Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Edited by Phil
Back in 2000, Terry Gilliam arranged funding for his project The Man
Who Killed Don Quixote. He lined up an excellent cast and a talented
crew. Shooting began at the end of September, and we all looked forward
to seeing Gilliam's project at the end of 2001. But the film was never finished;
it was abandoned after a few days as a result of flash floods and an ailment
that meant that Jean Rochefort - Gilliam's Quixote - was unable to sit on
But all is not lost...there is still a chance that this project may see
the light of day. Gilliam is currently working to buy the script back from
the insurance company who came in as the project collapsed. Armed with the
rights to the project, and the glorious few minutes of what was shot, Gilliam
hopes to complete the project.
And as you can read below, British producer Jeremy Thomas might step in
and help the director realise his dream project.
On this page is a brief history of the project, in chronological order...
and you may also wish to read these other Quixote links within Dreams...
Gilliam defends UK National Lottery funding for
Quixote - April 2000
Terry Gilliam speaks to Dreams about his preparation
for Quixote - June 2000
Gilliam says Quixote will happen again - December 2000
Gilliam speaks out on Quixote collapse - April 2001
Lost in La Mancha - official
Quixote, as illustrated by Gustave Dore
novel Don Quixote, about the adventures of a mad aging knight,
always seemed to be ideal material for director Terry Gilliam. The
director worked on a Quixote project in the early 90s, after the failed
Watchmen project and The Fisher King. He wrote a script
with Charles McKeown. At the time, Gilliam was dealing with French studio
Gilliam spoke to Neon magazine: "The years I wasted on this one!
I was so frustrated with Hollywood, I went after European money, needing
$20 million. And they said, 'You're on'. But I found out I needed more
money. Sean Connery was mooted, but Quixote is air and Sean is earth,
so I backed away. I saw Nigel Hawthorne as Quixote, and Danny de Vito
as Sancho Panza. I dithered because I'd committed to The Defective
The Defective Detective never got going, and Gilliam instead made
12 Monkeys. It appeared that the Quixote project was disappearing
from his grasp as 12 Monkeys was released, thanks in part to a
rival project - based on an old Waldo Salt script - directed by Fred Schepisi,
and starring John Cleese and Robin Williams. Said Gilliam in 1997, "That
really hurts, that I let a project I'm convinced I'm the best director
on the planet to do, slip by."
At the UK premiere of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Gilliam announced
that he had been working on Don Quixote with a twist. A sort of
combination of Quixote and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's
Court, where a modern day advertising executive becomes confused and
is transported to the world of Don Quixote. At the time, the Schepisi
project had come to nothing, and Gilliam again set to work, this time
with writer Tony Grisoni, on the Quixote project from a slightly
A great deal of 1999 was spent trying to get a European deal to get enough
cash to make the Quixote film. In Spring 1999, Gilliam - speaking
in Manchester - seemed more certain that this would be his next directing
duty - still wishing to avoid Hollywood studio cash. At the time,
a Summer/Autumn shoot looked likely, and a deal was put together. However,
by Autumn 1999, that deal had fallen apart. Thus a wait began for
a further deal. "Windmills are taking up too much of my time," sighed
Gilliam at the end of 1999.
Things looked up in March 2000 thanks to funds being made available
by four sources: the UK National Lottery Fund, Le Studio Canal Plus, Hachette
Premiere and KC Medien. Gilliam went to Cannes in May 2000 to celebrate
the deal. At the time, Dreams reported:
Terry Gilliam is currently preparing to start production on The Man
Who Killed Don Quixote, a film based on Miguel de Cervantes's 17th century
novel, Don Quixote. The book follows the adventures of an old man
who reads far too many books of chivalry for his own good. The script
for Gilliam's proposed feature film, written by the director with Tony
Grisoni, tells the story of a present day advertising executive who travels
back in time and meets the Knight of the Doleful Countenance. The news
of a deal to make this film, first reported in March 2000, is excellent
news for the director, who has had an extremely frustrating time throughout
1999 in trying to get this movie off the ground.
In mid-May 2000, it was confirmed that Johnny Depp was to take a role
in the film. Depp had impressed Gilliam enormously during the making
of Fear and Loathing, and Gilliam had long wanted Depp for his Quixote
movie. French actor Jean Rochefort has been confirmed as the eponymous
Don Quixote. Depp's partner Vanessa Paradis is also to star, it
has been announced. Other names mentioned are Penelope Cruz, Madeleine
Stowe, and Jonathan Pryce. While Ian Holm has been quoted with respect
to this project, the actor will definitely not be taking part.
Shooting is now likely to start in September 2000, with Rene Cleitman
producing for Pathe Pictures. Gilliam has already spent a great
deal of time in Spain searching for suitable locations, and studio work
is to take place in the UK. A $30 million budget has been mentioned,
pared down from an original $48 million.
At the end of June 2000, already well into pre-production at his Notting
Hill office, Gilliam confirmed a cast including Johnny Depp, Jean Rochefort,
Vanessa Paradis, Rossy de Palma, Miranda Richardson, Bill Paterson and
Christopher Eccleston. The crew included Nicola Pecorini and Gabriella
In September 2000, shooting commenced, but was rapidly curtailed as a
result of floods and an injury affecting Jean Rochefort. After a few weeks
wondering whether Rochefort could come back, the project was cancelled.
All of the props and sets were taken away. The project would have to be
started again from the beginning.
Throughout 2001, Gilliam spoke about the collapse of Quixote - much of
this can be found on the Dreams news pages. The director concentrated
on writing the script for Good Omens, but funding for this project
has yet to emerge. Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe, two filmmakers who were
on set with Gilliam, edited together the story of how Quixote failed,
and throughout this year created a documentary film Lost in La Mancha,
which is set for theatrical release around the world in Autumn 2002.
Quixote project remains close to Gilliam's heart. He is still keen
to buy the rights back from the insurance company.
Jeremy Thomas's Recorded Picture Company has expressed his interest in
making Quixote with Gilliam. From Cannes in May 2005, Screen Daily reported
Terry Gilliam is making a bid
to revive The Man Who Killed Don Quixote with his Tideland producer Jeremy
Thomas and the Recorded Picture Company. The
former Python is currently back in the saddle with two films The
Brothers Grimm and Tideland after seven years away. Gilliam made
it clear that he is now seriously engaged in trying to revive The Man
Who Killed Don Quixote.
The disastrous first attempt to shoot the project was documented in the
film Lost In La Mancha and restarting the venture means a protracted legal
tussle over rights. But Gilliam said: There are good signs.
Added Recording Pictures chief executive Peter Watson: Having collaborated
on Tideland, it was such a good experience that we want to be in the Terry
Gilliam business. We are now attempting mouth to mouth resuscitation on
the corpse of Don Quixote.
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