Lost In La Mancha

(Photo Courtesy IDFA 2002)
Those who have been delighted in the past by the madly gleeful, incredibly dark, and incisively sharp worlds created by Terry Gilliam would be overjoyed to venture into a cinema and take a look at "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote". Unfortunately, these admirers must face the disappointment that this film will not soon be forthcoming in any cinema near anyone. After five short production days (following ten long years of preparation) sufficient disaster had struck the project to bring the end quickly in sight and make it inevitable. Giants, it seems, come in all shapes and sizes. Scheduling rehearsals with major stars was near impossible, costume fittings were difficult to arrange, extras arrived on location for shooting without having been rehearsed beforehand, promised studios turned out to be steel corrugated warehouses with incredible sound problems, a nearby air base had F-16s flying over locations every few minutes and, last but not least (in any terms), the noted French actor Jean Rochefort developed a health problem that appeared to be situated in his prostate, but later turned out to be a double hernia on his vertebrae. The second time the lead actor managed to climb upon his horse, it took two men to help him off it again and forty painridden minutes to walk back to his car and leave. This, after preparing for nearly two years for his role, which included having learnt English during the previous six months. Johnny Depp retains a solid stance as he watches things begin to fall apart around him. And Vanessa Paradis hadn't even arrived for shooting when the show was over.

The original intention of directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe was to follow Gilliam's progress and document a "The making of...." movie, but as the tides quickly turned, the plans became altered. In the end result, what begins to become a tale of misfortune on a film-set rapidly grows into every filmmaker's worst nightmare. On the following Monday, Gilliam holds his head in dismay on location by a waterfall when angles go wrong once again. He is paid an unexpected visit by the film's insurers (after a phone call to them the preceding week concerning the shooting problems) and that shortly before he must join visiting financiers who have invested some sixteen million dollars in the project. He surrounds himself with them for a quick, but friendly reception and the requisite taking of a group photograph. Not too long after that day ended, the production shut down, everyone went home, and the insurance company (which held the protection bond) wound up owning the rights to the project.

IDFA 2002
This series of incidents could have well been done without by everyone, especially the gifted Mr. Gilliam, whose brilliant reputation had already been dented considerably by events surrounding "The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen." Despite those events, he still managed to grind out another near masterpiece and had already directed numerous artistic and financial successes throughout his colorful past. Finding investors, however, remains difficult enough that even he continually has difficulties gathering enough lucre to keep tending to his craft. His reputation as an "enfant terrible" may be a title he enjoys, but it does not reveal the well-established position he has earned among his peers as a responsible professional. His method may be different, but so is his madness. And, what is more important; let's face it, whenever allowed, he turns out the goods. The gods seem to have been against him this time. As he himself remarks, when a storm looms and strikes before the floods wash away the location on the second day of shooting, "Is it King Lear? Or The Wizard of Oz?"

With strong resolutions of finding new resources, he intends to buy back the rights to continue onward with the film. The one hopeful message is that this production may still be "coming soon". Talk about the windmills of your mind!

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett