Dreams: 2008 News Blog
Edited by Phil Stubbs
As 2007 ended, the shooting of Terry Gilliam's
new project The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus was well underway. Ten
days of shooting had been completed in locations around London: Bounds Green,
Potters Field, Battersea Power Station, Blackfriars Bridge, Borough Market
and around the City of London.
|Lily Cole and Heath Ledger about to rehearse
scenes at Leadenhall Market
Location shooting on Dr Parnassus restarted in London on January
3, with day 11 in Battersea Power Station. Further locations used over
a further 12 days of shooting included Leadenhall Market in the City of
London, and Clerkenwell.
Ray Cooper, an old pal of Gilliam who appeared on screen in Time Bandits,
Brazil and Munchausen, has a role in Dr Parnassus.
He plays the leader of a group of Russian criminals.
The last day of filming in London was Friday 18 January, shooting in Clerkenwell.
Therefore, the real-world scenes set in London were complete. After this,
the UK unit packed up, and the plan was to restart promptly in Vancouver
with the bluescreen work, to shoot the scenes taking place inside the
Death of Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment, in the afternoon
of Tuesday 22 January. The
BBC reported that he was found unconscious at the apartment and pronounced
dead. Father Kim Ledger said that the death of his 28-year-old "dearly
loved son" had been "tragic" and "accidental".
Speaking in the actor's home town of Perth, in Western Australia, Mr Ledger
said that his son had been a "down to earth, generous, kind hearted,
life-loving, unselfish individual. Heath has touched so many people on so
many different levels during his short life that few had the pleasure of
truly knowing him."
BBC added an obituary which highlighted how much Ledger had achieved
even though he was still in his twenties, mentioning that he had finished
work on The Dark Knight, but significant work remained on The Imaginarium
of Dr Parnassus.
The next day, Entertainment
Weekly ran a lengthy conversation with Ledger's co-star Christopher
Plummer. The veteran actor revealed a number of details about the project,
as well as paying tribute to Ledger. Plummer mentioned that Ledger had had
problems sleeping, but added, "We're still in total shock over Heath's
death. It's sort of literally unbelievable, because apart from the sleeping,
he was in such good form.... There was a sweetness about him. He was a very
charming and gentle guy, actually."
With respect to completing the movie, Plummer said there was an enormous
amount to do. "This is why we were going to Vancouver. All the technical
stuff, was to be done in Vancouver. God knows what's going to happen now...
The film wasn't half made.... It's just terrifying. It had so much going
for it, and there was so much new stuff we were all going to put into
it to help it along. It was a sort of work of invention, from all hands....
And Terry [Gilliam] has had this experience before, with [The Man Who
Killed] Don Quixote, with Johnny Depp... My heart goes out
to him because he's worked so hard to get it off the ground. It just drives
you mad thinking about it. I have no idea, and I can't say, really, what's
going to happen to the film. We're still in total shock over Heath's death."
"He was looking forward he was in such a good, happy mood
about the picture. Looking forward to going to Vancouver. He was enjoying
the film thoroughly, and I'm here to say so. He was also terribly excited
about becoming a director."
"I don't dare say what will happen until we've talked with Terry
[Gilliam]. Probably nobody will know until the end of this week what's
going to happen. I spoke to Terry yesterday. We're all in shock... it's
just awful. Quite shocking, because it's so incredible. I just left a
very laughing, happy fellow, practically a few minutes ago.
On January 24, Reuters
reported a statement from Dr Parnassus's production team, stating
that Ledger's death puts the film on hold indefinitely. "Heath was
a great actor, a great friend and a great spirit," said the statement.
"We are still in a state of deep shock, saddened and numb with grief.
Over the coming days Terry and the producers will be assessing how best
to proceed." The film was to be produced by Vancouver-based Infinity
Features at the Bridge Studios in nearby Burnaby.
added a further story on January 25, reporting a tribute made by Ledger's
family. And The
New York Times speculated on the future of Dr Parnassus in an
article on the same day, saying that Ledgers death leaves the producers
with few desirable options: recast and reshoot, rewrite and adjust, or abandon
the project altogether.
Early in February, there were signs that the second option, Rewrite and
Adjust was to be the favoured option. An official
website was launched on February 5. The still below, featured on the
website in much more detail, is the first to be released.
A source close to production confirmed to Dreams on February 6
that the production would continue. "[It] has been very difficult
and sad. We have been grieving and coming to grips with the future. While
we have gone quiet the world is making its own assumptions on Dr Parnassus,
and it seems they are saying we are dead. We have to spread the word Terry
and Dr Parnassus will continue. We are still turning over in production,
shooting to recommence soon. What is important is people understand that
we are alive and moving fast to finish the last film of Heath... and a
Gilliam masterpiece. All of Heath's amazing performance remains in the
On February 6, the BBC
reported the findings of New York City's medical examiner on what killed
Heath Ledger. It said the actor died of an accidental overdose of six different
types of prescription drugs. The city medical examiner's spokeswoman said
Ledger died "as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects"
of the different drugs. They include painkiller Oxycontin and anti-anxiety
drugs Valium and Xanax.
Spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said: "What you're looking at here is
the cumulative effects of these medications together." Traces of
painkiller ibuprofen and sleeping pills, Restoril and Unisom, were also
found in Ledger's blood. Ledger's father Kim said: "While no medications
were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed
drugs proved lethal for our boy. Heath's accidental death serves as a
caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even
at low dosage."
By now, there were plenty of rumours that a number of actors were to play
Tony in the remining scenes that would have been played by Heath Ledger.
News was the first to reveal, on February 15, that Johnny Depp, Jude
Law and Colin Farrell were each to play Tony, and that the script had been
rewritten to allow for Tony's apperance to change in the story. The BBC
confirmed this on February 18, and a few days later ran
an article on how to replace a film star who has died during a production.
Vancouver work started on February 24. In the first few days there was some
location shooting in Vancouver. Lily Cole was spotted on location in Vancouver
on 25 Feb, and pictures of Cole with Gilliam and Christopher Plummer were
in the Daily Mail on February 26.
article on Infinity producer Rob Merilees on March 9 said that the planned
wrap date for the Vancouver work was April 15.
A press release was made on March 10 by the Dr Parnassus production
|Vancouver, March 10th 2008: Terry Gilliam and the producers of The
Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus have confirmed that, with the
blessing and support of Heath Ledgers family, filming on the
UK-Canadian co-production has recommenced in Vancouver.
After the tragic loss of Heath, there have been many rumours surrounding
the production, but we are now delighted to confirm that Johnny
Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law are participating with the rest
of the cast in the completion of the film.
Since the format of the story allows for the preservation
of his entire performance, at no point will Heaths work be
modified or altered through the use of digital technology,
the films producers re-assure: Each of the parts played
by Johnny, Colin and Jude is representative of the many aspects
of the character that Heath was playing.
I am grateful to Johnny, Colin and Jude for coming on board
and to everyone else who has made it possible for us to finish the
film, says director Terry Gilliam, I am delighted that
Heaths brilliant performance can be shared with the world.
We are looking forward to finishing the movie and, through the film,
with a modicum of humility, being able to touch peoples hearts
and souls as Heath was able to do,
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus also stars Christopher
Plummer, Verne Troyer, Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole and Tom Waits.
The modern-day fantasy adventure film is written by Terry Gilliam
and Charles McKeown and produced by William Vince, Amy Gilliam and
Tom Waits in Vancouver
TG on location in Vancouver
In early April, news came out that Verne Troyer had suffered from dehydration
on the Vancouver set of Dr Parnassus and reportedly had to be rushed
The first picture of Tom Waits in costume as Mr Nick (aka the Devil) were
made available at
a Johnny Depp site.
Verne Troyer gave an
interview about the project to MTV on April 9, where he revealed a
tattoo that he and others had gained as a mark of respect to Ledger.
The last day of Principal Photography was April 15, on schedule. The Globe
and Mail featured an interview with producers Bill Vince and Amy Gilliam.
on April 19. After Ledger's death, said the article, the producers formed
a sort of protective shield around their director as he grieved the loss
of a close friend, and was charged with devising a plan to save his movie.
"Amy and I were managing the people around him so he had room to
do what he needed to do. And we kept everybody glued together, so when
he did announce what he wanted to do, we were poised to do it," Vince
"I don't think he took it lightly - from the emotional side, to the
creative side to his personal side, there [were] a lot of factors that
were swirling around. And it's a great testament to him and to the film,
because if he didn't believe in it, he wouldn't do it," he adds.
On April 20, cast member Andrew
Garfield was given a BAFTA. This was for his work on the moving Channel
4 TV drama Boy A, which has been given a theatrical release in
certain countries outside the UK.
Andrew Garfield was
interviewed by New York Magazine on May 2. He said, "The amount
of stuff [Heath] left me with was astonishing. I will never ever lose
hold of what he had to offer. He just had this total spontaneity and the
ability to do anything at any point: fly off the handle or joke. It was
electrifying and I never knew what he was going to do like punch
me, you know? But how he did it is a mystery to me." Garfield also
spoke about the project itself, "Terry's movie is hilarious, it's
ridiculous vaudeville. I do stupid things and it was fun as hell
just fucking stupid stuff."
interview on his record-label's website, Tom Waits answered a question
about working with Terry Gilliam, published on 20 May:
I am the Devil in The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
not a devil
The Devil. I dont know why he thought of
me. I was raised in the church. Gilliam and I met on Fisher King.
He is a giant among men and I am in awe of his films. Munchausen
Ive seen a hundred times. Brazil is a crowning achievement.
Brothers Grimm was my favorite film last year. I had most
of my scenes with Christopher Plummer (Hes Dr Parnassus).
Plummer is one of the greatest actors on earth! Mostly I watch and
learn. Hes a real movie star and a gentleman. Gilliam is an
impresario, captain, magician, a dictator (a nice one), a genius,
and a man youd want in the boat with you at the end of the
Dr Parnassus sold well at Cannes, according
to Variety on May 21.
In May, the Model Unit was well underway in London, the first part of
There is a preview of Dr Parnassus in Empire's
July 2008 issue, released on June 4. In the preview, Terry Gilliam
reveals that Heath Ledger's character Tony, a charming interloper, "is
based on a former Prime Minister named Tony"
Producer Amy Gilliam is quoted as saying, "It's like someone up there
is trying to hit us and knock us down. But we have such a strong group,
and it's like no force is going to reckon with us. We're going to keep
Dr Parnassus producer Bill Vince died on June 21, reported
the Vancouver Sun. The producer of the Oscar-award winning movie Capote
died on Saturday at his home in West Vancouver after a battle with cancer.
Vince, who was 44, was a well-known and respected figure not only in Vancouver
filmmaking circles but in Hollywood as well. He is widely recognized as
the only Vancouver producer to have made an Oscar-winning movie.
The article quoted Infinity producer and close associate Robert Merilees
as saying, "Bill Vince was the most generous person I have met, with
his time, his talent and his knowledge of the business. He was an amazing
partner and a loyal friend. All of us here at Infinity loved him dearly
and will miss him terribly."
appeared in the Independent on Sunday on July 13. Entitled
"Heath Ledger's Final Cut", it featured the recollections of
an extra who worked briefly on Dr Parnassus.
quoted in the Daily Telegraph on July 16 - giving his views
about a campaign for Ledger to get an Academy Award for his portrayal
as the Joker in The Dark Knight.
interview with Verne Troyer at Yahoo on July 16 gave a story about
how photographers were trying to get a picture of Ledger. According to
Troyer, Ledger made his way into the crowd unseen to tease the shutterbugs.
"Heath snuck his way out into the crowd without anybody noticing
and came right up next to one of the photographers and asked him, 'Who
are you trying to shoot? Who are you trying to get?' "
The photog said he wanted a snap of Ledger, to which Ledger responded,
"'Oh, really? That's cool,'" according to Troyer. By the time
the pap could realize it was Heath himself, the actor had disappeared.
"I thought that was classic, just classic and hilarious," Troyer
Two new interviews with Dr Parnassus actor Andrew Garfield were
published, the first in The
LA Times, and the second with MovieMaker
At the end of July, the
Daily Telegraph revealed that Gilliam was once again eager
to restart shooting of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. His previous
attempt in 2001 ended in disaster, and was documented in the documentary
feature film Lost
in La Mancha. According to the Telegraph article, the ownership
of the script has now returned to Gilliam.
Gilliam spoke to the BBC about Dr Parnassus at the beginning
of August. He declared that the decision to film Ledger's remaining scenes
with three other actors had worked.
information about the proposed Quixote restart came in from The
Independent on August 4. According to Gilliam, "As far as we're
concerned, it's on. When Johnny's ready, we're ready. We're just talking
about dates to film. Basically it all depends on his schedule but otherwise
we're set. It will be next year some time, before next summer anyway.
We're going to completely reshoot it. The intervening years have taught
me that I can actually write a much better film. I'm so excited it's going
to get done at last."
An academic text about Gilliam, written by Peter Marks, is to be published
in 2009 by Manchester University Press.
In August, an
interview with Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, by Paul Morley, was
published in the Observer. The pair revealed more about the Gorillaz film
project they discussed with Terry Gilliam, about which much was rumoured
The project they intended to film was Journey to the West, an opera
that received its world premiere at Manchester's Palace Theatre in 2007.
The project is based on the Chinese mythological tale, which was worked
by Albarn and Hewlett into the BBC's coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games.
According to Albarn, "We spend a lot of our life talking about a
film." And Hewlett said, "We had fantastic lunches with Terry
Gilliam about turning Journey to the West into a film. That's the closest
we ever got to a Monkey film."
In January, while a Dr Parnassus shot was being set up one night
in London, Gilliam said the following to Dreams about the project,
"Damon Albarn approached me about this. I really like them, and we
started talking about it. But I'm still waiting to see a script!"
[Incidentally, during his time at ZTT Records, Paul
Morley tried to get Gilliam to direct a video for Frankie Goes to
At the start of September, it was reported that Virgin Comics had
collapsed. The company was working with Gilliam on realising some of the
director's unfilmed projects as comic books.
Also, a source close to Terry Gilliam confirmed to Dreams that
plans were in place to restart The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
Gilliam is hoping to shoot Summer 2009.
More news on The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
in a Swedish
interview, Peter Stormare revealed that he has a brief cameo role within
the film. Also, a teaser trailer for Dr Parnassus was released
on the Internet, more details are on another page
There was a full retrospective of Terry Gilliam's work at the Milan Film
Festival in September, and the director attended an event on September
13. Andrea Corsini attended and sent the following YouTube links to Dreams.
In the first, Gilliam talks about how he initially decided not to continue
with Dr Parnassus immediately after Heath Ledger's death, and was
subsequently persuaded to complete the film:
at the Milan Film Festival - YouTube: 1
at the Milan Film Festival - YouTube: 2
at the Milan Film Festival - YouTube: 3
at the Milan Film Festival - YouTube: 4
Gilliam answering questions at the Milan Film
Festival, September 2008
On September 28, Gilliam presented screenings of Time Bandits and
Brazil at the BFI.
A new still of Heath Ledger was released, alone on the stage of the
At the start of November, an article in Variety listed The
Man Who Killed Don Quixote on a list of projects in development with
Editing work on The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus is now finished,
the soundtrack is complete. What remains is the final integration of effects
work, which is still ongoing in London.
At the end of November, Gilliam was given a tribute in London from the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The
Grauniad did a write up of the event, featuring news about Parnassus
and Quixote. Gilliam revealed that The Imaginarium of Doctor
Parnassus will be credited simply to "Heath Ledger and friends",
rather than "A Terry Gilliam Film".
"With Heath's death this became a very different film,"
Gilliam admitted. "In a strange way, events wrote it for us.
Fortunately in the movie there is a magic mirror, and when someone
goes through it things can change. So we decided that one of the
things that can change is the actor playing the main character.
"I was terrified that it wouldn't work but we've had a couple
of screenings and it seems to work fine. I'm really pleased with the
film - I think it's a good one and I think there will be an audience
for it as well," he added.
Gilliam also said that he would be restarting work on The Man Who
Killed Don Quixote next year. He explained that he had finally
secured the film's rights from the French insurance company which
paid out $15m (£9.9m) when the production was scuppered by a
flash flood and the withdrawal of lead actor Jean Rochefort. He said
he and his co-writer Tony Grisoni had extensively rewritten the original
But he admitted that at times God had stepped in to "save his
ass", specifically on Don Quixote. "I was in some
way relieved that it did fall apart," he said. "Because
I didn't have the money to finish it. It's a good thing it went down
when it did because I would have got the blame for going over budget.
I think this time we will make a better film."
Elsewhere, Michael Palin paid tribute to a colleague he described
as "a man who begins where others stop and only stops when others
have fallen asleep". He added: "Terry is someone who tries
to do things in ways they have never been done before. This can be
demanding - but usually for no one as much as himself."
Also at the end of November, Terry
Gilliam and his son Harry spoke to The Times about work and
In The Observer, a British newspaper, Gilliam
penned a tribute to actor Heath Ledger.
| Any time I try to describe Heath it becomes a series of clichés,
because he was extraordinary and, unfortunately, most of those clichés
have already been used up on lesser people.
I met him for the first time in LA around 2001, when we were working
on The Brothers Grimm. He was a ball of energy, firing on all
cylinders, and he had a magnetic quality. I liked him immediately
and even though I hadn't actually seen Heath in anything at that point,
I said to him: 'You're on. Let's do it.'
He was one of those blessed human beings who have the facility to
do so many things at the same time. When he wasn't acting, he was
directing music videos and supporting young musicians. He was working
on the script for a film he was preparing to direct. He had an incredibly
artistic side, and he was practically a grand master at chess. That's
why, when he died, it was as if half of the world had collapsed.
He died halfway through the film I'm currently making, The Imaginarium
of Doctor Parnassus. We had finished shooting in London on Saturday
night. On Sunday, I went to Vancouver to prepare for the next stage
and Heath went to New York. He was supposed to be turning up in Vancouver
on the Friday. On Tuesday he was dead.
None of us could deal with it. It was impossible - that was the problem.
It was absolutely impossible that this could be a fact. But there
it was. I was working in the art department when I heard the news,
and we stayed there all afternoon. At sunset, thousands of ravens
flew over the window and I thought: those are the ravens from The
Brothers Grimm, and they are all going to salute Heath.
In terms of his acting, it still rankles with me that he's dead because
he would have been streets ahead of anyone else in his generation.
He just kept getting better and better. He was fearless. On Parnassus,
he was improvising all the time and it was better than what we had
written. I don't normally encourage that kind of improvisation, but
in a sense I felt Heath was writing this film. He was an incredibly
funny performer when he wanted to be - his comic timing was just extraordinary
- and then he could break your heart the next minute.
Usually, with actors, it's all about themselves. But it was never
like that with Heath. He was completely supportive of everything else
around him. He got better performances out of other actors - he just
drew it out of them. He was utterly generous and always aware of everyone
else, and he behaved as if there was nothing special about him - he
was just a guy.
His physicality was extraordinary, too. I remember Monica Bellucci
turning up to make Grimms. She went into the make-up room and
Heath's picture was on the wall. She hadn't met him and I don't think
she knew exactly who he was, but immediately she went, whoosh, to
that picture. That was the kind of attraction Heath had. Women adored
him and men loved him.
We've all agreed to call Parnassus 'A film from Heath Ledger
and friends' because I don't think it is a Terry Gilliam film. I think
it's something that his life and death has created. When he died,
I said it was over. We can't carry on. But everybody said, 'You've
got to carry on' - for the film, for Heath's last performance. It
wasn't possible for any one person to replace him so we made the quantum
leap and got three people - Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law.
The Holy Trinity. They came in and they pulled it off and I think
it works brilliantly.
When he died, there were all these nonsensical stories coming out
about Heath Ledger, James Dean and River Phoenix, all destroyed by
the system - but that's bullshit. What happened was an absurd accident.
I still don't understand it. I know he was exhausted - the last thing
he said was that he was so tired and just wanted to sleep. You actually
think at certain times angels come down to earth and Heath might have
been one of them. And then he's gone and you think: this is all wrong,
all the other people should be dead. He should be leading us all into
a wonderful world of adventure.
Gilliam was given an award at the Dubai International Film Festival in December.
"Our 2008 honorees for the DIFF Salutes Awards are French-Algerian
filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, Chinese action director Tsui Hark and American-British
fantasy master Terry Gilliam. All of them have pushed the boundaries of
cinema", said a spokesman. At the film festival, Gilliam
spoke to The National, a local newspaper. He mentioned a potential
| I have another project Im playing around with... Zero
Theorum that Dick Zanuck (the Driving Miss Daisy producer)
is producing. Its a small film, but its a very smart script.
I tend not to solicit anything, to be quite honest, so dont
ask any more questions!
There followed some speedy research by Brendon at Filmick, who revealed
that the Zero Theorem script is by Pat Rushin.
And as 2008 ended, the visual effects work on Dr Parnassus was still
[Dreams home] [News]