Monday, January 19, 2009

Heath Ledger & The Curse of Terry Gilliam (Part I)

Though his "A game" hasn't been publically prevalent in the past few years (we'll be nice and say about a decade), Terry Gilliam is still my favorite filmmaker.
If you know anything about what Gilliam has been up to in the last 10 years, you know it certainly seems as though any and all of his productions have been cursed - and if you didn't, you do now!

Through this new year of 2009, the most famous exapmle of this curse can actually be found in a documentary film called Lost In La Mancha. My prediction is that the most famous example will soon be that Heath Ledger died suddenly while making Gilliam's new film - The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Lost In La Mancha was supposed to be a different film froom the one that it became. Originally, the documentary crew received permission from Gilliam to document his filmmaking process throughout the production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. However, things started going wrong - VERY wrong - and the doc turned into what seemed to be recorded proof that the universe itself was trying to stop the film from being made.

There were many, many things that went wrong from the get go. Jean Rochefort, a Spanish actor cast to play Don Quixote, had to spend 7 months learning English. Through scheduling conflicts, it was not until just before filming that Rochefort and his costar, Johnny Depp, were able to get together to rehearse. The scheduling was ridiculously tight because the budget wasn't nearly what the script, or Gilliam's vision needed.

But perhaps the most extreme moment occurred when, while actually in the middle of the second day of location shooting with the Rochefort and Depp, a freak monsoon came from out of nowhere, reigning enormous hail on everyone, and causing a flash flood to literally wash the film equipment away. The flood and storm had changed the landscape where the filming was supposed to take place, before any of the shots had been gotten. Soon after, Rochefort was diagnosed with a herniated disc and could not ride a horse around - something completely imperative to the role - and a multi-million dollar insurance claim was filed, leaving the rights of the script in the hands of the insurance company. Production was completely over.

(to be continued)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
[NY Times]

- Goodchild

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