Dreams News Bulletin 15: September 1999

Edited by Phil Stubbs

In Dreams Bulletin 15...

  • New Gilliam animations for Python Night
  • Python Night - Preview
  • The Man Who Killed Don Quixote - a Progress Report
  • Gilliam visits the States to Plug Dark Knights and Holy Fools
  • Dark Knights and Holy Fools reveals new unresolved Gilliam projects
  • Gilliam tv appearances
  • Terry Gilliamís Favourite Villains
  • Signed Copies of Gilliam on Gilliam and Dark Knights and Holy Fools available from Manchester Waterstones
  • Dreams on television

New Gilliam animations for Python Night
Terry Gilliam has created some new animation material for the forthcoming Python Night, it has been revealed. The Python Night, which will last four hours, has been assembled to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first broadcast of Monty Pythonís Flying Circus on BBC television. The special selection of programmes will be broadcast on BBC2 on Saturday 9 October 1999, and will feature new material from the Monty Python team.

Alas, the new material does not appear to include all five of the remaining Python group members. On the Clive Anderson show on BBC1 on 2 September, Eric Idle revealed that while he was taking part in a new documentary, he was not taking part in the new material that was being produced. Following the broadcast of the Python Night, the BBC will show five episodes of Monty Pythonís Flying Circus from 11 to 15 October, as selected by the five members of Monty Python. Also, Monty Pythonís Life of Brian is to be shown as part of the Python season.

Python Night - Preview
Something completely different sneaked onto British television screens 30 years ago - and the world has never been quite the same since. The first edition of Monty Python's Flying Circus was transmitted on October 5th 1969, and to celebrate the anniversary, BBC2 will be devoting its entire evening schedule on Saturday, October 9th to the comedy troupe which once caused it so much trouble.

Starting with a series of new sketches written, directed and performed by the Pythons themselves, Python Night presents a major new documentary, It's: The Monty Python Story about the hugely influential careers of the six Pythons. Helping viewers through the prolific and varied pre- and post-Python years will be host and presenter, Eddie Izzard. To illustrate the story graphic artist Pete Frame, creator of Rock Family Trees, uses Terry Gilliam's graphics to produce a mammoth Monty Python Family Tree.

Sir David Frost and Ronnie Corbett talk about the early television work of the soon-to-be Pythons on shows like the ground-breaking Frost Report, At Last the 1948 Show and the ever- popular teen show Do Not Adjust Your Set. Comedian Frank Skinner remembers late nights in the early 70's spent watching episodes of Flying Circus while Robin Williams, Kevin Kline and Steve Martin discuss more recent collaborations with Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and John Cleese including A Fish Called Wanda and Baron Munchausen.

Python Night explores the Pythons' contribution to the world of music with From Spam to Sperm: Monty Python's Greatest Hits, in which avid Python fan Meat Loaf presents gems from the Python back catalogue, ranging from the banality of The Spam Song to the profundity of Every Sperm is Sacred. The Pythons discuss their favourites, analyse their musical talents and reveal the inspiration behind such greats as The Lumberjack Song, Sit on My Face, and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. There's also a rare chance to see the best of their live performances and clips from Flying Circus and Python feature films. Plus a couple of surprise guest appearances ....

Later in the evening Michael Palin leads a journey into Pythonland in search of the locations where many of the best known Flying Circus sketches were shot. In the unglamorous back streets of West London he finds the newsagent where John Cleese began Silly Walks; the High Street which was once terrorised by Hell's Grannies and the suburban house in Barnes in which the Seduced Milkmen were captured. Placing Monty Python commemorative plaques as he goes, he returns to the location of his favourite sketch and finds the very spot where he first crawled out of the sea to announce a new era in comedy with the unforgettable....'It's'.

Python novices and aficionados alike will be intrigued by Lost Python, a rare gem recently rediscovered in the television archives. The Pythons' ten minute contribution to this 1971 pan-European May Day broadcast introduced the rest of the world to the little-known British customs of Nun Boiling in Doncaster and the Spring Dance of the City Stockbrokers.

Liberally sprinkled with grave insults and gushing tributes paid to the Pythons by celebrities and stars, Python Night ushers in a week of favourite Python programmes and rare screenings of their most important feature films.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote - a Progress Report
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, the film that Terry Gilliam would next like to direct, has not gone into production this Autumn as was hoped earlier this year. The film is written and prepared, and Johnny Depp has been cast. The movie is to be shot in the UK and on location in Spain, and Gilliam has spent time in Spain looking for suitable locations.

Gilliam secured full financing for the project earlier this year, yet sources reveal that half of the financing dropped out this summer. Consequently, Gilliam is after extra cash, and is hoping to start shooting the project in Spring next year. Incidentally, there are four other Don Quixote-related projects in development, pre-production or production at the moment.

  • Don Quixote starring Robin Williams and John Cleese, directed by Fred Schipisi - I understand that this had the go-ahead a few years ago but funding was withdrawn. I read in the UK that his project has come up again, still with Cleese but with Ron Howard directing, yet Howard's diary seems a little full at the moment to take this on.
  • Disney's animation Don Quixote still in development.
  • A three-hour TV series Don Quixote starring Bob Hoskins (who has worked with Gilliam before of course) as Sancho Panza shooting on the Costa del Sol in Spain since May (still shooting). Also starring is John Lithgow and Isabella Rossellini. I hear that Bob apparently wants to adopt the donkey, Edward, with whom he has worked recently.
  • A film with Vincent D'Onofrio appearing again as Orson Welles directing his version of Don Quixote.

Gilliam visits the States to Plug Dark Knights and Holy Fools
In May, Gilliam flew to New York City for a number of appearances. His first was on 8 June 1999 at the Uptown Guggenheim to give a lecture. Yvette Wojciechowski was there and her report will appear here in the near future...

Dark Knights and Holy Fools

After a number of press/radio/tv interviews, Gilliam attended a book signing at the Rizzoli bookstore in Soho on 10 June. Craig J. Clark from Woodbridge in New Jersey attended the event and sent the following report. Please bear in mind that this is not the same Craig J. Clark that wrote an article linked from this siteÖ

The book signing was great. I don't think it was publicized too much, it was touch and go because of the availability of the books. I heard Terry was on WNEW (NYC rock station) the Tuesday before the signing and said he'd be at Rizzoli's. There was a big crowd, though. The signing didn't end until about 9:45.

Terry Gilliam entered the room at about 7:50pm (he also had an earlier book signing at another Rizzoli's uptown) and announced to everyone on line that he had to pee and (winking) asked if any of us wanted to join him. None of us wanted to lose our place on line, so we declined. Group pissing was clearly not a part of the program.

He returned and I noticed he was wearing the white jacket with brown pinstripes Robin Williams wore in The Fisher King. I didn't get to say much to him, but only because my mind blanked out a bit. I did remember to tell him my name, though. He was very friendly and even posed for pictures (I was able to snap a few). He was taking resumes and answering questions, so I was glad it wasn't mobbed with autograph hounds. All the true fans showed up. I was impressed by how down to earth and accessible he was. Nobody was rushed through and everybody was able to speak with him. People were bringing up old Python books and records, as well as memorabilia from Terry's own films for him to sign.

The book itself is excellent. It covers his complete works, and even though I read almost everything there is on Python, this book did have some new information. Plus it's a wonderful book to skim through because it has a huge amount of personal photos and artwork outside of Python, plus some of his own personal poster designs for his own pictures. As for his own films, each one is covered thoroughly, even Jabberwocky. I'd say it's an excellent companion piece to Gilliam on Gilliam, another great book.

Terry Gilliam with writer Bob McCabe

Apparently over half the attendees found out about the event from Dreams, very few appeared after having seen a New York Times ad.

Gilliam has also made appearances in London (Cinema Store 29 July 1999) and Edinburgh (Book Festival 28 Aug 1999) to plug the book. Gilliamís Edinburgh appearance was just two blocks away from the Dreams HQ, but unfortunately I was at a wedding at the South of England on that day.

Dark Knights and Holy Fools reveals new unresolved Gilliam projects
Dark Knights and Holy Fools provides new additions to the list of unresolved Gilliam projectsÖ

Back in 1994, Gilliam was interested in a biopic about Nikola Tesla, an electrical wizard whose impact on modern life is undervalued. "He was best friends with Mark Twain. Debussy used to come over to his place and play the piano. There was a really good book out on him which I gave to Tom Stoppard, hoping he would get interested, but he passed on it."

Anything for Billy
This is a proposed Western. Gilliam met with novelist Larry McMurtry during the shooting of 12 Monkeys. McMurtry continues to work on the screenplay, a tale of a dime-store novelist who decides to abandon his family life to head out and explore the West he has mythologised in his work. "But what heís been writing about is totally fictitious," says Gilliam, "he goes there to rob trains, which is just silly, but he ends up hooking up with Billy the Kid."

Gilliam tv appearances
Terry Gilliam appeared again on Channel Fourís The Big Breakfast on 6 September 1999. The programme was watched by deadmanjones, who sent the following report to DreamsÖ

deadmanjones: "Gilliam said he is trying to get to grips with a computer program that will essentially do cut out animation for him, in the same way South Park is assembled. The Big Breakfast is hardly the place for in-depth discussions, but he did reveal that the funding for Quixote is currently a little precarious, in fact I think he said he was off to a meeting later that morning, and that he would be putting Quixote together hopefully in the Spring."

Gilliam: "Very briefly - The Man Who Killed Don Quixote; the money's just fallen apart; I'm doing a commercial this morning and I've got to leave very shortly because my career is over - I was not joking about that. But we will be doing it in the springtime."

It was right at the end of the "interview" and he had to talk very quickly, but I guess he means that they're scheduled to make it in the spring...

Further, on Monday 13 September 1999, Terry Gilliam appeared on the Ruby chatshow, chatting entertainingly with Eddie Izzard and host Ruby Wax, but with no information about what he's working on.

Terry Gilliamís Favourite Villains
Max Evry was very kind to send to Dreams the text from an article in the February 1982 issue of Heavy Metal - Terry Gilliamís favourite villains of all time.

Procrustes the Innkeeper
When I was writing Time Bandits and researched the myth about Theseus and the Minotaur, I learned that one of the people Theseus encountered was Procrustes. In his inn, he had a bed. Those too short were stretched to fit, and those too long were lopped off. I liked his neatness.

The Wicked Queen in Walt Disney's Snow White
Vanity and beauty are what she's all about, yet the identity she assumes when she becomes the old beggar woman is practically the ugliest in all the kingdom. The fact that she takes on such an ugly exterior is really very odd, because she's totally obsessed with her beauty. Rather than becoming something not quite as hideous, she chose to look as ugly as possible. A truly strange thing.

The Phantom of the Opera
Actually he's not a villain; he's a tragic character. Villains like him interest me because I don't necessarily find them villainous. Often the most villainous are ordinary, bland, respectable people. In the Phantom's case it's the old tale of the beauty and the beast; somebody sensitive who has been scarred so that his sensitivity goes awry. Villains are invariably more interesting than heroes. Heroes tend to be simplified to the point of boringness- that's a problem Disney had. Villains are usually wracked by their own problems; some rise above them but most just sink to the bottom.

Shere Khan from Walt Disney's Jungle Book
He's the ferocious tiger with the voice of actor George Sanders. He's wonderful with that mellifluous voice, and quite beautiful- but ravenous. It's almost as if he can't help being a villain; he was born to frighten.

The Minotaur
In the Theseus legend he's a monster. But in my version (I worked it out while I was writing the film) I saw the minotaur as a monster who couldn't stop himself. He hated himself for it. In fact he really wasn't the villain; King Minos, his stepfather, was. Minos used his stepson as an excuse for extorting large amounts of gold in tribute. The Minotaur allowed Theseus to kill him because he couldn't live with his monstrousness. I liked the idea of a monster who is aware of his monstrosity and can't do anything about it.

Fred Silverman
One of the true monsters of all time. Look at what he's done! Actually, the real villains in television have no names - Fred Silverman probably isn't that bad a fellow. It's the ones without names, who actually make decisions, that are the corporate hydras. They are terrific villains because they make me so angry and get my blood boiling.

The Villains in Dick Tracy
They are so wonderfully grotesque-looking. Chester Gould was a master at inventing really silly villains. I can't specify any single one; they're all terrific because they were strange characters with strange names, strange looks, and interesting problems.

Richard Nixon
This ex-president is a great villain because a good person couldn't have done the positive things a base person like Nixon was easily able to do. Though he did things for the wrongest of reasons, the results of a few of his actions were good. For instance, the breaking down of the barriers between China and the US was great; if a real hero like Kennedy had tried it at that time he would have been accused of being soft on communism. But when a villain like Nixon did something like that - motivated by self-interest and his desire to get re-elected - he ironically ended up doing something good. That's what makes a villain like Nixon interesting... there's such irony."

Signed Copies of Gilliam on Gilliam and Dark Knights and Holy Fools available from Manchester Waterstones
I have been informed that several signed copies of Gilliam on Gilliam are available from Waterstones in Manchester. These are remnants of the interview and book signing Terry Gilliam and Ian Christie performed in March 1999. Also, they now have recently acquired signed first editions of Dark Knights and Holy Fools. In fact Manchester Waterstones claim to stock every book currently available on Terry Gilliam and they also post books out to customers worldwide. If anyone is interested in ordering copies, their address is: Waterstone's Booksellers, 91, Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2BW, United Kingdom. Telephone: +44 (0)161 837 3000.

Dreams on television
Dreams editor Phil Stubbs introduced television viewers to a showing of Time Bandits in July. Phil presented the film to viewers of Channel 4ís new digital movie channel FilmFour. The trailer lasted two minutes, and focussed on the performances, camera angles, and how Gilliam came to incorporate dwarves into the movie.

Contributions are welcome! If you wish to send letters, analysis, news or any information regarding Terry Gilliam and his work, then email me!
Thanks to everyone who has emailed me - keep in touch. To those who haven't, tell me what you think of Dreams. And let me know you've visited. Send your emails to me at phil@dreams.u-net.com

Dreams is stored by the witty, attractive and stylish people at Franklyn Press Multimedia, whose corporate HQ is situated in the glorious town of Macclesfield, Cheshire. These people know a thing or two about design, print and multimedia, so in the unlikely event that you have plenty of money to spend on design (regardless of media), give them a call.

Phil Stubbs, Edinburgh, September 1999.

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