Monday, June 5, 2023


May 10, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

To dream the impossible dream

To fight the unbeatable foe

To bear with unbearable sorrow

To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong

To love pure and chaste from afar

To try when your arms are too weary

To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest, to follow that star

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

The lyrics from Man of La Mancha, the Broadway-musical version of Cervantes’ Don Quixote,  could have been Terry Gilliam’s theme song. For nearly thirty years Gilliam, who gained fame originally as the American member of Monty Python (he created the group’s visuals and directed their feature films), has tried to bring his own vision of the Cervantes classic to the screen. But when his The Man Who Killed Don Quixote first went before the cameras in 2000, it encountered arguably the most daunting obstacles that a director has ever encountered. As the late critic Roger Ebert observed, “Some films end with a whimper; this one banged into a stone wall.” Gilliam, the creator of such off-beat comedy classics as Brazil (1985), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Twelve Monkeys (1995) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), among others, was forced to abandon the production following the illness of one its stars, a flash flood, a hailstorm that blew over sets, interruptions of the filming by F16s taking off from a nearby air base, and clashes with the film’s insurers and European investors who had agreed to put up $32 million to cover its projected cost. Each calamity was duly caught on film by documentary filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, who had originally intended to produced one of those “making-of” features to be released at the same time as Gilliam’s film. Instead, their film eventually came out in 2003 as the theatrical documentary Lost in La Mancha, narrated by Jeff Bridges — receiving overwhelming critical praise.

But Gilliam never gave up on his impossible dream. In recent years he has repackaged his Don Quixote for investors with the likes of Robert Duvall, Michael Palin, John Hurt, Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, and Jack O’Connell variously set in the lead roles.

Last year, he unexpectedly relaunched production with Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce and Olga Kurylenko as the stars. But production had barely been completed when yet another complication threatened. Portuguese producer Paulo Branco, who had battled Gilliam during the latest production over financial and creative issues and finally walked out of the production, claimed in court filings in France that his company, Alfama Films, was the actual owner of the film and, as such, had the right to reedit it and approve any distribution agreements. He sought an injunction in French courts seeking to block the film from being shown at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was scheduled to screen as the closing-night film on May 19 and premiere in French theaters on the same day.

On Wednesday, the injunction was denied, and today (Thursday), the festival issued a rare condemnation of a renowned producer (Branco has produced more than 300 films and reportedly has had more films selected for presentation at Cannes than any other producer.)

“The campaign of attempted intimidation orchestrated by Paulo Branco and his lawyer son have … proved fruitless,” the Festival said in a statement. “The Festival de Cannes, which throughout the case has repeatedly expressed its loyalty and support for the creators, is pleased to see that justice will allow the presentation of this work, whose director surely deserves to see it finally presented to the public.”

But Gilliam is not done tilting at windmills. Amazon, which invested in the film and was scheduled to distribute it in the U.S. on its Internet platform, has pulled out, according to trade reports. And on the very day of the court decision, Gilliam suffered what was called a minor stroke. Nevertheless, his spokesman said that he will be on hand for the screening at the festival next week — barring no additional complications.