Culture: A Way with the Fairies; Alison Jones Hears Why Directing Is a Grimm Business for Terry Gilliam
Byline: Alison Jones
"Film making to me is really difficult, I don't really enjoy it" admits Terry Gilliam, which is unfortunate as the 64-year-old Minnesota-born director has dedicated most of his adult life to doing just that "I just don't do anything else very well," he continues resignedly.
"That's why I have the ability to forget about the badness. Each time I start a film I think it is going to be wonderful, to be the sweetest. And they never are."
Hell for Terry is people who want to interfere in his creative process. The men in suits with calculators for brains.
"Every film I have ever done has been difficult to get off the ground. Possibly the scripts are incomprehensible to people who sit on the money .
"I have a lot of ideas in my films that I am trying to get across which again often bothers people sitting on the money, who tend to be very conservative."
But with their eyes on the profit line, ideas make them nervous. They prefer that which is familiar, which will guarantee them a return on their investment rather than something that will stir the soul and fire the imagination.
"In half the conversations I have on something like this people are always referring to other, successful films, saying 'can't we have a scene on a bicycle like in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ' or 'you know, like that one with Leo on the front of the boat'," Terry continues. "You end up in a conversation that is a series of cliches".
"But there are lots of different tones and moods in films I do because I am greedy in that sense. I want to put people through a real ride. I want tragedy and romance and real beauty.
"Most films go down a much narrower road. I throw it all in and hope people go with it."
It is hardly surprising that he has developed into something of a movie-making Escoffier. His visual flair evolved during his early years as a successful cartoonist while his love of the surreal was cultivated during his years as Monty Python's resident animator then sketch writer and actor.
He has found the perfect vehicle for both in his latest project, The Brothers Grimm which is very loosely based on the story of the fairy tale collectors.
In reality Jacob and Will Grimm were academics who were trying to preserve some of the old German folktales which had traditionally been handed down orally but were in danger of being lost or forgotten.
Gilliam's brothers are a couple of con men who abuse the peasants' superstitions by passing themselves off as ghostbusters and witch hunters. A pair of sidekicks (including The Office's Mackenzie Crook) pretend to be haunting somewhere. The brothers arrive, "exorcise" the ghost, pocket the grateful villagers' gold and bed a few willing wenches.
Their bluff is called, however, when they are sent to save a village that is being terrorised by a real witch/wicked queen and who is kidnapping children (the bread-dropping Hans and Greta and a young girl in a red hooded cape) in a bid for eternal youth and beauty.
"I liked the idea of playing with this fairytale world but mixing it with this modern structure of two conmen getting hoisted by their own petard," explains Terry.
"The original script had two contemporary Hollywood smartass guys who went to Ye Olde Germany and got involved with a lot of special effects. It involved armies and goat creatures. …