Bring on the Windmills: On the (Un)making of Terry Gilliam's 'Don Quixote'

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ansen

When Terry Gilliam attempted to make his longtime dream project, a film of "Don Quixote," whatever could go wrong did go wrong. Luckily--and it was the only bit of good luck--documentary filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, their cameras rolling, witnessed every disastrous turn of the screw. The result, "Lost in La Mancha," is an excruciatingly entertaining portrait of the filmmaking process that no Hollywood studio would ever allow to be shown. But Gilliam, bless his impish, obsessive heart, is anything but a Hollywood type. Moreover, there was no production company trying to protect its product: Gilliam's ambitious movie, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," starring Jean Roche-fort and Johnny Depp, was never finished. Indeed, it barely got started.

Gilliam has said that he always ends up re-enacting the film he is filming--as he films it. And the analogy between the filmmaker and the knight is irresistible. Gilliam sees visions no one else sees; he has made a career out of tilting at windmills and dreaming impossible dreams. He battled Universal to bring his amazing "Brazil" to the screen. His wild, over budget "Adventures of Baron Munchausen" became a legendary commercial disaster, while his madcap "Twelve Monkeys" became an unexpected success. He's a fabulist who thinks big, and his visually baroque movies require ample financing. But eight weeks before production begins, his "Quixote" budget has already been whittled down from $40 million to $32 million--half of what he really needs--so there's no wiggle room in the shooting schedule. …