Terry Gilliam is not a man to give up easily. Thirty years ago he first had a vision to make a film inspired by the Don Quixote story by Miguel de Cervantes. It wasn’t until 1998 that the money was raised to get started, but the production ran into problems. Now, his “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” has been completed and is scheduled to open April 19 presented by Alacran Pictures.
Gilliam, first known for his being part of the Monty Pythons, subsequently battled persistently through an array of casting problems, legal fights and other obstacles that would discourage a director with less resolve.
In 2002 I reviewed a film that was called “Lost in La Mancha” a documentary by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe that detailed the downfall of the attempt to make “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.” I wrote: “This is an engrossing account, blow by blow, of what happed to derail the film that was loosely based on the classic by Cervantes. The weather, problems with Illness, insurance and financing proved to be insurmountable. A key ingredient was the illness of star Jean Rochefort, the distinguished French actor signed to play the Don Quixote character, with Johnny Depp as co-star. The time of Rochefort’s absence became longer and longer and the delays caused complication after complication.”
The obituary was premature. Gilliam eventually bounced back and now, here we are with a completed film that played at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Audiences here will finally get a chance to evaluate Gilliam’s vision and see what he has finally achieved. Gilliam wrote the screenplay with Tony Grisoni.
The film involves Toby, a former film student who had made a film inspired by the story of Don Quixote in a Spanish village, Now, no longer the idealistic student, he is a very commercial director who makes advertising films. Upon returning to the village, he discovers that the man who played Quixote is now elderly and really believes he is Quixote. He is played by Jonathan Pryce. Toby is portrayed by Adam Driver.
Gilliam has elaborated in production notes about the film: “Now, the project is about films and filmmaking and what films do to people who are involved in the making of them. Our ad man has been transformed into someone who had made a student film, ten years previously in a little village in Spain. When he comes back to that village, thinking it’s going to be wonderful and as fabulous as when he was working there, he finds that most of the people in the village don’t like him. He has destroyed lives.”
This is a complex story with an action-filled plot. Gilliam has created an imaginative production. It includes clashes, sexuality, colorful characters and relationships. The film was shot in locations across Spain, Portugal and the Canary Island of Fuerteventura.
Gillian has further stated: “I had begun work on ‘Don Quixote’ in 1989, and despite the many obstacles, I was thrilled that, 400 years after the death fo Cervantes, my project was now in production. Don Quixote is a dreamer, an idealist and a romantic, determined not to accept the limitations of reality, marching regardless of setbacks, as we have done. I have found in Spain and Portugal all my dreamed places and, at long last, I am bringing the story of The Knight of the Mournful Countenance to a contemporary audience.”
Gilliam has a long list of credits. Films he has directed include “Brazil,” “Time Bandits,” “Jabberwocky,” “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” “The Fisher King,” “Twelve Monkeys” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” He is, of course, especially remembered as one of the Monty Pythons. He co-directed “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” with Terry Jones, and for Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” he was production designer, actor, writer an animator.
He has been nominated for various awards, including Oscars. Probably a new award should be created for Gilliam: The Determination Prize. Posted March 25, 2019.