U.S. Release Date: August 30, 2002
Running Time: 93 minutes
MPAA Classification: R (Language)
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jean Rochefort
Director: Keith Fulton, Luis Pepe
Producer: Lucy Darwin
Screenplay: Keith Fulton, Louise Pepe
By STEPHEN EARNEST / November 25, 2011
Anyone who knows anything about Terry Gilliam knows about what it’s like to work with him. It’s not so much that the man is a difficult person; it’s just that he can’t ever stop thinking. Creativity fuels his productions. Now, that doesn’t seem like much of a problem, because it isn’t. The problem is that he has a mind unlike anybody else. It’s incredibly hard for other people to comprehend (let alone “imagine”) what he’s thinking, and it literally takes brute force to get him to stop. That’s just how complex of a guy he is.
Anyone who knows anything about Terry Gilliam also knows about his countless production problems. There have been disagreements over budget concerns, script issues, actor choices. Gilliam spent a length of time arguing with the studio over Brazil. Years later, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen grossed eight times less than what its original budget was. There was supposedly even an attempt by Gilliam to adapt Alan Moore’s popular Watchmen comic series into a film, but it failed.
The main reasoning behind the quarrels between Gilliam and studio is that his films are just too eccentric for a mainstream audience. Most are unwilling to fund his productions simply because it would cost a lot of money to bring his imagination to the screen, and they would be taking a huge risk, as not every everyone is accustomed to Gilliam’s off-beat style.
Such is the case for Gilliam’s planned feature The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which encountered nearly every production problem imaginable.
First off, there were debates over the budget. Due to financial indifference in America, Gilliam decided to produce the film using a European studio, but was still only able to get half of the amount that he actually needed to make the film.
Secondly, when the time to film finally came around, the crew discovered that the area in which they were filming was located right next to a NATO aircraft base. The deafening sound of planes flying overhead was a huge problem, and even worse, was unavoidable.
On the second day of actual shooting, a flash flood came and damaged a lot of the equipment. It would take at least a day for new equipment to be sent to them, and time was of the essence. Plus, they couldn’t use of the footage from the first day. The set was permanently changed because of the flooding — the dirt and hills were a different, darker color and there was virtually no sunlight.
The final straw was when the actor in the lead role of Don Quixote, Jean Rochefort, suffered from a herniated disc. He was in need of medical attention and had to be flown back to Paris, and there was no estimated date on which he was expected to return.
Eventually, all of this resulted in a cancellation of the project. It supposedly takes a lot to convince Gilliam not to go through with something and at the end of the film, he finally just admits that maybe the project is better off staying in his mind. And it’s a true shame. From what I saw in Lost in La Mancha, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote looked like a fairly enjoyable piece of work.