotte della Sibilla di Cuma. There’s everything: from the most popular Naples to the breathless views.

Plot: a wealthy American couple walks among the crowd of the historical centre with their small child, who, at some point, is attracted by the lucky horns, the pulcinella, the crib scenes and sacred images. He, then, disappears, and so starts an oneiric journey through reality and imagination. Suspense is guaranteed by an expert direction.

He cast is completed by Renato De Maria, Antonino Iuorio and Nico Cirasola. Costumes are of Oscar-winning Gabriella Pescucci. Photography is by Nicola Pecorini. The film will be on TV and in cinemas in May.

Gilliam’s work is the fourth of a series of short-films produced by Pasta Garofalo. Before the American director, Eldo Tagliavini has filmed Alchimia del Gusto, Pappi Corsicato Questione di Gusti and Valeria Golino Armandino e il Madre, all set in Naples. A peculiar choice that of the pasta company to sign art films.

More details on this project will surface here at Dreams over forthcoming months...

An interview with Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly was published online in January. Kelly spoke about the film which changed his life the most… and that film was Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Good Omens, which Gilliam was once attached to direct, is now to resurface as a TV series. Gilliam is no longer attached, but it's been reported that his Python colleague Terry Jones has been approached regarding adapting the book. As recently as Nov 2009, Gilliam was saying that he was still interested in making Good Omens, yet now looks unlikely as a feature film prospect.

February 2011
On February 14, it was announced that there will be a celebration of Gilliam's work at this year's Bradford International Film Festival. Not only will there be a retrospective of Gilliam's films on the big screen, but also festivalgoers will get an early chance to see The Wholly Family, Gilliam's new short film. As described in the press release below, Gilliam will be presented with a Fellowship Award at the festival.

Bradford International Film Festival’s Artistic Director Tony Earnshaw today announced that award winning filmmaker Terry Gilliam will receive the Fellowship Award and a retrospective tribute to his work at this year’s Festival which runs 16th - 27th March.

Gilliam has brought his unusual mindset to an array of films that continue to provoke debate and entice audiences into new worlds of wonder and fantasy.

Following a spell with the Monty Python team he broke into directing with Jabberwocky and has since thrilled and amazed cinemagoers with titles such as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Twelve Monkeys, Brazil, The Fisher King, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Time Bandits.

Gilliam commented; "To be honoured by such an important festival pre-posthumously will force my family to treat me with some respect while I'm still alive. I will always be grateful for that."

The Fellowship honours a practitioner who has made significant contributions to several areas of filmmaking. In 2010 it went to Nicolas Roeg.

As part of the retrospective programme of Gilliam’s work, Festival goers will be able to enjoy screenings of early shorts such as Storytime (1968) and The Miracle of Flight (1974) along with features including Jabberwocky (1977), Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1984), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009). Gilliam’s newest short film, The Wholly Family (2011), is also showing.

March 2011
Post-production work has continued on The Wholly Family in London - it will be shown at the Bradford Film Festival on March 19 if it is ready by then.

At the end of February, Nicola Pecorini - the Director of Photography on The Wholly Family - spoke to Dreams. The resulting article is here. Pecorini talks about its preproduction, and also provides some technical details about the shoot.

On March 2, a further video from ENO was released. It featured Terry Gilliam talking about his forthcoming opera, The Damnation of Faust, together with some pencil sketches.

On March 13, Gilliam was featured in The Observer. Specifically, he was interviewed about the film that changed his life. The pic he chose was Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, and he mentioned how certain tracking shots in Brazil were influenced by Kubrick's war picture.

Almost every film I've ever watched has changed my life, but this is the one that provoked a definite shift in me.

It's a film about a first world war battle but it's absolutely ridiculous because everyone's going to die yet the general claims they are making progress and so over the top they go, and it's a disaster. But rather than accepting the blame the generals accuse the troops of being cowardly and three are chosen by lots, tried and executed. It just made me so angry that that kind of injustice could exist, that people were dying for other people's mistakes. That was a growing-up moment for me.

I must have been about 13 or 14 when I first saw this, which is a very vulnerable and dangerous age because something as simple as watching a film can change your perception of the world. Before this, I'd just seen films as a form of entertainment, but suddenly here was something that was dealing with serious issues, and I realised that you could use films to say something important.

This was the first film where I became aware of the camera. There are these incredible tracking shots through the trenches: I'd never seen anything like that and suddenly the mechanics of film and how they're made became interesting to me. This was probably the film that led me to want to be a director.

You can see at the beginning of my film Brazil that the huge tracking shots are basically inspired and stolen from Paths of Glory. That's what happens when you make films: you try to emulate images that had an impact on you. For me, this is one of Kubrick's best films. He did things in a way that was really new and exciting. And I learnt that the camera can do things rather than just record: it can effectively become a character in the piece.

On March 19, Gilliam was in Bradford to receive its International Film Festival's Fellowship award. In the Pictureville cinema at the city's National Media Museum, the director introduced a screening of Time Bandits. It was remarked that the film had been released thirty years ago.

This was the first time that I (your Dreams editor) had seen Time Bandits on the big screen. Unfortunately the print had a crackly soundtrack and looked worn. Also, it appeared out of focus. Despite this, there was detail on the screen that I hadn't seen before. The appearance of the Supreme Being was extremely bright, and the film was played very loud indeed (though I was at the front). What I enjoyed more than I ever had done before was the soundtrack. And all the way through I was thinking just how wonderful the script is - even though I was expecting all the gags.

Following the feature, there was a screening of The Miracle of Flight, Gilliam's short film from 1974. Then the filmmaker was interviewed by festival director Tony Earnshaw. It was a wide-ranging interview, covering his first animations all the way through to The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.

In the interview, Gilliam spoke about the many problems he has encountered in his career. He said he had been incredibly lucky - overall - to do what he has wanted to do. He has never taken on projects he didn't want to do, so all the mistakes are his own mistakes. Further, he had many stories and anecdotes about the stars he has worked with, including Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Robert de Niro, Oliver Reed, Jonathan Pryce and Jeff Bridges. I recorded the interview so it's likely that some transcript may appear here in the future.

He touched upon the opera he's been working on. And with respect to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Gilliam said he is still working on gaining funding, and that Robert Duvall is still attached.

Sadly, there was no screening of The Wholly Family, even though a few days before the interview, Gilliam told Dreams that he was hoping to bring it with him to share with the audience.

Tony Earnshaw presents Terry Gilliam with the BIFF Fellowship Award in March 2011 (pic by PS)

At the end of the interview, Gilliam was presented with his Fellowship award by Earnshaw. There was then a screening of his 1968 short Storytime and also The Christmas Card from Do Not Adjust Your Set - the latter being a real audience pleaser. The whole session had lasted over four hours!

A short video of Gilliam talking about Julie Christie in Billy Liar and Darling was uploaded to the festival website. This can be seen below.

While he was in Bradford, Gilliam also popped in to see the cast of Spamalot, which was on tour at the Bradford Alhambra theatre, next door to the Media Museum. In the pic below, he is with cast member Phill Jupitus.

April 2011
Coming soon!

May 2011

Gilliam was at Istancool, the Istanbul International Festival of Culture at the end of May. There was a screening of some of his films, together with a Q&A session. Gilliam was mentioned in a report in The Independent, and featured in a video film from "Diary of Mu".

June 2011
Terry Gilliam was in New York City mid-June for an exhibition entitled Magnificent Obsessions. The exhibit features mixed-media looks at past “obsessions,” from sound design, to costume design, to set design. Gilliam was guest-of-honor at the opening night, where he spoke with The Wall Street Journal.

“I liked the idea of something about cinema and obsession,” the director said on the rooftop terrace, during a quiet moment before the party kicked into high gear. “It’s a term that gets used a lot but most people don’t experience what true obsession is.”

“Ideas take me over. They possess me,” he said. And once ideas take over, it’s a battle to “clear it out.” When it works, there’s a film to show for it. “Other things, you work on for years and it doesn’t happen. Those are the ones that take a lot of energy out of you. There’s been several of those.”

“I’m not a director for hire,” Gilliam said. “I only do films when I’m obsessed or possessed. I’m always impressed with directors for hire. They take any old thing and show up for every day. I have to be driven, because I don’t like getting up to work every day.”

Gilliam at the Magnificent Obsessions launch night with the Kingsleys

Gilliam was also interviewed by Vulture while in NYC, which included the following quotes:

[On Quixote] ...it’s trying to get this money! We had almost all of it together last year and then it fizzed out. What’s happening with money is there’s a number that’s the wrong number, and we’re at that number — $25 million, that’s just the wrong number. But it’ll work out. We just keep looking at different places to shoot, checking out Argentina, see if that’s less money. I don’t think in the States. I think most of the money is going to come from elsewhere. They want to give people $200 million to make the same film. Or they give them $5 million to do something interesting.

I think one of the things that bothers me about The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is how it was handled so badly in the States. That has left me with a kind of very depressed attitude about what’s possible, because that should have been successful. In places like Italy, it was a success, but not America. I learned one company not to work with!

[On The Defective Detective] ...that’s great, if you’ve got $100 million. [Laughs.] And we’ve been running around trying to resuscitate that little baby. And if I can’t get the money for the $25 million thing, I can try for this, and people in Hollywood will say, “Can you do it for $50 [million]?” “Can you do it for $20 [million]?” And you realize, there are idiots out there. How many people in Hollywood just have no idea how films are made? What’s involved in making a film? That’s the one thing that always assuages me: No matter how dumb my thing, there’s always one that’s dumber.

On 21 June, the Guardian reported that the BBC is making a drama about the release of Monty Python's Life of Brian. The members of Monty Python will be played by actors. The TV film will be shown on BBC4, which has already produced many dramas about British comedians, including Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Williams and Harry H Corbett & Wilfred Brambell.

On 26 June, the New York Times reported that a new animated film is being made, based on Graham Chapman's book, A Liar's Autobiography. Chapman's Python colleagues - including Gilliam - have recorded dialogue as themselves for the picture. Gilliam will also play a number of roles.

Gilliam reciting his lines for the Chapman pic

July 2011
Terry Gilliam features in a new documentary biography of Beatle George Harrison, directed by Martin Scorsese. It is called George Harrison: Living in the Material World. More details on the official George Harrison website.

On July 21, there was a screening of The Wholly Family in Los Angeles, in the opening night of the LA Shorts Fest. The Wholly Family will continue to appear at a number of film festivals around the world. Producer Amy Gilliam is currently working on plans to make the film available to those around the world who'd like to see it.

Gilliam went to the Era New Horizons Film Festival, in Wroclaw, Poland at the end of July. There was a full retrospective of his films, together with a few showings of The Wholly Family. Gilliam turned up to a screening of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. And on July 27, he was at a Q&A session at the Gazeta Café. A book about Gilliam was published at the festival, called Wunderkamera. The following three pics are from the festival:

At the Polish festival, in a further Q&A session, Gilliam was recorded revealing that he had started work on an adaptation of Paul Auster's novel Mr Vertigo. He said:

You read books, and you say, "That will make a great film" ... and then you realise: no, it wouldn't make a great film. Well, I can actually answer you right now... I got a book, it's called Mr Vertigo, by Paul Auster. I'm actually working on a script of it at the moment. It doesnt mean there'll be a film, but I'm working on a script. It was a book that I read - it was presented to me... I said yes, this is good stuff. And now we are adapting the script and I'm beginning to think I was wrong. Often what makes it work as a book is the very thing that means it's not going to work as a film. You want slightly simpler things to make a film out of. So Mr Vertigo - we're trying to do right now.

Gilliam went on to talk about not making a feature film in the last year:

This last year has been very strange, I'm not sure what I want. I'm in a funny state about what I want to do, and what I don't want to do. With Quixote, I just want to do it because everyone says I won't be able to do it - which seems a good reason to do it! But its almost reached the point that it's been around so long that I'm beginning to wonder whether I've made it in my head too many times.

That's one of the dangerous things about having projects around for a long time - you finish the works in your head. It reminds me of Nikola Tesla. He used to design all of his great inventions - and half of them we've never seen because he said to himself, it works fine, let's move on to the next thing.

I think I've got to make another film next year. I don't know what it is yet, but I need to do it. But there's another side of me that says, do I really want to wake up at 6:00 in the morning and go out in miserable weather when I can sit at home and do nothing? But... yes I do want to go out in miserable weather at 6:00 in the morning!

At the end of July, it was reported by the BBC that Terry Gilliam is to feature in a new BBC film called Cricklewood Greats. It is a mockumentary about some fictional British actors, to be broadcast on BBC4. Gilliam is to appear as himself, talking about a fictional project that went awry, Professor Hypochondria's Magical Odyssey. The TV film is written by and directed by Peter Capaldi, who is most famous in Britain as Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed Director of Communications for the British Government in The Thick Of It. The film has been shot, and is currently in postproduction.

Gilliam's appearance on the 1974 BBC programme The Do-It-Yourself Animation Show was uploaded onto YouTube this month. This is an illuminating resource on how Gilliam created his Python cartoons.

August 2011
Terry Gilliam is one of a number of famous individuals whose likeness is featured into a well-known work of art or cultural artefact, for a Sky Arts TV programme called Fame in the Frame. According to the press release, a tranquil Terry Gilliam lets his thoughts run free as The Buddha by Odilon Redon.

The Buddha by Odilon Redon

Gilliam appeared at Empire magazine's Big Screen, a movie convention event held in August in London. An interview with the director was uploaded to YouTube and is embedded below:

At Big Screen, Gilliam said:

I'm always working on things... and whether they become reality or not is in the lap of the financial gods, who have taken over the world - they are berserkers now. I have just finished working on a script with Paul Auster called Mr Vertigo - it's from one of his books. Quixote keeps hobbling along. There's another thing that may be interesting. I don't know, I've reached the point now where I am waiting for things to happen. I'm not going to make anything happen, I'm going to wait for them whoever they are to come to me.

[On Quixote] I met somebody just recently who has given me a bit more hope that we might be able to pull the baby off. It's just a funny time now. I assume that everybody out there if you are not working for the studios, you are scraping and struggling. Because that's what's happening now.

As part of London Film Festival later this year, Terry Gilliam is to get involved with a filmmaking initiative. Gilliam is to host a video contest for MOFILM, where budding filmmakers must select a corporate brand, and make a film according to the set brief. The brands are Santander, Campbell's and Chevrolet.

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