Dreams: 2009 News Blog
Edited by Phil Stubbs
| As 2008 ended, most of
the work was complete on Terry Gilliam's new project The Imaginarium
of Dr Parnassus. What remained is the special effects work. For
the latest news on Dr Parnassus and Gilliam's other projects,
Verne Troyer, who had a major role in Dr Parnassus as
Percy, was one of the 'celebrities' featured in UK-based Channel
4's programme Celebrity Big Brother. As the cameras rolled
incessantly, Troyer spoke about how Heath Ledger died, and how the
movie was saved. What
he said is available to view at YouTube.
In January, Entertainment
Weekly ran a tribute to Heath Ledger, taking quotes from a large
number of poeple who worked with the actor. Below are the quotes from
director Terry Gilliam and cinematographer Nicola Pecorini...
Gilliam with BAFTA award (see below)
|Gilliam: Nicola Pecorini was working on The Order, and he
called me and said, ''This kid is extraordinary. He's fearless.''
I went out to L.A. and met Heath and just liked him immediately. As
we were talking, he was constantly jiggling around. I was like, ''That's
great - you've got to keep that.'' He just had this incredible energy
that was intense but very vulnerable at the same time. Heath was determined
to be his own man, despite his success. Johnny Depp was someone he
really admired. I introduced them at the Toronto Film Festival. Johnny
has a good sense of competition. Right from the start, he was just,
like, ''Ooh, this guy - watch out!''
Gilliam: He was a very old soul. When we were in Prague doing
Grimm, there was one night we went to see this gypsy band. Somehow
his age came up in conversation. At that time, Matt Damon was 32,
and I always felt Heath was the same age, if not older. He said, ''I'm
24.'' I said, ''What? That's not possible!'' He had a kind of wisdom
you only get from centuries of former life. He could talk about any
number of things - books, ideas - and this was not a 24-year-old you
were talking to. Maybe he was part aborigine somewhere down the line.
Gilliam: I used to get calls from Heath during Brokeback, because
he wasn't happy. He felt alone and isolated. I think it was his sense
of not getting the kind of warm support we gave him on Grimm. Whatever
it did, it produced an extraordinary performance.
Gilliam: The months of publicity on Brokeback were difficult
for Heath, because there was so much pressure - this was suddenly
the Academy Awards and everything. Heath dutifully did it, and I know
hated every moment of it. All of us heard it in different ways from
him. He just hated it. For him, it was probably a kind of selling
out. He hated going on chat shows. He hated what he felt were silly
interviews. He felt his job was to be an actor. It bothered him to
feel he was hustling to get an award or publicity.
Pecorini: Heath would sometimes ask for help to escape: ''Can
you call me at 5:15 so I can pick up the phone and get off this interview?''
It was very funny, because he was like a big kid - you know, ''Get
me out of Science 101.'' He went along for the ride, but at times
it was a bit too much for him. He'd call me and say, ''Can I come
play with your kid?'' My son at the time was 10, and Heath would come
and spend hours playing soldiers with him, just to get away from everything.
Pecorini: Heath was extremely relieved he didn't win the Oscar.
I saw him the next day and he was like, ''It's a big, bloody weight
off my back.'' I said, ''Don't you have even a little regret?'' He
said, ''No. It's over! I'm free now!'' If he had won, he would have
had to deal even more with this system that wanted to guide his career
and his life. He immediately threw himself back into a project that
was really important to him: a movie he wanted to make about ['60s
British singer] Nick Drake. That was one of his dream projects. The
moment the Oscars were over, he said, ''Now we can do the Nick Drake
Gilliam: The Oscar nomination wasn't a good thing. I think
it's a terrible thing to be nominated. That's a punishment for having
been good. There was a period after Brokeback where Heath just didn't
know which way to go. He would sign up for this and that and then
pull out. That year was confusing for him.
Pecorini: Heath knew The Dark Knight would take him off the
market for a long time and he loved that. He was going back to the
mainstream cinema he was trying to escape, but it was giving him a
way out from everything else.
Pecorini: When he came to me with the first makeup test of
the Joker, I said, ''S---, man, they're going to fire you!'' And he
said, ''Maybe, but that's the only way I can play it.'' Movie studios
are scared of daring. They're scared of pushing the envelope. And
Heath was exactly the opposite. He was always pushing, pushing, pushing.
It was in his nature to push the boundaries.
Gilliam: Heath was exhilarated by playing the Joker. He said,
''I'm able to do things I never believed were inside me.'' He's working
with great actors, like Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart, and he'd say,
''I go into these scenes, and they can't do anything to me!'' He used
to just giggle that he had found a character that was impregnable.
They could beat him, hit him, and it wouldn't make a difference because
he was so utterly wacko. It freed him up and got him out of that uncertainty
after Brokeback. It was just, ''Let's go. Let's fly.'' And he flew.
Pecorini: Separation when there is a kid involved is always
very painful, no matter what. And Heath was always very hard on himself.
His tendency was always to say, ''What did I do wrong?'' He was really
bleeding. And I'm pretty sure that all his sleeping problems had nothing
to do with work and all to do with Matilda and Michelle.
Gilliam: The insomnia was really getting to him. He'd arrive
in the morning looking really shattered. I'd say, ''Let's take it
easy because you're knackered.'' And he'd say, ''No, let's go.'' And
he'd just whip the thing up into another gear very quickly and off
we'd go. By the end of the day he was transformed into this beaming,
angelic presence. The work just lifted him every day. He couldn't
get enough of it.
Pecorini: I'm convinced Heath caught pneumonia at the end of
that year. I remember I forced him to see a doctor, even though he
didn't want to. The doctor said, ''Yes, you have the beginning of
pneumonia. You'd better get antibiotics and go home and sleep.'' He
got the antibiotics, but he refused to go home and sleep. And that
very night, he delivered one of his best performances I have ever
seen him deliver. He went on nerves, mainly.
Gilliam: I was in Vancouver, and there was a computer with
a BBC website and it says, ''Heath Ledger found dead.'' My immediate
response was, ''It's a f---ing Warner Bros. publicity stunt for the
Joker!'' We kept looking at the computer thinking it was going to
change. But it wouldn't go away.
Gilliam: They tried so hard to pin [drug abuse] on him, but
they couldn't because Heath was as clean as you could be. We know
about the pills. But he had stopped smoking. Marijuana was no longer
in his life, which he had enjoyed a bit. He wasn't drinking. Nothing.
This was a body that had cleansed itself for over a year of anything.
Pecorini: He was so solid into keeping clean, it was quite
stunning. I really think he died of a broken heart. I know it can
sound very romantic, but it's very tragic. I think that's what killed
Gilliam: For me, it was like, Let's just close up shop here,
because without Heath I don't want to continue on this project. He
was so central and so important. And everyone just kept beating me
up, saying, ''No, you have to keep going for Heath. He wanted to see
this film.'' Then we made the quantum leap: What if we get three actors
to replace him? Johnny was the first person I called. I said, ''Would
you consider helping finish Heath's part?'' And he said, ''Done, I'm
there.'' Same with Jude and Colin. I had no confidence that it would
work. It was just that I didn't know what else to do, so let's just
gamble and do it. Because I was determined that Heath's role was not
just going to disappear.
Pecorini: I remember when we went to the memorial service,
most of the people there had nothing to do with Heath. He used to
despise most of them, and there was no reason for them to be there.
I understand the family wanting to give the ''Hollywood community,''
so-called, the opportunity of saying goodbye. But I'm telling you,
85 percent of the people in that room had no right to be there. It
was pretty disturbing for me.
Pecorini: We joked about [an Oscar nomination]. Heath used
to say, ''This time I'm going to give them such a hard time - they'll
have to cry to get an interview.'' He knew he'd done something special.
But he was saying, ''This time I'm going to lead the dance.''
Gilliam: We're cutting Parnassus now, so it's like I work with
Heath every day. He's in fine shape, at least in the world I'm inhabiting
at the moment. It just doesn't make sense. Every day goes by and I
think, He'll be back in a second.
Also in January, Terry
Gilliam spoke again about the likelihood of resurrecting his Don
Quixote project. He told Empire, "Tony and I have started rewriting
Don Quixote just this last week. [We] finally got the script back.
I re-read the greatest script ever written and realise we gotta get rewriting!
I really wanna knock that one out in the next month or so. Gilliam
added that he had some very different ideas for the movie "[Im]
starting to think I was lucky, because maybe the film will be better seven
years later. It will have matured a bit longer.
Gilliam with BAFTA Award (2)
At the start of February, the March edition of Empire was published,
with a major feature on Dr Parnassus, but with no stills from the
picture. The article told the story on how the movie was saved by the participation
of Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Gilliam was quoted in the article
as saying "[An audience] will come because we got a freakshow here. No question, when
there's a train wreck, people will stop and watch. I don't mind, because I think the
film is so good. I hope they come in large numbers. I hope they see how wonderful it is
and how wonderful Heath is and it makes me happy. I don't care why they come!"
On February 5, Screen
International ran a piece on Voltage Pictures, "Nicolas Chartier's
high-flying Los Angeles financing and sales company", with news that
it was touting a "prestigious slate to date led by new work from Robert
Redford and Terry Gilliam."
The article went on to state that "Terry Gilliam is preparing a May
1 start date on the fantasy Zero Theorem, which will star Billy Bob
Thornton and is being produced by Richard and Dean Zanuck.
"The story revolves around a reclusive computer genius plagued with
existential angst who is hard at work on a project designed to discover
the meaning or life or its lack thereof. CAA is again handling North American
Later in February, Zero Theorem appeared to be becoming more real.
at Voltage Pictures' website, there was a synopsis of the script, with
a picture of Billy Bob Thornton, Gilliam's name attached and a start date
of May 1. Be warned, the synopsis contains major spoilers.
At the BAFTA Awards in London on February 8, Gilliam was given a BAFTA Fellowship
Award. This is the highest award given by the body, and has
previously been given to Gilliam's heroes Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman
and Billy Wilder.
In the run-up to the award, the filmmaker gave a number of interviews: first
there's a a feature at the BBC
News website, (featuring video), and a
Daily Telegraph interview. Also Gilliam was interviewed on Front
Row on Radio 4 and by Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo on Radio 5 Live.
The award was presented by Jonathan Pryce and Jeff Bridges, and the director
gained a standing ovation from the audience. This broadcast was clumsily
edited by the BBC on the night, omitting much of what Gilliam said. Also,
in the clips shown of his career, there was no mention of Tideland.
The presentation, and Gilliam's acceptance is now available in full on video
BAFTA's own website. On the same webpage, there's also a further video
interview with Gilliam backstage.
At the Oscars in February, Kate Ledger (Heath's older sister) spoke about
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. She said, "We've seen a little
bit of the footage... I think it's going to be amazing."
Nicola Pecorini - the cinematographer on Dr Parnassus - has
had his own website redesigned. And he's included images on the website
of Dr Parnassus that we've not seen before. Specifically, first (albeit
small) pics of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell as Tony. Further,
Pecorini's website confirmed a rumour that Peter Stormare is in the cast
- he has a cameo role as a world statesman.
Later in February, in Risky
Business, a blog attached to The Hollywood Reporter, writer
Steven Zeitchik highlighted the absence of a US distribution deal for Dr
Parnassus. He wrote, "A number of US buyers during the summer and
early fall were said to be interested in acquiring stateside rights -- Lionsgate
and Overture were reportedly among the potential suitors -- but word of
a potential deal quickly quieted down. That has fueled all sorts of rumors
in indie circles, ranging from dissent over finances on the producers' side
to an extended and messy post-production session to outsized expectations
on the part of filmmakers." He then undermined his own story by writing,
"Many of those rumors have yet to be substantiated."
Graham Smith, the Unit Publicist for Dr Parnassus, made a swift response
to the article, saying that a deal was in place for the vast majority of
territories, yet the strategy in the US is to complete the film first before
seeking a US buyer:
|With reference to the international distribution of The Imaginarium
of Doctor Parnassus mentioned above, the film will be released
in the U.K. and Ireland by Lionsgate later this year and has been
sold to leading distributors worldwide. Principal teritories include
Central and South America, Scandinavia, Mexico and Spain (all Sony),
France (Metropolitan/Kinema), Germany (TMG/Concorde), Japan (Showgate),
Italy (Movie Max), Australia (Hoyts), Benelux (NCV), China (Golden
Harvest), India/Pakistan (Weg), South Africa (Nu Metro), South Korea
(Showtime) and C.I.S. (West Film). Canadian distribution is being
handled by Seville and US distribution will be confirmed once we have
a completed film to screen.
The story was picked up by certain news organisations. One, The
a British newspaper, suggested that the fate of Parnassus would
be that it would go straight to DVD in the States. Yet this would seem extremely
unlikely, especially given the strong interest the picture has, with Ledger's
last performance and a cameo from Johnny Depp.
The Parnassus production team sent the following to The Independent,
|I should like to correct the report filed by Guy Adams which ran
on page 23 of today's newspaper. Your correspondent has reproduced
large chunks of the erroneous and misleading content of a blog posted
by Steven Zeitchik, a contributor to a Los Angeles film trade newspaper,
about Terry Gilliam's film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,
featuring Heath Ledger's final performance. Since his source material
is an internet blog and was not first printed in The Hollywood
Reporter, to which Mr Adams attributes it, the details were not
subject to that publication's scrupulous fact-checking and research,
nor has there been any contact with the film's producers.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is still in post production
and will not be completed until early/mid April. As soon as there
is a finished film, it will be screened, for the first time, to US
distributors. There has been no search for a US distributor to date,
as the producers felt that it was better to wait for Terry Gilliam's
vision to be fully realized on screen, so that the distributors can
see exactly what they are acquiring. That said, the film was pre-sold
in 90+% of the rest of the world and we are envisaging a release in
the fourth quarter of this year.
At the start of March, the effects work on Dr Parnassus was still
added a further piece on Dr Parnassus, a more balanced piece
about how Dr Parnassus will fare in the States. It featured great
quote from Terry Gilliam, who is content to sit it out for a US distribution
deal: "I think people are going to be astonished when they see the
film, and there will be a rush to want it,'' he said. ''So I'm happy to
wait. Nobody came forward at the right time — and now it's going to cost
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus was eventually complete at the end
of March. Terry Gilliam was at the Empire Awards on Sunday March
29, commenting to journalists that, "Were putting the last shots
in tomorrow, and thatll be it"
On March 30, the Dr Parnassus production team launched
a Twitter account - this is to be the official source for news on the
project over the next few weeks. The first update was: Film in final
stages of completion - only days to go! :)
Later that day, a further Twitter update said: We have put the last 4
VFX shots in the film.
Then on March 31, we were told: Dr. Parnassus is now sweeping up the
clutter that has accumulated over the past year. He is relaxed knowing the
film is finished.
On April 4, there was a
piece in the Grauniad, which quoted Gilliam on the search for
a US distributor for Parnassus.
|Terry Gilliam has denied that his film The Imaginarium of Doctor
Parnassus, which features Heath Ledger's final performance, is
struggling to secure a distribution deal for release in US cinemas.
"There's this story running round that has absolutely no basis
in truth at all," said Gilliam. "It started from a little
blog and it's all over the place but it's good, it gives us free publicity."
The film-maker said he was pleased with the final version of the movie,
which enlisted Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp to play different
versions of Ledger's character.
"It was very difficult but somehow we got adrenaline going and
everybody was so determined to make it work and we did it and it ended
up in some ways a more extraordinary film because of that," he
said. "The main thing is that it really works and that was what
I was concerned about and I can say, hand on heart, that it's really
good. I just didn't want to waste any moment of Heath in life or on
screen and that's Parnassus."
On April 23, it was confirmed by the Cannes
Film Festival, that The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus would play
there, with Out of Competition status. Later, the date of May 22 2009 was
given for the picture's World Premiere.
came from Dr Parnassus in April, including:
|Having tidied up his wagon and fed the horses, Parnassus is stripping
off to dance amongst the newborn crocuses that dot the hillside.
Bunnies are busily digging burrows in my beard. Chocolate eggs are
popping out of my earholes. Good Friday was better than good.
Tomorrow is my re-birthday. My followers will roll away the kidney
stone and discover that Dr. P. no longer needs a doctor.
Immortality is not as difficult as people think.
A fansite dedicated to The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus has been launched,
with the aim of winning wider distribution and release of the film. It can
be found at www.imaginariumofdrparnassus.com,
and the people behind it did the same thing for the Heath Ledger movie Candy
and have been credited with it being taken into more theaters than had
been thought possible.
David Morgan's excellent website dedicated to Terry Gilliam has been
relaunched at WideAngleCloseUp.
Morgan spent time on the set of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
and has resulting interviews at this site.
On May 1, Harry Knowles wrote the
first review of Dr Parnassus for his AintitCoolNews website
- which was very positive.
On May 5, Cinetic Media hosted the first US screening of The Imaginarium
of Doctor Parnassus, in Hollywood's DGA Theatre. This was a screening,
in advance of Cannes, to industry execs with an aim to secure a US distribution
deal for the picture. There were many reports in the next few days. On May
6 came a
report from Hollywood Reporter, by Steven Zeitchik, which included
|The hottest U.S. acquisition title at the upcoming Festival de Cannes
might not be sold at the festival at all. The Imaginarium of Doctor
Parnassus,Terry Gilliam's story of a traveling carnival that also
is Heath Ledger's final film, has topped the list of many executives
since it emerged during the past few months that the title would have
its world premiere on the Croisette.
Although the festival chose it as an out-of-competition title, filmmakers
and U.S. sales rep Cinetic Media have opted to try to sell the film
before the fest, which begins May 13. A screening for top Los Angeles-based
execs was scheduled for Tuesday night, where Cinetic hoped to seal
a deal. (The company is repping domestic only; foreign sales in many
territories already have been sold).
Filmmakers are believed to be seeking a studio-level deal with studio-level
prices -- well into the seven figures. "If the movie delivers,
you're going to see people willing to open their wallets," said
one exec who planned to attend the screening. "Even with the
high price, you can pick up a marketable movie for a lot less than
it costs to make it."
"Parnassus" represents an unusual next step: a film that's
already going to a high-profile festival actively seeking a deal away
from it. There's a logic to the move. With the festival sales market
bottoming out -- there has been one fest sale for at least $4 million
in the past year, "The Wrestler" -- and with the Cannes
audience thought to be unpredictable, Cinetic doesn't want to take
If a deal can be reached, it would mean that what was a Cannes screening
for the industry becomes a launchpad for a studio's marketing campaign.
On the same day came an
article from Entertainment Weekly by Nicole Sperling:
|All of the major independent buyers in town packed Hollywood's DGA
theater for the screening, and while most left feeling a bit befuddled
(as one often does coming out of a Gilliam feature) the consensus
was that the movie is better than expected.
Although Ledger died during production on Parnassus and was
replaced by three actors -- Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell
-- one source in attendance says that the late Oscar winner indeed
appears throughout the film as Tony. His three replacements, meanwhile,
only pop up in dream sequences. (Farrell's sequence is the longest,
says one person who attended the screening.) The two-hour film apparently
features amazing visuals, but the storyline is rather complex, centering
on Christopher Plummer as Dr. Parnassus, a man who runs a traveling
sideshow with his daughter, a young barker, and a sidekick, played
by Verne Troyer. Tom Waits plays the Devil, with whom Parnassus makes
a Faustian bargain, and Ledger's character joins the troupe after
they find him hanging from his neck under a London bridge.
|Lily Cole as Valentina in The Imaginarium
of Dr Parnassus
More pics at this webpage
A number of stills from Dr Parnassus were released in May. These
have been gathered at a new webpage within Dreams.
On May 9, more gossip about the sale of Dr Parnassus was
reported at Risky Business, again by Steven Zeitchik:
|"Is it brilliant or is it muddled?" we've been quizzing
acquisition execs who saw "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus"
at the first and heretofore only buyers' screening earlier in the
week. "And, more to the point, would you buy it?"
The first question has yielded an answer of surprising consistency.
Both, many said. Not always strong or simple on the narrative, and
that sometimes makes for a muddle, but visually and at times conceptually
On the second question, buyers were not opposed, but for the most
part they said the answer would come down to price (doesn't it always?).
Heath Ledger and the triumvirate of Depp, Law and Farrel make it eminently
publicity-friendly, so there's value in the film if you spend the
right amount, they said. (ah, but whose right amount?).
To go above that threshold, though, they noted a movie of this sort
needs word of mouth, and it's tricky to determine how much the visuals
and vision would carry that. "And Gilliam fans are tough to read,"
said one buyer. "It's hard to say how many of them there are,
and, among them, how many will come out and buy a ticket for a new
While certain early reactions -- a Mr. Harry Knowles comes to mind
-- have loved it (or, more technically, noted that their response
was Holy F%*#ing Wow), for a full critical reading we'll have to wait
for the Cannes premiere next weekend. We have a feeling we'll be hearing
a lot of 'both' there too.
The Festival de Cannes opened on May 13. Video, available on the festival's
website, features a
few seconds from Dr Parnassus, a scene filmed in London's Leadenhall
Market. Fastforward to the 21st minute if you are in a hurry.
On May 14, there was an
interview with Gilliam in The Times: below Gilliam tells the
paper how he came to continue the film despite Ledger's death.
|Gilliams initial reaction to the news was that he would have
to call a permanent halt to the production. I thought, Theres
no way I can make this film without Heath. But Amy and
other collaborators lobbied hard to keep the film alive to honour
the memory of its star.
Ideas are floating around. Then finally we decided, OK,
lets get three other people to take over the part. And
we were lucky because we have a magic mirror in this movie. Not every
movie has a magic mirror. So you can very genuinely say that these
other actors are different aspects of the character that Heath plays.
And it works. The point was, weve got to keep going. It was
a bit like half being there, but apparently on autopilot I can still
do a few things.
In casting the actors who would step into the role, Gilliam says that
a key considerations was that they had to have been close friends
of Ledger. Fortunately, Ledgers friends included Johnny Depp,
Colin Farrell and Jude Law, names that no doubt helped to persuade
the films financiers that Doctor Parnassus was still
viable. Its a hard thing to do, walk into a character
and take over. But they did it, Gilliam says.
He has no doubt that Ledger fully deserved the Oscar for his chilling
portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight. But wouldnt
it have been nice if they had noticed before? Even before Brokeback
Mountain he was doing brilliant work. Everything he has done has
been solid, even the earlier silly things. I first saw him in The
Four Feathers and he just takes over the screen. He was what,
21 years old?
The planned release date for Doctor Parnassus is in the autumn.
We want to be in that last third for the Academy Awards! Maybe
well get another award for Heath. Were going to get as
many awards as possible for him, long after hes gone.
Gilliam, who has a history of taking his audience out of their comfort
zone, suggests that the films viewers might find some elements
of the movie tough going. I think there are going to be moments
in Parnassus; Im just waiting to hear what the audience
does when they see certain shots. There are lines that we refused
to change after Heath died. Its like the script was prescient.
Its really spooky.
Also on May 14, Jeremy Thomas made an announcement about Gilliam's The
Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Thomas said the project was on track to
shoot in Spring 2010, as a project for his Recorded
Picture Company. Hollywood Reporter journalist Stuart
Kemp wrote the following:
|Terry Gilliam may no longer be tilting at windmills, having teamed
with Oscar-winning British producer Jeremy Thomas to bring The
Man Who Killed Don Quixote to the big screen.
Gilliam has hooked up with Thomas to finally bring his long-blighted
take on the tale of the Spanish knight. Screenwriter Tony Grisoni
has worked with Gilliam to reimagine the legend, and the script revolves
around a filmmaker who is charmed into Quixote's eternal quest for
his ladylove, becoming an unwitting Sancho Panza.
The move uniting Gilliam with Thomas and his Recorded Picture Co.
banner is the latest twist in a moviemaking saga almost as epic as
Cervantes' 17th century classic on which it is based. Nine years ago,
the original shoot suffered a series of setbacks captured in the documentary
"Lost in La Mancha," which went on to become a cult hit
in its own right.
Thomas, in Cannes, described the project as "irresistible,"
while Grisoni added that there is no escaping some pacts. "Nearly
10 years on, I find myself lending a hand to get that crazed, giggling
bedlamite back in the saddle. I'm talking about Don Quixote. In spite
of God and the devil, he shall ride again," Grisoni said.
The RPC redeveloped movie is scheduled for a spring shoot.
On May 16, Quint wrote
up his review of Dr Parnassus for AintItCoolNews - a further
positive review. Also John Horn blogged
the following for the Los Angeles Times:
|Not that long ago, American distributors went to film festivals
-- Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Telluride -- looking for reasons to
buy a movie. These days, as the business has grown much tougher with
higher-than-ever profit expectations, they almost seem more interested
in finding reasons not to acquire a film. For proof, consider the
status of director Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
At first glance, the movie would appear to have numerous built-in
sales hooks, most notably that it was the last film of actor Heath
Ledger, who died of a drug overdose during its filming. Because Ledger
was unable to complete the film, a trio of prominent actors stepped
in to finish his role: Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law.
Those A-list names -- and the mystique of the last performance of
the Oscar-winning Dark Knight co-star -- would seem to create
enough publicity to drum up some audience interest; there's a fan
website tracking the film's history and posting images from the film.
Gilliam, who directed the critics' darling Brazil but also
the flop The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, is not some direct-to-video
hack. On top of all that, the film was selected to play out of competition
at this year's Cannes festival, where it will be shown Friday night.
But U.S. buyers, who were shown the movie in a screening at the Directors
Guild of America theater in Los Angeles a week before the festival
started, so far have been quite cool on the movie. Interviews with
half a dozen American distributors here revealed a consistent reaction:
Whatever publicity Ledger's death may generate for The Imaginarium
of Doctor Parnassus, the film itself is too oblique to stand on
its own. The buyers said they were both dazzled and puzzled by some
of Gilliam's choices, and though they found much to admire, it wasn't
enough to tip the scales.
John Sloss, the lawyer and sales agent who is selling the film in
Cannes, said he was confident that the film would find a distributor,
and that the potential buyers who are so far passing on the film might
be the right distributors for it in any case. But as the festival
and concurrent market enter their fourth full day with no new major
sales deals announced, it's starting to look as if the buyers aren't
yet ready to start shopping.
Dr Parnassus was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22
2009. This will be covered in more detail here soon, but below are some
pictures from the event:
Gilliam answers a question at a Q&A event
Fisticuffs with Verne Troyer
Director Gilliam at the Dr Parnassus
Cannes press conference
Gilliam with cast and producers at the Cannes
premiere of Dr Parnassus
At the end of May, Gilliam headed off for the Ibiza Film Festival. Running
from May 27 to June 3, it featured a retrospective of his films. Gilliam
was interviewed at the festival in the embedded video below.
The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus opened the Munich Film Festival on
Friday 26 June. Terry Gilliam attended with actor Verne Troyer and producer
Amy Gilliam. Festival organiser Andreas Ströhl praised Gilliams
film as an overpowering hallucinogenic fantasy and a childrens
film for adults.
Terry Gilliam spoke to Dreams at the end of
June, just before setting off for the Munich Film Festival. It's been
a few months now since his latest project The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
was completed, and the director has been to Cannes with his new picture.
The director revealed that he has abandoned plans to make Zero Theorem,
but has firm plans to resurrect the Quixote project for shooting
A few days before this interview, Johnny Depp spoke about Quixote.
The actor said, "I mean, I love Terry and I'd do, personally, anything
the guy wants to do. The thing is, with Quixote, my dance card is
pretty nutty for the next couple of years, so I'd hate to have to put him
in a position or ask him to be in a position to wait for me. That would
be wrong. But, also, in a way, I feel like we went there and we tried something
and whatever it was, the elements and all the things that got up underneath
us were there and happened and were documented well and were documented
well in the film Lost in La Mancha, so I don't know if it's, I hope
it's right for me to go back there. I don't know if it's right for Terry
to, but if he wants to..."
Gilliam told Dreams that no cast is in place for Quixote;
Depp has "first dibs" on the project, but neither the filmmaker
nor producer Jeremy Thomas feel they can wait until Depp is available to
start production on Quixote.
On June 29, Gilliam attended a screening of Time Bandits at the Electric
Cinema on Portobello Road in London. The Evening Standard reported that
guests included Sir Ian Holm and Verne mini me Troyer, who stars
in Gilliams current film, Doctor Parnassus, along with Lily
Cole. I am being approached from all directions to do an opera,
said Gilliam. Of course Im tempted. A British company want me
and now Berlin State Opera too. I want to do one about the French Revolution.
I really do love opera. I just dont like the audiences you get for
it. Also, talking
to GQ journalist James Mullinger, Gilliam hailed Dr Parnassus
as his "best film since Time Bandits".
The UK release date of Dr Parnassus has been confirmed as Friday
16 October 2009.
Terry Gilliam was interviewed about Dr Parnassus in
an article published on the CNN website.
Early in July, there was a substantial article in Vanity Fair about
the making of Dr Parnassus and the death of Heath Ledger. Written
by Peter Biskind, who wrote Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, it
is currently available at the Vanity Fair website.
Heath Ledger captured by Bruce Weber
On July 10, an article by Gilliam about his mentor, Harvey Kurtzman, was
published in the Daily Telegraph.
|I remember when I first saw Harvey Kurtzman. There was something
small and nutlike about him. He was like a beautifully polished acorn,
slightly brown and hard and nice. There was a politeness about Harvey,
which wasnt really what I was expecting. As a kid, I was quite
voracious with comics. On the news-stands in Fifties California, where
I lived, youd get Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman. And the
newspapers were full of cartoons, from Fritz the Cat to The Katzenjammer
Kids to Blondie and Dagwood it was endless. This was probably
the peak of comics in America. I loved cartooning and I immediately
started copying my favourites. I didnt think about it, it was
just like eating, just food; I absorbed as much of it as possible.
The big leap was MAD comics, which gets us to Kurtzman. The comic
book MAD, which Harvey founded in 1952, were parodies of comics, using
them as political and social satire. The idea of parody was something
that was quite new and fresh, and thats what MAD did brilliantly
well. If youre doing a parody youve got to be as good
as the original in some ways youve got to be better.
Their stuff was smart, it was funny, and it was very sexy too. So
much so that I used to hide the comic in the garage so my parents
didnt see that I had this proto-porn.
When MAD come along I didnt know who Harvey Kurtzman was, I
just knew a magazine. Im very lazy that way. But in the course
of the MAD period, the name kept coming up: Kurtzman, Kurtzman, Kurtzman.
When youre a teenager you want to find out the names of your
At college my friends and I took over a literary magazine, Fang. We
lowered the tone significantly. We turned it into a sort of satirical,
outrageous, offensive magazine wherever possible, trying to shock
and wake up the student body. At that point MAD had become hugely
successful, but Harvey had left, and it just didnt have the
satirical bite that I was looking for.
Then Harvey started Help! magazine. I just discovered it one day,
and said, hello, whats this? For me, the best thing about Help!
were the fumetti, the funny photo-stories that Harvey was doing. Id
never seen anything like that before. So we started doing those. That
was the next step for me towards film-making: suddenly we were going
out and doing photo-shoots, dressing people up and finding locations
and telling stories. I started sending the magazines to Harvey, because
I just wanted him to see who was out there copying him, the monster
hed helped create. He sent back a really nice letter which was
the beginning of the end, or the beginning of the beginning.
When I graduated from university I really didnt know what I
was going to do. But I wrote to Harvey and said, Im gonna
come to New York. Id love to come and meet you. And he
wrote me back saying, Dont bother, kid. Theres no
job here, theres nothing, its a hard place. But
nevertheless, I went.
So we agreed to meet, at the Algonquin Hotel. Now, I was a great fan
of the Algonquin, because that was where the Round Table was in the
Twenties, where Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and George Kaufman
used to hang out and be witty and write for the New Yorker.
I got there and I remember going up the stairs, this callow youth
from California, and I knock on the door and the door opens and inside
this suite were gathered together all of my god hero cartoonists.
And then Harvey turns up. He was much smaller than I expected; most
of my heroes are. But it was wonderful. Harvey was really sweet and
enthusiastic. And standing next to him was a guy named Charles Alverson,
the assistant editor of Help!, who had just decided to quit. And they
were looking for somebody to replace him. So I got the job just like
At Help! I had to do everything. I had to deal with whatever went
on with the magazine, so Id be on the phone talking to people
in a solemn voice: Ah, yes, this is Mr Gilliam, the assistant
editor of Help! magazine, Ill have that package over to you
in about, oh, 15 minutes, Ill tell the boy to bring it in.
But that boy was me. And I was making two dollars less than I wouldve
made on the dole every week. It was wonderful.
What I really loved was doing the fumetti, because I had to be, in
a sense, the producer. So I would get the actors together, the props
together, the costumes, find locations. Some of this was done with
Harvey, sometimes it was me out there on my own. Henry Jaglom, the
film director, was in one of our fumetti; so was John Cleese, which
is how we met. Once we were doing this fumetto about gangsters; we
needed a Mr Big and one of our gun molls happened to be
dating Woody Allen. He was perfect, although Harvey was wonderfully
bemused about who this guy was.
After Help! collapsed I went hitchhiking around Europe for several
months. When I came back to America I had no home so I lived in Harveys
attic for several months.
Whats so funny is life, the way it goes on. His studio was at
the top of the house and he lived up there most of the time. And in
my house here in London, same thing I live at the top of the
house and the rest of the family is below, getting on with life. I
seem to have adopted so much of Harveys work ethic and the way
he went about things. I think he regretted leaving MAD. He felt hed
made a big mistake which hed never recover from.
That was a great act, to just walk away. Ive been emulating
that ever since, and thats why I get in trouble all the time.
Harvey was so obsessed with technical perfection. Youve just
got to get all of that stuff right. But I never even noticed the things
that were bothering him, because of the strength of the material.
The freedom when he did his layouts, the way hed put light and
shade in them. He used to always look at Gustave Doré etchings
or engravings, and learned from those.
When he started doing Little Annie Fanny for Hugh Hefner and Playboy,
in 1962, I was pissed off. I never felt that Little Annie Fanny was
as sharp as his earlier work. It was technically brilliant but it
always felt slightly compromised. I was too naïve to realise
what a rough time hed been through; his need to make a living
was paramount. I always thought he let Hefner take advantage of him.
Hed always come back from Chicago wide-eyed and amazed by the
Playboy Mansion and the Sybaritic lifestyle there. To me, it felt
like a bordello. But Harvey would go and just be completely transfixed.
All these beautiful girls, but he couldnt touch them. And yet
he wanted to be as close as possible!
In many ways Harvey was one of the godparents of Monty Python. All
the smart people loved Harveys work; the dumb people didnt.
It was the same with Python. Still, I remember when he came over here
in the late Sixties. Monty Pythons Flying Circus had just started,
so I dragged Harvey down to Terry Joness house to watch it.
Harvey didnt like it, or understand it. The show didnt
click with him at all. It was one of those wonderfully disappointing
moments when you really want to impress your teacher, and phoo! He
didnt get it.
A new book, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman by Denis Kitchen and
Paul Buhle, has been published by Harry N Abrams.
appeared in July from Dr Parnassus:
|Dr. P here.. sitting on a comfy hedgehog at the edge of the world
listening to Randy Newman's Faust. Why aren't you?
Considering how sharp the edge of the world is, a hedgehog is a real
pleasure to my aged bottom.
A hedgehog is best used as a toothpick. You can do all your teeth
at once. I'm now stepping off the edge of the world...with clean teeth.
The sun is shining brightly in London but there is a man on a plinth
named Jesus asking people to be sunbeams just for him. Greedy bastard..
There goes the sun. Jesus managed to get all the sunbeams and has
gone home. We are being rained on. He was not reigned in.
Terry Gilliam appeared, with Verne Troyer, at ComicCon in San Diego, CA
on 23 July. The director and the actor were there to present a clip of Dr
Parnassus. There was a great deal of web coverage of this event:
On July 24, Gilliam
spoke with the Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus support site. He
answered a number of questions, revealing that he was influenced by painters
Grant Wood, Od Nerdrum and Maxfield Parrish. Further, that the characters
within the picture were influenced by not only the family and the travelling
theatre from The Seventh Seal, but also Pierrot, Columbine and
Harlequin from Commedia dell'Arte (and its variants).
of Dr Parnassus support site has launched a photo campaign, where
individuals from around the world have sent in captioned photos stating
that they would like to see Dr Parnassus. Director Gilliam joined
On August 1 and 2, Gilliam was at the River
Film Festival, at Písek, in the Czech Republic. The following
video advertises the filmmaker's attendance. Gilliam became the first
winner of Miroslav Ondricek Award.
|Gilliam at the River Film Festival, in Písek, with festival
President Michael Havas
Early in August, it was confirmed that Dr Parnassus will have a prestigious
Gala Presentation at the Toronto
International Film Festival. The 34th Toronto International Film Festival
will be held Thursday, September 10 to Saturday, September 19, 2009.
On August 7, an
astonishing new official trailer was released at Yahoo Movies. Below
is an embedded file from Trailer
Addict, and below that is a larger video file from Movie
Also on August 7, a
new website was launched, to support the UK release of The Imaginarium
of Dr Parnassus.
Design at the new UK Dr Parnassus website
On August 12, Variety
reported that Sony was to be the US theatrical distributor of Dr
|Heath Ledgers final film has finally found a Stateside buyer.
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group is in advanced talks to
pick up "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," with plans
for it to go out theatrically, likely this year, via Sony Pictures
Pic is expected to be a lucrative homevideo title due to the Ledger
angle and the other star power. Terry Gilliams adventure also
features Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, who replaced Ledger
in various fantasy scenes after the thesp died during the films
production in January 2008. "Parnassus" was officially unveiled
at Cannes this year in an out-of-competition slot toward the end of
the festival. Several buyers screened the film just before Cannes,
but a deal didnt immediately emerge.
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group has been a key player in
a number of pic deals lately, including for "The Young Victoria."
That film will go out theatrically via Bob Berney and Bill Pohlads
new Apparition label, and SPWAG will handle all ancillaries as part
of a three-way deal on the pic.
SPWAG has a homevid deal with Apparition.
The "Parnassus" deal with Sony has long been in the works
and could be made official this week. Reps on the deal, including
sales agent John Sloss, remained mum. The film goes out in the fourth
quarter through various distributors in European territories including
the U.K., France, Germany and Italy, plus Australia and New Zealand.
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