“You’ve got to work at maintaining your version of the world. So start being alone!

” An Interview with Terry Gilliam
by Maša Peče Maša Peče is a film festival organizer, mainly involved with the production and organization of two core festivals in Slovenia: Kino Otok/Isola Cinema International Film Festival and Animateka International Animation Film Festival. Living between Ljubljana and Prague, she also cooperates in various capacities with other festivals, organizations and institutions devoted to cinema, such as Art House cinema Kinodvor in Ljubljana, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and Art House cinema Světozor in Prague, Czech Republic.

Just as his films spill back and forth over the boundary between fantasy and reality, it seems that Terry Gilliam himself inhabits contrasting worlds. Described as a visionary and a dreamer by both colleagues and critics, he is in fact a meticulous and skilled craftsman; a conjurer of fantastical worlds of fairytale knights and flying men, yet a keen critic and commentator with a wonderfully acute sense of reality. At times brutally sincere, he is in no sense harmful or malevolent in his intent. He is a lively host bursting with a healthy sense of humour, yet a zealous prophet of his so-called aloneness. He is a little girl and an ageing Don Quixote. This interview was conducted in August 2009 at the first edition of River Film Fest in Pisek, Czech Republic, where Gilliam was a festival guest. *** As in your films, there are some strange juxtapositions in your life. You say you grew up on radio but then you studied Fine Arts. How do you jump from a verbal inspiration to such a visual expression? Actually, I ended up with Political Sciences. There was a period of Art for I think one semester. But I didn’t like the Art History teacher, so I quit. And then I went to Political Science, because it only had four required courses. And then you could take Drama and

Oriental Philosophy … So, I actually created or gave myself a very liberal education. But the fact is Political Science was very important. Yet, you ended up doing cartoons and illustrations. I always did cartoons. Ever since I was a kid, I could always draw. Cartoons are great because you get immediate feedback. Like, for instance, when I do my signature with a little drawing and everybody goes, “Ooh! Ooh!” It feels good. So, that‘s why I do it. It’s purely that. Cartoons were always just easy. But when it came to graduating, I almost failed the Fine Art course because I was busy doing other things. The things I did were good; I just didn’t do enough. I talked the sculpture professor into giving me a D and not a FAIL. The National Guard: was that something you just couldn’t get out of or something you wanted to do? You have to be either in the Army for two years or you can do National Guard, and you go to summer camps every year for several years. But you can still have a life. You don’t have to go in for two years solid. But I cheated and got out of that. I cheat most of my life. And you wanted to be a Presbyterian Missionary? Oh, yeah. I went to college on a Presbyterian scholarship. That’s how I got through college. In my family, Church was very big. Growing up in Minneapolis, they were Lutherans and it was a basically Scandinavian community that we lived in. And Church was the centre of the community. You know it was like it used to always be. So, you don’t see Church as one of the bureaucracies or authoritarian regimes you keep commenting on in your films? No. It wasn’t the Catholic Church, it was Protestantism. And in that age Church was like a community and that was great. I loved it. Actually, I liked the Bible. I thought they were good stories, really good stories. And it was just natural. I didn’t think about it: parents went to Church, children went to Church. That’s what we did; that was our life. And like with everything, I become fairly obsessive; I become a zealot. When I get into anything, I’m very serious about it. So, I thought, “Well, you have to do good things in the world.” I mean that’s a fairly reasonable thing. You don’t have to be religious to decide you can make the world a better place. And the Christian Missions in Africa are okay?

Well, some of them are okay. I don’t like the evangelical fundamentalist ones, but the other ones are doing good work. They’re like any charity; they’re doing good work. So, that’s fine. Even in the late 18th century, the Churches were out everywhere in the world, but they weren’t as dogmatic and they weren’t too busy trying to change the world in the way they did in the 19th century. That’s when the Evangelicals went out to convert people to be like ‘me’, with no interest in anybody else’s culture. So, I was on the liberal side. I thought being a missionary would be good. I’d go out in the world and educate and do some good things. But in Church I was always making jokes and too many people didn’t like my jokes … about God. And I said, “What kind of God is this you believe in that can’t take my jokes?” What would be such a joke about God? Oh, I don’t know. I just made fun of things. It’s always a way of testing what I find important. If it’s important to me, I make jokes about it to see if it can stand it. And apparently the God of the Presbyterians of Panorama City wasn’t strong enough to deal with my jokes. [Laughs] So, I said, “Enough of all this. I’m not going to talk to you people, because you’ve stopped thinking.” And that to me is what’s important: to keep people thinking and not just accepting what is in front of them. Most of my childhood was just accepting what was there. And it was great; I didn’t have a problem. We lived in the country; it was a wonderful life. Why wouldn’t I want to accept it? And then, when you get older, you start seeing what the rest of the world is like and you suddenly realize, “Oh, it’s not as nice as the world that I was in when I was a kid.” And then you get angry at the things that are wrong in the world and you think, “Well, I’m educated and I’m privileged enough to be able to read. I should be doing something to make the world better than it is.” And that’s the thing with Monty Python [and the Flying Circus]. It was trying to make people wake up. People are asleep most of the time, just floating through life. They’re peasants. There’s nothing wrong with being a peasant. But, if you’re a peasant that’s rampaging around the world like America was and causing – as far as I am concerned – chaos, disaster and destruction, I felt responsible for being an American and an intelligent American with an education. So I felt, “Well I’ve got to do something.” And what I did was I left America. I quit. [Laughs] You renounced your American citizenship in 2006. Was that a practical decision? It was practical, mainly. I’d lived in England for 42 years and I was paying taxes in both countries. This is stupid after a while. And I discovered that, when I die, the Americans assess everything I own in the world. My wife would have to sell our house in England to pay the taxes. And I said, “This is stupid. So, goodbye!”

animation and illustration is something that is frowned upon. violent and nonsensical stuff. Then I solved a problem with an animation and that was the first time I’d ever done one properly. Well. he got a deal at BBC and whoop! The six people together – Python! And that was it. I knew John Cleese from my time in New York at Help! magazine. but it was only turning out in art houses and film festivals. And. they were different groups. Eric [Idle] and Terry [Jones] were doing and blah blah blah. And nobody had seen that before! So. what was the Pythons’ perception of you? On the one hand. overnight. They all loved what I was doing. he was one person I knew when I came to England. It was the . Terry and Eric. Everything grew in a very organic way. you’re an American surrounded by such a British sense of humour. It just seemed to work. And that led to another series of this children’s show with Mike. John wanted to work with Mike. but the animations brought a lot of people to [Monty Python’s Flying Circus]. So. I was still working in magazines and I said to John. On the other hand. of course. [Laughs] Suddenly I was in demand and I was being offered all sorts of other work. Somebody told me this later. there had been that style of animation out there for a long time. It was done cheaply: I would cut out things and move them around. because I was on the same comedic and intellectual wavelength. I mean. There was no plan. it wasn’t Python at the time. but doing something very different with all this visual. That led to another programme that I was cartooning. because they didn’t speak the English that well. and the English girl I came with. nobody goes to those places really.When you first came to London. and then there were John and Graham [Chapman]. often within feature-filmmaking circles. I’m an animator. because I want to get out of magazine work!” And I met the producer of these children’s shows that Mike [Palin]. it’s on television with nine million people watching and. because nobody had seen anything like that. There were four of us on this children’s show. “Introduce me to somebody in television.

And it takes two hours and I’m here [in the Czech Republic]. “Oh! The rest of the world doesn’t think like Americans!” And the way the rest of the world perceives what America is doing was even more of a shock. so I might as well use it. rather than as in Hollywood. [Laughs] And I’m the filter. [Laughs] You say you are not an auteur but a filteur. It was just one of those things that I knew how to do. Did you get this in the UK? No. I like to be the most equal. When I start working. We’re all part of this great experiment we’ve never made before and we don’t know if it’s going to work. “Wait a minute. even though the English are so obsessed with America. So. If they come with a better idea then mine. living in England. I hate the fascistic. there is a very different perspective than being in America. and that you needed a change of perspective. that’s my country you’re talking about!” And then I realized this is bad. I got down to Morocco and Turkey. a little bit more equal. within a few months I just changed and I said. you get a lot of different views very quickly. . [Laughs] You said that being part of the most powerful country in the world made you feel responsible. Fear rules Hollywood because the executives are being paid enormous sums of money. the hierarchical idea of filmmaking. When we’re working. where you are surrounded by nervous people. I’ll grab it. I’m not representing myself or anybody else. Lots of people are involved in a positive way. So.animations that caught their attention and then they began to realize how brilliant the show was. I’ll get the credit for it in the end. and different ways of looking at the film. it is very much like I become the servant of this film that’s trying to get made. All the ideas come to me and my job is to filter them. I guess my job is to represent the film. because they have all these different jobs. That’s when the big leap came. I’m lucky. That’s not a good environment to work in. I can’t work my way up through a system. And.” I went back to America for about a year and then I moved to England. the change of perspective came when I hitchhiked around Europe. “Look at this world out here and look at what we’re doing to it. so I covered a big area and that’s when I realized. It’s fantastic. but only a little bit. What they’re afraid of is saying “Yes” to anything they might get the blame for. I just pick up a fork and know how to use it. The view is different there. As a director. I travelled all around Europe. But what was funny about it was that I would defend America even though I was completely against everything that America was doing. all these different people are coming up with ideas.

I’m interested in people who can really paint or really sculpt. but nevertheless tried – and in a way you are. When I’m making a film with Hollywood money. 1965]. I wouldn’t say I was serious. And inside this playground area we. So. there is this meticulousness in your work: Ray Cooper calls you a “responsible enfant terrible”. Any good actor never grows up. the colours. And that’s actually the only reason why I get half the films done. And then I suppose there’s this inherent Protestantism in there. On the other hand. And that was pretty good. but I have always worked very hard. the studios can’t touch us. Within the Hollywood system. and that just doesn’t interest me. If the stars and myself are in agreement. in the documentary Lost in La Mancha (Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. most of it. If you’re going to do something. 2002). I tend to try to build a big-perimeter fence around the playground. you do it really well and you learn how to do it. Modern art is bullshit. I have no interest in it. On the other hand. my father was a carpenter and he would build things that were really beautiful! And so that was the beginning of it maybe. And the trick is not to ever quite grow up. And then I see people with conceptual ideas. everybody – get to play. You . the children – the actors. And that’s why I’ve always been very careful with the actors that I work with. if there is such a thing. the actors are the important thing. I just started doing things for fun. but they’re frightened of the stars. that’s where the real art is. Craftsmanship is really important to me. it’s at least that they’re accepting it’s the film that’s important not them and their careers. You say you tried to be a magician – failed. In the end. in a sense that they’re coming to me as opposed to me begging them to be in the movie. That’s all we’re doing: we’re just playing and getting paid decently to play.My trick in movies is to always have one or two big stars in them. This is nice. That’s how it really works. because they’re not frightened of me. the cameramen. everything. When I worked on Help! [comic. People need to learn to play. Harvey Kurtzman was meticulous about the drawings. You just loosen up along the way. But you don’t just play from the beginning. I mean. what are you: a craftsman or an artist? What I like is craftsmanship. too. it was that kind of training. So. College was when I started breaking free. the director – except for a very few people like [Steven] Spielberg and [George] Lucas – is the second most important character.

I plan it. But I’m trying to communicate with people. But I know that the restrictions I have to work within. and when we’re shooting I’m more interested in the characters and trying to get the scene done in the day. the studio starts putting pressure on him and he does the cuts. Everybody talks about the visuals. If I had all the time. If you want to do something explosive. And when I don’t have focuses. what would you do?” And I said: “I have no idea. But the advantage he has over me is that he then gets to put the film out a few years later as the Director’s Cut. Art to me works better when there are restrictions. “Oh. or the narrative. What is the more important aspect of film: the visual side. of your films. You can talk about some of these things in a way that nobody would understand. I do want to do it my way and tell my stories. I don’t think about them that much anymore. I can just throw it away. poof. That’s just formless. we spend a lot of time on costumes … I do all the work. He’s got the best eye. And then we start shooting. which is such a big part. we work at it. forms – all those things – are important because they are a way of communicating. What was the first one then? Oh. [Laughs] People say to me. If I can’t tell the story. it’s just beautiful what he does. even with expressing fantasy and the irrational. And he ends up with these films that. it goes! Now. Ridley Scott will spend an hour just to get this thing here and that thing there and then you look at his films … Visually. whether it’s money or time produce results that are more interesting – not always. But he spends so much time on these other things that the actors don’t have space to perform in. in the end. all at the same time. he compromises. and craft and technique. Then you play! I don’t know how to make films now. And it’s because I’ve been working hard at learning all the skills. These people who just want to express themselves. I just start and they get made. something powerful. So.have to learn skills. the message behind it? They’re all important. but a lot of people don’t. but more than you’d think. I don’t like that. and that’s nothing. a signature. come and teach.” I don’t know how to teach film. I don’t know what I do. That’s the difference. There was a question the other day: “If you had all the money in the world and the freedom to do whatever you wanted to do. it still works better to be meticulous? Yes. the more contained it is. I think he’s the most extraordinary guy. I just do it. Structure. that was the Studio’s Cut? Oh . Some actors like that. [Laughs] I really am! I mean. but I try to tell them in a way people will understand and respond to. I’d want to do everything. because he’s gone over budget.” I was explaining that bombs really work because they’re contained. I’m very greedy. and if the characters don’t work. Then. I can go here and there. we choose locations.

I don’t know why he does that. . okay. 1952] and Funny Face [1957] are beautiful musicals. “Oh god. frightened people. my influences are obviously Walt Disney … and Stanley Donen. It may be fantasy and all that. And South America is doing nicely. him doing The Hobbit makes sense. [Laughs] How about other films. He’s been far more successful than me. what are you doing here? I mean. But the problem with Europe is. That’s where France is interesting. we have a Steven Spielberg already. as soon as anybody becomes in any way successful. And then we go to Buster Keaton and Woody Allen and [Luis] Buñuel and [Ingmar] Bergman and [Federico] Fellini and [Akira] Kurosawa and blah blah blah. Europe needs to be producing more people. but he’s a very controlled filmmaker and he’s very smart. Then. I’m just eclectic. that was wonderful. that’s my problem. Who else is out there? The guy [Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck] who made The Lives of Others [Das Leben der Anderen. and it’s very easy to be influenced by other people. whether you’re expressing what you want. directors. and if you say. And [Stanley] Kubrick! There’s a lot. It’s very important to make films from different cultures. I’ll change that”. And he runs off and makes films that look just like Steven Spielberg’s films. what you believe. he’s brilliant. You’re not sure whether it’s working. I mean. who do we like now? Guillermo del Toro. I try to avoid that. The three amigos – Guillermo [del Toro]. the Coen brothers. you’re tired. Studio executives are very nervous. but there’s something that seems to happen in his films. Are there any others that get me excited? I don’t watch many films now. I’ll cut that out … okay. Alfonso Cuarón and [Alejandro González] Iñárritu – came out of Mexico and Bingo! Guillermo is interesting because he’s always been more a traditional filmmaker. 2006]. they all watch French films. but Singin’ in the Rain [directed with Gene Kelly. they run off to America and they start making their American films. different ways of looking at it. I think some of the best work is coming out of South America. What’s his name? Roland Emmerich. I mean France does incredibly well. I can see he’s going to make an interesting job of it. So. You’ve been around it too long. There’s one that I don’t normally say.Ridley. In the latter stages of making a film. these things are usually mistakes. cinematographers? Which would you say influenced you and which do you appreciate today? Well. You take somebody who’s grown up in a different culture and hopefully he has interesting things to say about the world. yet I think there’s something in his head that says it’s more important to make a successful film than to fight for exactly what you think.

like Walt Disney and Hitler. What’s it called? The one where everybody is blind. He needed budget constraints! [Laughs] That’s all? Otherwise he would have been a Disney? No. I think it’s a great. the Brazilian guy. Why in Hollywood?! Money is the main problem. I mean Hitler made a few mistakes along the way. I think. Then there is Iñárritu with his stuff. But there are too many other people. 2008] And the guy who made The Lives of Others is now out in Hollywood. I loved it. But then everybody wants to go to Hollywood. 2004].” So that’s kind of a negative take on Disney. great. But it’s hard to stop a guy when everything’s on form and he doesn’t have anybody stopping him. And most of the film directors would be Hitlers if they had the chance. But then this Children of Men [2006]: I didn’t like it at all. But with Babel [2006] he could have cut out the whole Japanese section and it would have been better. People who are destined for greatness. [Laughs] Were you joking about Disney? No! Pinocchio [Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen. I mean. he just went too far. with Julianne Moore? [Blindness. there are some sensitive artists. Wow! And then he goes and does Harry Potter [and the Prisoner of Azkaban. you end up making a little art film that’s never going to reach a big audience. And then there’s the rest of us.Alfonso swings between two things. Because if you’ve got no money. I thought he was trying to do Brazil [1985] without an understanding of what he’s doing. I didn’t see [Fernando] Meirelle’s last film. great movie. No others from non-English speaking countries? I don’t know foreign people. All artists have the potential of being Hitler. but yeah … [Laughs] That’s also the film where it says: “Nietzsche says there are two kinds of people in the world. There’s Georgia O’Keefe: she wouldn’t be a Hitler. Y tu mamá también. 1940] is one my favourite movies. But it is I think the best Harry Potter that was done. Is this why the Pinocchio motif reoccurs in The Fisher King (1991)? Pinocchio was actually in the script [written by Richard LaGravenese]. Everybody wants to be successful. . It’s on my Top Ten list. I preferred it when he was doing Amores perros [2000]. Hitler. There just seem to be one too many things there. At least there’s something going on there.

Do people talk about the Treaty of Versailles? At the end of the First World War. Anybody who’s supposed to be a bad guy gets dressed up in a Nazi uniform. A left-wing guy goes out there and. in music. it was fantastic. But people are not thinking clearly about what happened with fascism and how it worked. Why are people so frightened? It’s like when I was in Germany at the Munich Film Festival and we did a talk. the French … they all created the situation that blew up in their face. in writing. but how did that monster develop? That is what you want to know. frankly. These are good colours. red. we always wanted to play Nazis. And I said. Okay. white. you’re going to get yourself into trouble now. everybody deserved to be shot for the First World War. Because there was no money. but they never assassinate them. all the right-wing monsters. because they had the best costumes. You know. They’re all. [Laughs] How does it work that the good guys in Brazil wear these American SWAT Team commando uniforms? It is a critique of American society? . is that you can’t seem to blow them up. bad!” I mean. People try to assassinate these people. they were horrible.Okay. “Why do you people keep apologizing for your culture? German culture is fantastic! It made one ‘little’ mistake. prolonging the obsession. bad! Don’t think about it. just give me a good Nazi costume! But it seems American film directors keep doing the same thing. His sense of costumes was really good. Hitler was a monster. And when we moved into the 1930s. “Oh. The thing that’s always interesting about guys like Hitler and [Augusto] Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher. But we ended up with this little guy who … I mean. They’re the best costumes! When we were doing Python. Yeah. their costumes were made of wool. he’s dead in two seconds. boom. it got really interesting. his colour sense was good: black. Hitler. maybe God is a fascist. The Germans lost and there you have it. How it is that this works? I don’t know. The English. the [war] reparations were the most brutal thing. The English army guys. the Germans got nailed.” [Laughs] 19th century Germany was extraordinary in painting. They made the beginning of what produced Hitler.

Potemkin … (1) Potemkin. So. It was kind of almost as bad as Michael Jackson and his understanding of iconography and the meaning of things. Zemeckis now does motion capture. He doesn’t have to go outside. but they love it. Is it … Yeah. Maybe that’s why he died. And I hate that. no soul. [Laughs] But it was really out of boredom. It’s endless. [Laughs] And you know. let’s do something funny here. The rest of people have no idea what’s going on there. Because the thing is. I thought. Did you see him when he met [Silvio] Berlusconi recently? He turns up and he’s dressed like Michael Jackson in the cap and the epaulettes and the security girls behind him all in uniforms. So I said. Michael never knew.” And then. In different degrees. I mean. But you just don’t care. maybe he saw Gaddafi had taken over his image. It’s just very fake Frankenstein country. He’s got a camera that is effectively a virtual . I just play with it. [Laughs] And the guys … I wasn’t thinking. But it’s this ridiculous world because it’s not animation. And [Muammar al-]Gaddafi doesn’t seem to know either these days. Have you seen Public Enemies [2009]? It’s Michael Mann and technically it’s beautiful. I kept looking to ’30s and ’40s architecture. And that was partly because it was fascistic. and that includes [Robert] Zemeckis and [James] Cameron. It was just before he died. I went and saw him when they were working on Avatar [2009] and he’s got this amazing system.With the design of the thing. it’s this vacuum cleaner. but also because I like it. they all want total control of the thing. the monumental fascist architecture. it is. Cameron is little bit more active. But there were images where I think I was a little bit clearer about what I was doing. One last thing about this scene in Brazil with the soldiers or guards running on the stairs and a turned over vacuum cleaner. action always bores me. let’s find another way. It’s so much about how clever he is. Action just bores me because everybody’s doing it. You know what that is. rather than the baby carriage. This isn’t giving life to anything. It was outrageous! It was like Michael Jackson was there. anybody who knows Potemkin gets the joke. And this is the problem with a whole generation of directors that came out of America. There’s no heart in it. “Okay.

time travel. all you’re doing is learning how to use the machinery … It’s a way of avoiding actors. That’s what I do all the time. [Laughs] With each of the films. Thatcher destroyed the unions. because I’m trying to escape from Python. [Laughs] I said. I go to the review section.camera except that it’s a physical thing. [Laughs] In all your films. which was horrible. He is still trying to do handheld virtual moviemaking that is kind of interesting. fantastical visual style. I’m just reacting to things. On the other hand. It’s a form of crime. that’s what it is. but it was transformed a bit by [George Orwell’s] Nineteen Eighty-Four. Belong to a guild or else cut your foot of … . But what I like most of all is that these guys who were God’s helpers decided heaven was a boring place. the concept of Panopticum repeats itself and so on. fantasy worlds. for one thing. making jokes. and that it was much more fun to go into crime. That’s a nice simple idea. But they talk. It’s a reaction to what the world or an aspect of the world is about. How much of the social scientist is still present in your filmmaking? It’s always there. they have only read a couple reviews. It’s one of those things: when people talk about something. It was about the unions of that time. because everybody talked about it. which I hadn’t read. “Okay. Now if I go to a party I can at least comment on something. you’ve got that in there. when I left my involvement with Church: I went into crime. making movies. But I didn’t like the unions either. I never read it until I finished the film. there are certain constant elements: dream worlds. most of them don’t know it. But at the Taormina Film Festival – Mike Palin and I went there with Jabberwocky – the discussions were incredible. So. Yes. is there always a main message? Because with Jabberwocky (1977) there’s still this feeling of collage. And I hadn’t thought about it. of different things assembled together. So. But Nineteen Eighty-Four was in the atmosphere. I’m dealing with what I’m feeling about what’s going on in the world at the moment. The unions had become too powerful. Maybe that’s what I did.” And then you start playing with the idea. even if I haven’t seen it. [Laughs] And I think too many people do that. [Laughs] But it has to be 3D now. I just knew what it was. Time Bandits [1981] was a reaction to the fact I couldn’t get Brazil made. there are all these things that seem to stem from your background in social sciences: with total institutions you have Erving Goffman running around everywhere. it was sort of subconscious. But it was all about things like that. Brazil was all about that particular period of time. they haven’t seen the film. In every film. because they all said it was a comment on Thatcher. You have the first idea: commit a crime and travel to a time before. I’m always thinking about it. So. so I’ll write a family film.

It can’t get worse than what happened on Munchausen. I understood those characters. so all that stuff is in there. I didn’t think about it at that time. So. but we did talk about things in it. I just can’t stand it. That’s what was going on under Thatcher. Time Bandits is a little bit more fun to be honest. And than Brazil was fun. so I thought. So. Rational against fantasy: that’s what we’ve got there. basically. we have the idea of rationalization against fantasy and imagination. ‘the tiger at the gate’. so it’s all there. It was also about father and daughter. And somebody in Taormina thought it was the most powerful condemnation of Thatcher in Britain at that time.” With The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). Yeah. And then you’ve got the craftsmen.” [Laughs] Although it wasn’t your script. But it’s also about how lies may be closer to the truth than facts. That was another thing that was in my head. I loved the dialogue. And it was Hollywood. but we ended up with a good film. Shooting Munchausen was such a nightmare. so we got that in. “Now I’m just going to get down and talk about all the things that are making me crazy. I grew up in America with Communism as the tiger at the gate. It was also me trying to show the world that it isn’t . I read it and I thought it was fantastic. It was a nice change to go work in the belly of the beast and have a simple film and just let the actors get a good cast together. When the script arrived. I said.” And I was offered The Fisher King. there’s the family thing as well. And the whole ‘enemy at the gate’ thing. arrogance. The father’s a craftsman. so that continues. “I’m never going to make another film again. “Okay. There is this thing with Jackson [Jonathan Pryce] being a rational man. basically. yes. yeah! They were Richard LaGravenese’s ideas. And it was simple: it was four people. (in)sanity … Oh. [Laughs] So. But when I read it. idealism. now I’m really depressed and I was like. I loved everything about it. but his son wants to be a used car salesman.Yeah. I’ll put my head in the lion’s mouth and see what happens. but it was all subconsciously going on. So that was nice. Then it was just buried by the studio. It was about me feeling old and about my daughter. I just wished I’d written it. on yuppies. But Munchausen was more about escape. [Laughs] What happened after that? The Fisher King. there is still social commentary. He wants to go into business. as I said. because I identified with it totally.

all about fantasy and visuals. there are too many people who all want all these things that we have. when they hit imbalance. when the Ebola virus took off right after the film. are always there. They almost blanked that idea out. With Twelve Monkeys (1995). but it will. People just couldn’t believe that. That was a brilliant script. 1962] and out of that create Twelve Monkeys – that was quite a great leap. There’s going to be a culling of human beings soon. It was written by David and Janet Peoples. I don’t know what it will be. Human life. It’s Malthusian: there’s population and resources and. They hated it. look out boys and girls! Something’s going to happen. David’s thing was that a plague will do it. The word “culling” comes to mind. the old favourites. And so it was a huge success. I don’t know what it’s going to be. It was all there. is that you live forever. I love the fact that they [David and Janet Peoples] had gone into this green zone. and that I’m responding to. That’s the problem. To take La Jetée [Chris Marker. we’re right there!” [Laughs] It was a prescient script. it’s about characters! That’s what I’m really interested in. War? Famine? These things. so that nature’s fighting back with a plague. And these were great characters. I loved the idea of trying to make people consider the thought that to save the world five billion people might die. “We’re there again. And it’s not just that there are too many people. that all these people had to die for the human race to survive. Because the idea. and that’s why when I read a script it resonated with me. How much is the film yours? . I think there are too many people. the value of human life. But now you know that the world demands that things change. Yeah. In fact. especially in America and the West. is so great. And there is again the critique but we move into environmentalist issues. It’s about the things that are going on in the world. again the script is not yours. I thought. Basically.

but you are always making light of the past. it was their script. We came up through a period when we had less . Jack’s place was originally just a loft in downtown Manhattan and that has no meaning. Being born in the ’40s. even the Middle Ages are always funny. My biggest concern on Twelve Monkeys was that it was going to look like Brazil. The Fisher King was a normal Manhattan story and I turned it into something more symbolic.It isn’t mine. is that yours? Once we go into that. But it does look like Brazil. and we went into the past and into this disused world. And that was the deal. With Twelve Monkeys. visually. And the way I shot it and what I chose to show is what’s different. We want to be inspired by your film. a fortress. Like when I did Richard’s script in The Fisher King. I think we are living in a really brilliant time. and what would be left. I didn’t change anything in the script. So. Yeah. I’m not changing the script or the ideas. They were just unused. we were babies.” And he was happy about that. I’m finding the ideas and I’m putting them into a specific visual form. And the only thing I added was the waltz at Grand Central Station. I take the ideas that are in there and put a visual idea behind it. So. They’re the same thing. because I’ve got concerns about what the future is. The office building that Lydia [Amanda Plummer] comes out of is this huge stone tower. I tried to make it not look like Brazil. it was all there and I just started designing it. And it could have just been a shop. but one is so concise and beautiful and the other is big. In Philadelphia and Baltimore. and I think mine was the luckiest. We’re a few very lucky generations. so the war didn’t mean anything. they moved west. that’s my bit. I didn’t change it. He’s dead already. yes. The future is gloomy and dark. in a sense. and I don’t know how much longer it’s going to last. And my first choice was to go into old power stations. But you put Jack [Jeff Bridges] in a razor building of steel and glass and that says something. because after in the ’50s all the industry moved out of those East Coast cities. it was the past. So. because I always say that La Jetée is this beautiful acorn and Twelve Monkeys is this big oak tree going in all directions. What happened was they had a meeting with Chris Marker and they said: “We don’t want to make a remake of your film. That’s what I do. So. What I actually did was I went back and looked at his earlier scripts before the studio started “helping” him improve his script. I took the basic ideas and to me everything has a meaning. Richard’s thing was more like a film that Woody Allen would make. for example. [Laughs] I was trying to find a way of creating this underground world. which I thought was right. there were three that were actually available. The raggedy vision of the future in Twelve Monkeys.

but he was afraid to go to the shops because the world he knew was the world on television. People are no longer individuals. by the time they get back to the castle. the real life is your imagination. It was about raping and pillaging and murder and robberies. interesting things! And that was the part of the film that I really wanted to concentrate on: how it was more interesting to have these wonderful stories and this belief that there are extraordinary. It scares me. they’re just becoming part of a great system.things. even though going to the cinema was the storytelling that I grew up with. You know what is interesting there? I was working on a film called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In fact. We know too much about it. . The shops are a hundred metres away. There are certain aspects of the past that interest me. because life is more interesting that way. But it was his imagination that had been created by television. [Laughs] And your idea of the past? I like the fact that we’re living now. Now the world doesn’t seem to be as exciting anymore for most people. What they’re really doing is they’re fighting a really big dog or something. So. and so people escape into movies. You say your films explore the borderline between reality and fantasy. it’s no big deal. it didn’t have electricity for seven years. from the front door to the shops. I suppose. explainable. by television. I’d rather have a storyteller in the room telling a story. that one. was the world he saw on television and he was frightened. Is that how you perceive real life – as tedious? No. which in your words is between boredom and imagination. When I bought our house in France 35 years ago. which is really bad. I didn’t want it. there’s an ogre. outrageous things out there rather than a world which is all facts. because I don’t have a problem with living without all the nice things we have. but they have very few ideas anymore. That wasn’t the world that was out there. magical. but none of it’s really happening. when he was twelve. but that’s normal. It’s whether it’s your imagination or the imagination you have been handed by the media. they start expanding. This world. We live in a really nice part of London. and there’s a really nice element in the book because it’s about an American going into the past. And that was the world to him. too. but. It was amazing time! Now I find how everybody has things. I just wanted to escape from the modern world. You can measure it and put it in a box. And everybody believes them. Movies are. And what I liked about it was the Knights go out on these quests and they fight giants and dragons. and suddenly you’ve got a world that’s full of fantastic. so you had to work harder. That’s different to going to the cinema. It’s like my son. And then for the ’60s to explode like that. There’s a witch over there. most entertainment is that. Now that’s a completely false world. it’s about stories. Mark Twain’s book.

They’re sharing their lives to the point where you don’t exist anymore. Literally you just go: “I’m sitting in a restaurant having a good time. They were having a contest of making short films on these mobile phones and there were two juries. sorry I didn’t mean that. Because I think everybody’s getting too involved in a too large a network.000 people following his twits. who doesn’t? But then you’ve got to work at maintaining your version of the world. I hate mobile phones! [Laughs] Does aloneness work in the cinema? A person is alone in the cinema in a way … At home with television and a DVD. If you’re alone. He started twittering earlier this year and in four months he has over 600. what is that? And people are spending all this time. Do you know Eddie Izzard? He’s a brilliant comedian. That’s what I’m really worried about. You know. What are they doing? What kind of lives do they have? Their lives are empty. But you want to be able to spend time without communicating. I’m encouraging watching my films on television! [Laughs] You don’t want to be alone all the time. You get away from all the things that are pulling at you. [Laughs] . She just goes there to escape from things. you’re even more alone. your twittering things. I mean. And that’s what worries me. my problem is – with telephones and these things. And the sooner they die the better. we all get created by what we watch and what we read. And so. in Rome. Which is very nice. I hate twittering. I go to Italy and I’m there just on my own. that’s what I’ve been talking about recently. You’re not just a part of a community. I didn’t realize how funny he was. And things start happening when you’re alone. We were supposed to be selling mobile phones. that’s when we’ll send the hunters out. I think it’s going to happen with twittering. Give up your mobile phones. What is this? People are not living their lives anymore. twittering. it’s great! But what is really interesting is to go and be on your own for a long time and discover who you are. I had to do a thing for Nokia in Rome a couple of years a go – you know.” I mean. I didn’t know what to say. the one with video cameras. [Laughs] No. you actually start finding out who you are. Now. And then we did a press conference down in Rome and Wim was very smart. My wife is doing it in France. and in one of them I was the head of the jury and the other was Wim Wenders.Okay. everything. and stop being a part of a community. That’s where the culling has to start. and everybody talking about communication – I want to improve people’s ability to be alone and not communicate. I mean once we know where they all are. Start being alone! We need to be alone. I think. I leave the family behind.

when I read it in 1971. We just worked really hard and fast. we can’t look back. you . the doors of perception. Everybody had been there.” And it was great. 17 million. Whatever we do. Well. But that was much more interesting than what was going on in Vietnam. We were talking about the main idea behind each film. you saw a lot of people pay the price. Not by European standards. when that happens. when you’re world’s largest weapons manufacturer.” It was fun. Thompson (Johnny Depp) talks about Tim Leary and the illusions or delusions of the 1960s. “Let’s go. And it’s the perfect book for my generation. And then this one just came along. “Oh yeah. Alex Cox had already been fired. The war was based on complete misunderstanding of what communism was and how it worked. you’ve got to have those planes crashing. “We’re sharks. I was about to give up my American citizenship to avoid it. We left off at Twelve Monkeys. And we just shot it very fast and I kept saying. You see. you know. But we actually leapt forward. And that book was there and I went. they ask. we thought we were going to change the world. come on! “Is he serious?”. blah blah blah. I had left America and I was seriously in a situation where I might have to back and go to Vietnam. you’ve got to get rid of the bombs so you can have new planes and new bombs. But it was done before that. what do you do? Well. [Aldous] Huxley. During that period. that we would open everybody’s eyes to the goodness of things out there. Johnny [Depp] and Benicio [Del Toro] were already on board. But we were making this movie in Hollywood and Las Vegas. Leary I always thought was a little bit of a conman. Oh. because. We only look forward. We had fun. with all that experimentation going on. you become monsters. that’s what it is. We had a low budget. These are important things. The war was going on … So. or stupid. It was just the stupidity of things. And then it all went bad.” This is the part in the film where Hunter S.Okay. Leary was there and he went for it and brought a lot of people along. That’s what’s at the heart of that movie and. it was like $16. But America needs wars. I know what you’re talking about. He did introduce the idea of acid. where you were being killed for no purpose at all. [Laughs] It’s about the loss of a dream. yeah. But LSD in that particular form. that book was really an important book for me. That’s how the industry and the economy work. back to film … But we can save the world. people were brave then. I will do it. to be honest. we’ve done it. for a war that was just absurd. And it’s a serious movie. What about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)? It was a book that was chasing me for ten years. But that book was really important and they had sent me scripts over the years and I always said no. and I wanted to work with Johnny and I said. I really enjoyed making that movie. because I was involved in my own things. I mean. I mean.

so the questions was: “What do we do now?” Chuck was trying to raise money quickly from other sources and the Weinsteins came in. “Well. the studio pulled out. there was a lot of stuff and nothing was happening. And his argument was right: “Terry how many years have gone by? You’ve got to work. You’ve got to do something”. And they were still determined to control . but they are people who are good at those jobs and not at directing movies. [Laughs] They created a situation at the beginning of the film that was very unpleasant. who had produced Twelve Monkeys.become beasts. we’d call it child abuse. but there’s a lot of laughs along the way to ultimate despair. Matt [Damon] was on board. you go out there and you just rip it apart to reveal what the truth is after it all went bad. And I had always said I would never work with them. unfortunately. but other things were still there. because there was only so much one could change. And yet they want to be filmmakers.” And then it just started going bad very quickly. I thought at least I’ll be able to create a good world and have some fun. Toni Grisoni and I did work on the script. because they started interfering with the process before we even started shooting. maybe we can make it work. when we were all in Prague. So. And. But they were there and so it was a way of rescuing it. They just weren’t happening. but I needed a job. And what do you do now? Heath [Ledger] was on board. We were all sitting there ready to go. I didn’t like it. This is again … … an interesting leap. the entire crew. If I were younger. It’s a sad movie. Then Chuck Roven. The brothers Weinsteins have given us so many great films and they’re fantastic salesmen. The Brothers Grimm (2005). I had several other projects that I had written the script for. I grew up with their stories. And then we started. had this Brothers Grimm script. like Defective Detective. and I was working on a script called Good Omens. and they’re interesting producers. I got some things better. They do what they do and I do what I do. and I thought. because I just knew who they were and what they were like. And I love the brothers Grimm. And so I started working in not the happiest of moods. Now. They interfered more than I’ve ever been interfered with before.

They’re fantastic! But they want to put their fingerprints on it so they can say it’s their film. or two groups of people. got fired. it was their choice. I mean. by the time they fired Nicola and Tom Sigel came on board. he lights beautifully. But it’s their guy. And if you’re working with people like Marty and me. But they’re not filmmakers! They’re great salesmen. [Laughs] That’s not a good way to work. And I can’t even think what I would have done differently now. I just know that. That was my attitude. Tom was even slower. that was it: I just didn’t want to make the movie. who’s a very outspoken person and says what he thinks. but if he takes us months and months I don’t care. it’s not the film they wanted and it’s not quite the film I wanted. we would have had more fun and there would be more things we would get our way. who aren’t working well together. my cameraman. they were saying he’s too slow. but it’s not the film I could have made had I been in a more positive state of mind. I was getting more and more upset. What grabbed you there? . I don’t like this. Not my problem! Their man. But the good part of it was working with Matt and Heath and the cast. We had a great time. It’s the film that is a result of two people. Tom’s a lovely guy. I really like a lot of it. Nicola Pecorini. In the end. because they want to be filmmakers. not my man. they’re great marketing people. But they really wanted a Terry Gilliam movie with their involvement. “This is my chance to get out of the film”. Then. but I was then told by my lawyer that it wasn’t as easy as that. And when they didn’t allow me to cast who I wanted [Robin Williams]. he’s a good cameraman. I went to work on the first day of shooting and I just wanted to go home.” There’s just something about them. had I been in a different mood. What did they want? I don’t know what they wanted. And by the time Matt’s nose came up. Grimm is not a bad film. in the fourth week. I thought. I mean. without us knowing it: “They took the joy out of filmmaking. That’s what most people work like and it’s a bad way of working. They kept saying they wanted a Terry Gilliam movie. is Gangs of New York [2002] a good film? Marty [Scorsese] said almost the exact same quote I said. Tideland. With Nicola. They wanted a big successful. How could I know what they wanted? They didn’t know what they wanted. you just can’t do that. wild adventure movie. It doesn’t work. It was not a good experience. But there are sections of that film I think are as good as anything I’ve done.me. is it the film that Bob and Harvey Weinstein wanted? No. so I had to continue.

The book. they’re out there. Normally. Jeff [Bridges]. the book was safer because it’s in retrospect. That’s why I don’t rent DVDs or watch them. We wrote the script quite quickly because the book was so easy. “Let’s do it!” And we just assembled the best cast ever. I was a victim. There’s more intensity in the air. to be a dead man … [Laughs] You know what’s funny about Tideland? More and more people come forward now and say. that’s really good!” They didn’t see it back then. I thought. I was abused as a child!” I was so angry with the world becoming a world where our heroes are the victims. “This is fantastic. “Wow. and I don’t want films interfering with my aloneness. I was so bored with everybody coming forward saying. know the girl survives. I thought it would be more interesting if you don’t know whether she’s going to survive. because if you want to know about films … which I don’t. Again it was a reaction to the world I saw around me and I just said. Tideland has really strong female characters. Mitch Cullin’s writing was brilliant. I don’t want to do it that way. Movies don’t die. What would you say it’s mainly about? What’s this one’s message? I was really trying to shake up people’s perception of certain things. It’s really about the resilience of children. I loved the characters! Jeliza-Rose has this beautiful voice of a child. We just edited it. Fuck that! [Laughs] It just made me angry. There’s no excuse now for people not knowing films.” Anybody who wanted to get any sympathy or make themselves interesting or even get in the press: “Ah. your main characters are male.” In some ways. writing back. I read the book and thought. In the film. It was all there. like all the fears they have of death. the vulnerability of children. because the press hated it. “I was abused as a child. The book is written in the first person and Jeliza-Rose is older. But more and more people are suddenly finding this movie and that’s why I love DVDs. . And to get my old buddy. “No.” It was just beautiful. the acting there is brilliant. pædophiles. [Laughs] I’m trying to be alone. I mean. how strong they are and how you can put them through anything and they’ll come out of it.

[Laughs] Maybe some people are just not able to work their head around that. you’ve got to pull the plug occasionally to remind people it’s a dream reality. Tideland I think is my most feminine film. I think Madeleine Stowe is brilliant [as Kathryn Railly] in Twelve Monkeys. And. With kids. And she just kind of couldn’t get it. Isn’t it weird that he couldn’t see it the first time? Do you think it has something to do with the film changing direction in the middle when the taxidermy begins? That’s where the fun starts. it’s like with Richard: he can just write women. because it was so extreme and so bizarre. I remember there was a French journalist who saw it for the first time and hated it. and Mercedes [Ruehl] and Amanda [Plummer] were just spectacular [as Anne Napolitano and Lydia Sinclair]. but it didn’t quite work out. So.We just do what we understand. I care. She doesn’t get enough credit. so he said he’d give me the benefit of the doubt and he saw it the second time and he loved it. Even if it’s going to be a dream reality. she’s got his skin back. But I think children are born positive. But again they’re not reading what is being said here! Here’s a woman who was so destroyed. With Mitch Cullin. [Laughs] I understand that little girl. but she’s got him back! I mean. But there was just tenderness and love under the whole thing. I can’t write them particularly well. The Fisher King! There are two great women’s parts. the world isn’t formed yet for them. So. Kim Griest’s part [Jill Layton] was a much bigger part. He can write women’s parts. She was written as an utterly independent and smart character. By the time they’re adults. there are beautiful scenes. so we had to cut it way down. we had to cut back and back and back. But that’s Richard’s writing. That was not the original intention. I thought. But some come through it. It’s how much you take that away. I really try not to lie when I make films. These are really desperate people. He was a friend. Things are coming at them. [Laughs] But at least she’s got something. He said he suddenly could see the movie and he thought it was the most tender film I’d ever done. in Brazil. What would you say about these two films regarding what drives them? What is the message behind them? . And that’s why I liked it. and she ended up being a dream girl. okay. most of it it’s all been taken away. Now we have The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) and Don Quixote is back on.

extraordinary place. But then we put an element in there that a choice has to be made. I’ve always liked the idea of something from another time entering our world – or whichever way it goes. He won immortality in a bet with the Devil. that’s one step more complicated than people are talking about. the activist. Nobody is interested. you’ve had fun now expanding your imagination. and you get punished. and Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce). He is the dreamer. Here’s an old way of telling stories and this old show comes into a modern town. But he is not the holy fool. the dreamer. more interesting way. because Parnassus [Christopher Plummer] was immortal. Okay. very old man and he wants to be mortal again so he could be young and live and be in love. I’ll talk about it. how their madness. and even the trailer got it wrong. . seeing all these other possibilities. because everything about it is just so antique. And there’s a right choice and then there’s a wrong choice. even physical reality that is out there. but now you have to make a choice. Or. So. In some films. so it’s perfect. but you don’t know what really happens. and at sixteen his daughter is going to be the Devil’s. it’s evident who it is. Jill Layton (Kim Greist). So. not so much. But if you can get past the show and trust them to take you on a journey of imagination. who is the main hero in Brazil? We have Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle (Robert De Niro). unfortunately. in others. so something’s wrong here. But when we get it done. I’m an old man now. [Laughs] That’s what we’re dealing with in Quixote and also how the Quixotes of this world. He’s determined to turn it into a more wonderful. there’s this simple story of a man who does a deal with the Devil. Something! His last chance to go out there and do something. He’s just a fool. But there’s a weird twist. But the weird thing is I loved Quixote when I was a young man. With Parnassus. And it’s an old man that’s trying to make something out of his life before he dies. At the centre of it. He gives up his immortality for mortality and the price is his child at sixteen. the movie is about something else as well. Actually. the plumber. it doesn’t matter. And it’s your imagination that’s being allowed to expand.Quixote’s easier because it’s a man that refuses to accept the reality that everybody else is out there. That’s up to everybody’s imagination. if you make the right choice … You actually never see what happens when you make the right choice. inspires other people to see the world in a slightly bigger. You see the results on people’s faces when they’re coming out. extraordinary things happen. and he is the fool. [Laughs] There is always a child or a holy fool as you say. But now he falls in love as a very. He won’t accept any of it.

That’s the difference about Brazil: it’s not a child. these are juvenile things. But that’s not what they’re doing. because I didn’t have the money to make a $300 million film. Take WALL-E [Andrew Stanton. Motion-capture stuff just allows the director to be the god he’s always really wanted to be. 2005]. 2008]. Then we go through the mirror and then we get out again. but he’s not taking responsibility for what that organization does. it’s a juvenile. There was a very simple. instead of being normal and ordinary the world becomes extraordinary. Okay. And those films. it’s because what you see in Parnassus. I don’t stick with any of my rules. He wasn’t even a child. [Laughs] Although you say you don’t like this 3D CG business very much. beautiful! We’re talking the world as seen through an innocent child’s eyes. They’re doing cartoons. It’s just that it isn’t interesting after a while. I hate it! Either you do cartoons that are an abstraction of the world. What I don’t like is when you’re trying to do naturalism. What I really hate now is things like Beowolf [Robert Zemeckis. So. 2007].The film is about responsibility and he’s not taking responsibility for the job he does. 1995]. and they think of the world that way. The total god! [Laughs] You’re saying the production of Parnassus and the plans for Quixote are still old school? No! Parnassus has got 650 CG shots in it. [Laughs] We all sort of grow up and we hide in our fantasy worlds. That’s what I didn’t put down in my list! Pixar and John Lasseter. with motion capture. He’s a god to me. I think. and he could say. they understand. And he’s punished for it. He’s right at the heart of the ministry and the ministry is this monstrous thing and he’s busy daydreaming. they’re not adult and they’re not childlike. Or let’s deal with something that’s more natural and realistic. is a different world. and you’re free to do wonderful things. but there’s still a world out there. But those are also very smart films at the same time and that’s why I think they’re my favourite films. And here’s a guy who is in the most powerful position.” I’m in the real world for the majority of the film. Why should I be limited with my dogmas? [Laughs] No. If you do something like King Kong [Peter Jackson. He’s a member of the organization or the nation. “$25 million dollars” – that’s the top for low-budget films in America – “let’s do that. every time you go through the mirror. that was just my comment about all people. See. are just stunning films. It’s what most people are doing with Michel Bay’s films. It’s not that I don’t like it. “Okay. realism with it. he was a juvenile. pragmatic thought behind it. but he’s not paying attention to what is going on. that’s beautiful! Toy Story [John Lasseter. And after . [Laughs] The kind of films we’re watching. John Lasseter understands it. I’m American”. So I thought. You’re responsible for the world. every shot has to be using CG in it and it costs a fortune. And those people at Pixar. That’s why you need hundreds of millions of dollars.

But I’d rather keep surprising people. They’re all there and it gets more confusing in that sense that I can identify with all of them. So. It’s back to magic. King Kong and The Lord of the Rings [Jackson. I have to be. And then there’s the other one that’s a lot of fun. I suppose I’m bringing out bits and pieces of me with them. the way I do things. 2001-3] are beautifully made. even in King Kong. But at least I’ve got to like them and love them. my movements. I’m just saying I can’t afford to make films like that. I thought he might have been a conman. . But it’s Parnassus’s world. with imagination? I guess it’s probably Parnassus. [Laughs] Who’s the childlike character in these films. you just accept is as natural and normal. because there is young man who is in a sense the innocent: Anton [Andrew Garfield]. He was watching and mimicking me. It’s his story. Terry. That’s what I think it’s really about. And Jeff was great. And the strange one was Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King. “That’s what you do. he’s the main character. They all become part of me. Because it’s not just like I’m the main character. the one who acts as a bridge connecting us with a different perspective. because I identify with him! [Laughs] You identify with your characters. And I didn’t even recognize me until the film was finished and somebody said. so he’s the film. and that everything he says is bullshit. because what I didn’t know was that Jeff was copying me. I’m actually all the characters. It was like when you take [Marcello] Mastroianni doing Fellini: one is this really good looking movie star and the other guy’s the other guy. that’s obvious.” So that was a very interesting moment. It’s like when I’m working with the actors. I have to be intrigued by them. let’s put it like that. I’m not arguing against the technique. But I’m not sure if I believe him or not. The good guys and the bad guys? Oh yeah. All through making the film. There’s always one that is obviously the one I would like to be like more.a while. and I didn’t see it. It’s harder to see it. who was the most Terry Gilliam of them all? I don’t know.

so people make comments about that. “Why did that guy do that? That’s just bad. you know Bruce Willis. people communicating but not communicating. Is there some other mythic. what’s Good and what’s Evil today? What are the things that must be commented on today? Well. Those stories are deeper. We were obsessed with that. I don’t know what the stories are that everybody knows. they’re more fun to play with. if with Brazil in 1984 it was the situation of 1984. that’s really good!” I’m amazed by some of the things. But they don’t interest me as much as some of the older stories. no. [Laughs] That’s what I’ve been talking about. howling into these things and always over the most petty things. It’s boring. One day I maybe have to do a Terry Gilliam festival for myself. And that’s the advantage. I don’t think that far ahead. “Who did that?” I can’t imagine I did that or thought of doing it. So. Before let’s say the early ’60s. . That’s the thing that makes me crazy. But I can’t do that. It’s old hat now. because I don’t watch them if I can avoid it and I want to get to that point where I can actually watch them and forget that I made them. In our first version of Quixote. So it was easy to make comments on. I mean it never worked like that. I’ve got a script that’s never been ripe about Theseus and the Minotaur. 1983). You know. because everybody has so many different stories. Except Die Hard. What I do when I do look at them is say. “Oh.Do you consider some of your films to be closer to heart. literary hero you feel you need to explore? Until I think of it. but we cut all that out. I don’t sit down and make a list of things. it’s taking stories that are already known. I mean. I’ll watch all the films and see. legendary. the Bible was the big-selling book in the world. everybody knew those stories. to be more yours than others? I don’t really think about that anymore. The phones would just never stop in our early script. you know Star Wars … I guess these are the stories. but these are the things that are obsessing me now. But. Doing a Greek tragedy has always intrigued me. they are about more profound things. Now it’s a real problem. I think is what I like doing. again. because I’d like to be able to experience one of my films like other people do. that’s really bad!” [Laughs] But they all have a sort of moral lesson … Yeah. I think aloneness and twittering. So. We already have pirates in The Crimson Permanent Assurance (Gilliam. we were obsessed with mobile phones. [Laughs] But this twitter thing and aloneness: that’s what’s getting me now. People were walking down the street. And then other times I’d say. What about the pirates? You talk about good pirates. because then you can comment. I really don’t.

There was a line in it that Christopher Plummer didn’t want to say after Heath died. a man hanging upside down. That’s the first time I’ve thought about that. which was: “The world is full of stories. For instance. the muse. You can’t believe what the script is saying. that when Hunter S. this Tarot card comes up and it’s the hanged man. wait till you see Parnassus! It is a totally prescient film. There’s one big scene where Johnny [Depp] has a big speech and people thought we wrote this as a eulogy to Heath. 2008]: he’s hanging upside down. the man flies and there are pirates. But that was all in the original book. the Brothers Grimm with the French and the Germans. It’s got everything. we go to the Greek Mountain. Thompson lived in San Francisco.” Immediately. What is it with you and these coincidences? The mixing of reality and fiction surrounding your actual films. but nobody asked me. You’ll be out of your mind. . “We won’t be safe until we reach grandma’s house. comedies. And I only spotted that a month ago. Brazil and Universal Studios … Oh. poetry? Poetry. These things start connecting. to live as you want and always robbing the people who deserve to be robbed. With the title of Parnassus. There are so many of these bizarre cross-references. art: all of that is there. here’s another one. “Little Red Riding Hood” pops to mind and you were editing the film while simultaneously editing Brothers Grimm. the muses. Heath in Parnassus: before he appears. The last image of Heath in The Dark Knight [Christopher Nolan. It’s getting too close to home now. pirates! I always wanted to make a pirate film. But it was written before. and this is an interesting thing. Why wouldn’t you want to be a pirate? To be on the high seas. That’s why it made me so crazy when Pirates of the Caribbean came out. Quixote’s script with the French and the Germans. a buccaneer.Oh come on. But it turns out. in Tideland there is Noah (Jeff Bridges) on the bus all stoned saying. Wait till you see it. I always wanted to do one of those movies. free. he lived on Parnassus Street. The only problem with being a pirate is maybe that you get trapped being a pirate for the rest of your life – like Johnny Depp. Did the line jump over? That’s funny. romances – a tale of unforeseen death. How come you never did a Peter Pan movie? I mean. It just keeps coming in.” But every word in Parnassus was written before Heath died. [Laughs] He’ll have to be a pirate forever now. Okay.

And it was just magical what he was doing. “Johnny. I don’t believe they are. the film is more magical now and more extraordinary because of what happened. when he got to go through the mirror. You drop something and the vibrations go out and they keep reappearing. “It’s finished. every shot almost. Because he wanted to be a film director as well. But Heath. I had no idea what he was going to do. and I was talking about possibly getting him to do the score. Now that’s a pretty extraordinary thing to happen to anybody and especially to us who loved this man. Nobody can do it better. “What the fuck are you doing now? Fantastic!” The month we shot with Heath. because he was quite extraordinary. I’ll never get to see that and I really want to know what he was going to do. because he was surprising me every day. We’re in a situation. His music is extraordinary and I think he is the great musical poet of America. “No. “I’m there. I was just holding on. Heath’s last performance will be on film. because he wanted to be just an actor in the film.” And . and you deal with it and you talk about it. The curse of Gilliam continues. He prepared a lot of possibilities. There are so many of his songs that get me started on a film and then the thing didn’t quite work. On Parnassus. the most frightening songs: it’s all there. I just don’t know what it is. it’s going to happen. He balances the two things. somehow. [Laughs] The character Tony (Heath Ledger): would he have been somehow physically transformed when going through the magic mirror even in the original script? It seems an appropriate tool … No.” So. He’s very special. And it was just him playing the Devil. I wanted to use one of his songs. somewhere. the first thing I did – because I didn’t have a plan yet – was I called Johnny Depp. We just played a very sweet game together. but it didn’t happen. The most romantic songs. but he didn’t want it. the world will see it. I think it’s about being tuned into things. It just happened a bit too close to home this time. And I said. I don’t know what to do.” But luckily I was surrounded by people that said. That’s why some people say that. If you’re aware of the world.Do you sometimes become afraid of your powers? No. [Laughs] Heath Ledger died in the middle of the film. Will you help out?” And he said. Let’s talk about Tom Waits? He appeared in The Fisher King and his music was supposed to be in Tideland? I wanted to use his music in Tideland. he was so chameleon-like in what he was doing in the film that. I was like. It’s this idea of morphic resonance. let’s go home. we’re going to finish it somehow. because he was flying. I just said. And he does what I do: he deals with the darkest stuff and the most beautiful stuff. so I was just letting him take over.

Because they are very intelligent people. I start going through everything and think. And it was very difficult because they were all doing other films. we decided we would try to get three actors to finish Heath’s part. So. He was laughing every time he’d come back from a day shooting the Joker. when you go through it. Ask my wife. by the time you’re . And once you have his face change. None of us knew whether it would work until the film was finished and we first showed it to a few people. And that’s what we did. goes through. They just turned up and did it. They thought that was the way the film was written. In Doctor Parnassus. He was just laughing because “he’d got away with murder again”! It was just great fun. when I start a project. They play and the whole thing becomes fun. And it’s the same with Johnny Depp. “Oh. I must say something about Heath Ledger because there has been so much written about it about The Dark Knight and how playing the Joker somehow twisted his mind. But they were extraordinarily brave.then. because often acts of love can be pretty boring. maybe even foolish. That’s utter nonsense. to walk into a situation like that with no time to rehearse. That was one of the greatest things when working with him. Camera turns: play time! You say Parnassus is a compendium of things that got left behind from other projects. they prepare very seriously. Collin Farrell and Jude Law finished Heath’s part. you suddenly can enter your imagination. we can put another face there. it was clear that we managed to pull this thing off. that’s what it is. Yes and no. [Laughs] But this one isn’t. they get it inside of them and then they just throw it away and off we go. I keep all these ideas and. but it was quite extraordinary. we could argue that every time the character that Heath played. bigger than you ever dreamed it. after a week. there’s the magic mirror and. It’s an act of love. And it’s a fantastic film. So. that’s good. they do all their research. I made a decision that the first time we have a character go through we’ll let his face change. we were throwing ideas around. Tony. Why didn’t I do that?” Then. Johnny.

to do cartoons. it was actually three times. a miracle. “I’ve got two names and I need 20 million dollars. It’s one thing to have the Quixote in your head. this is the kind of character and let’s go with it. It was after Munchausen that I first started to think about it. Parnassus was very smart and he was very old. I’d never read the book. And that’s the thing: I think most people don’t read the book. So. So.finished. and then you read the book and now we’ve got a problem. that’s the difference. When you see the documentary [Lost in La Mancha]. there’s probably not anything in there from the original inspiration. They know of the story of Quixote and Sancho and windmills. Well. It’s all in there. That’s it. He wasn’t. I am wondering how this is fun and humorous. And then I just made a mess of it. I work that way and I just go down these roads and see what happens. I think this is truly the first modern novel. You say that it is a fun and humorous story about the consequences of our personal choices. There’s a whole line in there.” And then somebody else offered me more money and then blah blah blah. to do period. but it is part of them. basically. “Okay. he thought he was just being clever. And it was just always there. [Laughs] Is there an equation between Gilliam and Parnassus? How much is the character you? It’s me and it’s Charles McKeown. but that was with a script that Toni (Grisoni) and I had written. and I said. So. if it’s about selling your child’s soul to the Devil. “You got the money. It comes from saying. Pirandello learned everything he ever knew from Cervantes’ second book. incredible piece of work. And this was a chance to do live action.” One was Quixote and the other was Gilliam. who was the producer on Munchausen. there were two times. [Laughs] How many times did you start the project? I don’t know. I read the book. [Laughs] And how did Quixote come about? I always thought about him.” It’s like with any actor. about his wife who becomes pregnant at sixty. And I called Jake Eberts. And each time the script changed? How much has it changed now? . so he thought he would never have a kid at that age. but that’s how it starts. What they’re playing is not them. and then it’s the way Christopher Plummer does it. He thought he had beaten the Devil. And he said. And this is the fourth now. This is such a massive.

He was a keen filmmaker before he got into commercials. we’ve done a serious re-write. now he stays in the 21st century. That’s where we are now. He goes back and he realizes he’s actually destroyed everybody’s lives. 12 and 13. we got the script back and I finally read it. but you’ve got a guy who thinks he’s Don Quixote. very artistic. since you were so set on him. It’s the best thing we’ve ever written. to this little village and he made his version of Quixote. and he’s going through exactly the same Don Quixote experiences. it will be a very different Quixote. But it’ll be very different. It was bad before. So. none of the original cast will be part of it. as a variation of the book? . So. by making him turn sane. It could be read many different ways. It went into festivals. meeting actors hunting for money. his face. went off to Madrid and ended up becoming a whore. won lots of prizes and then he was picked out by an advertising company and now he makes big money. Johnny [Depp] is occupied playing on Pirates 10. Guaranteed! I won’t say who it is. Who is going to replace Rochefort. we’re starting fresh and it’s quite exciting. he gave up his art for money. [Laughs] Is it the advertising guy who kills Don Quixote with his reality. but whereas before it was a modern advertising guy ending up in the 17th century. his manners? Is that why the characters changed? No. because the minute I say it. And the cast has changed completely? Unfortunately. by making him realize he was insane. So. a sort of symbol of innocence. and he realizes he’s not far from the village where he shot his little film.It’s really good now. “Well. The guy who played Sancho became an alcoholic and died. Hopefully. nine months ago.” And I refused to rewrite it and I didn’t even look at it. who decided to become an actress. Then. with no money. just rewrite it. We changed not what they do and who they are. And it becomes more pathetic. And what happened to the old guy who played Quixote? He went mad and he thinks he’s Don Quixote. And he came to Spain. [Laughs] The script was tied up in a legal situation for seven years and everybody kept saying. So. Jean Rochefort still can’t sit on a horse. the same scenes are taking place. but they now have very different meaning. What we changed in the story is that ten years earlier our advertising guy was making a little film.” And I said. The major change in it is about the two main characters. But if the guy we’re talking to at the moment get’s the part. he never moves. You don’t have Don Quixote. it’s perfect. And it wasn’t nearly good enough to make the film. There was this young girl in the movie. It’s so much better than what we were doing before. we’ll be shooting next spring. And the title The Man Who Killed Don Quixote … It’s a poetic title. it won’t happen. And now he’s back in Spain making a commercial with Don Quixote in the commercial. “No.

this guy kills Quixote. So. Basically. only one. and doing them your way? No. that was it. I’ve had a very easy run compared to everybody else. Tideland? No problems there. There’s many ways of singing the same song. the same film. as long as the song is not being changed in its essence. There are 5 versions of Brazil out there and they are all.” So. . It’s my film. and I went off and did Tideland. And then along came The Brothers Grimm. And Twelve Monkeys – great. the sanity kills Quixote in the end. The Fisher King had nothing changed. There’s nothing that I cut out that I was unhappy about. I thought I’d never work after Munchausen. as far as I am concerned. It’s a very transcendental ending. I didn’t physically have final cut on the film. But film lovers get obsessed about it: there must be the perfect version of the film. But there’s many ways of telling the same thing. I’ll tell you where it’s been: on Munchausen. it’s been like that all along. Fear and Loathing had nothing changed. I’ve always had control. There’s murder in this one. So. that was the first time I did it. there’s actual death in here. But there’s death and transfiguration. I’ve really had control over that. you are running the show. They asked me back and the deal I’d done was: “If you bring me back. Really. How come you do so many other people’s scripts and novels? Since it does seem that you enjoy making up scripts? I was depressed when The Fisher King came up. I just trimmed it. So. I didn’t change anything. it was going well. There’s death. the American version. the film that went out was the best I could do at that time. because everything else has been fiddled with or gets lost. And it really excited me. No. doing things that you want to be doing. they would be right behind me and they then just buried the film. So. That’s what goes on. I get final cut. there are a couple of little changes. Even with Brazil. I cut out five minutes of the film. But I never cut anything that’s important to me. Twelve Monkeys had nothing changed. with Parnassus being out and Quixote on the way. so that was great fun.In the book. Would you say that now. I think it’s kind of nice. leaving it behind. The studios said that if I got it down to two hours. but it suffered from the mood I was in when making it. but they don’t mean anything.

they didn’t waste words on it. . 1925). they all become mine very quickly or else I become the script. Learn to play. on the other hand. And it’s really good. the guy in the suit turned over and says. Watch it! And then write about it afterwards. And then there was a lady and a guy. because he didn’t let go. And these other two people. there was a guy. The intellectual analyzer just struggled. that’s the review you’ll write: “I sat for two hours. And you can … And I can. And if you don’t. for me. I mean. and he said when he was watching it there was a guy in a suit next to him. Which is. when we opened the Munich Film Festival. But. ENDNOTES 1. There was one guy who clearly saw himself as a very important intellectual. Sergei Eisenstein. It makes no sense to them. it’s just a big mess. I’m just going to do one of my own. He didn’t like it at all. I’m making the movie and I never feel I’m compromising. “Nobody’s ever gonna wanna watch this film. “Okay. Why sit there trying to get your review worked out while you’re watching the film? Watch the film! And if you want to write a review. extraordinary! It just seems to be working and it’s exciting.” That’s a good review. Now. I think we’re probably running at about ninety percent positive and ten percent negative. They got it. who were very good. you should be able to remember. there’s no structure that they can understand. Why do they make shit like this?” It always amazes me how some people cannot see what we got on screen. They said: “No.” It was kind of a way to see if I still could invent something from nothing. And Parnassus was nice to just say. There was a nice interview with Newsnight. verbally. I hate reviewers because they sit there writing with a little flashlight. I can’t remember anything.You know. no it’s fantastic!” They didn’t want to sit down and do this intellectual analysis of what was going on. a journalist I was talking to the next day. Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin. a good way of writing a review. Because the reception in Cannes … … was fantastic. and they loved it. what was interesting was that the intellectual was trying to explain it very clearly. and they said it was fantastic. he hated it. it doesn’t matter. let the films come at you. and it was after the showing in Cannes and there were three people. which is a news programme on BBC. At one point.

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