SFX Issue 12

May 1996

Interview

Gilliam On Not Gilliam

Consider the following conversation...

SFX writer: “A lot of creative people, when asked what they’re working on, don’t like to give details until it’s actually in production. Yet your name seems to be forever attached to different projects, most of which...”

Ex-Python, Terry Gilliam: “...Don’t happen! It proves the point of why you should never talk about such things.”

SFX writer: “Why haven’t you learned your lesson then?”

Ex-Python: “Well, I have now, as of this interview! I’ll shut up about what I’m really doing now...”

Here, then, is the (in)complete SFX guide to those unrealised projects with which the illustrious name of Terry Gilliam has been associated – accurately or otherwise.

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT

Classic Mark Twain time-travel story. Previously filmed in 1921, 1931, 1941, 1979 and 1995.

Gilliam: “Yep, I worked on that as scriptwriter for about six months, then I got bored with it. But I was actually working and I think I got paid $12,000, so I made big money.”

DON QUIXOTE

Cervantes’ classic novel of a 19th century dreamer who longs to be a medieval knight. Filmed in 1957 and in 1973.

Gilliam: “That’s still in the works. The script, which I’m writing with Charles McKeown, marches on, but not to anybody’s satisfaction yet.”

WATCHMEN

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal 12-part comic – first published 1986-7 – depicting superheroes as they really would be. Probably.

Gilliam: “I worked with Charles McKeown on that. Joel Silver was trying to get me to do it, but he wasn’t able to get the money together, so that died a death. However, I was contacted by the new owner of the rights in January this year, wanting to know if I was still interested. I think it’s going to be impossible to make as a film, unless you make it three and a half hours long, which most people aren’t going to want.”

THE MINOTAUR

Labyrinthine goings-on in ancient Crete. This project, co-written with Michael Palin, actually predates Time Bandits .

Gilliam: “That’s another project that’s hung around, waiting for a decent script to be written for it. What I do with these things is I get excited about them, and I work it out in my head, and then I get bored, and I have to walk away. Quixote was one of those, and Minotaur ’s a bit like that too. I looked at it again the other day and thought, ‘Hmm, this is a good story,’ so maybe I ought to get to work on it.”

GODZILLA

Big lizard gets bored with trashing Tokyo and trashes New York instead. Currently lined up for director Roland Emmerich.

Gilliam: “I’ve only heard about this in interviews, never in reality. I don’t know where this came from, but obviously somebody wrote it in a paper or a magazine somewhere and then it’s been repeated.”

THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

Much-delayed movie version of Douglas Adams’ legendary book/record/play/radio/TV/comic/trading-card/licence-to-print-money.

Gilliam: “I know Douglas and this sort of comes and goes occasionally, but it’s never gotten anything more than saying, ‘It’s an interesting idea, but...’ We’ve never worked out a script or anything.”

TIME BANDITS 2

A proposed sequel which would surely be hampered by the deaths of Sir Ralph Richardson and David Rappaport, and the fact that Craig Warnock is now 26!

Gilliam: “A company that bought out Handmade Films were talking to us about doing this. Charles McKeown and I have an idea what to do, but we haven’t heard anything for a few months. It’s one I wouldn’t direct. I’d work with Charles on the script and godfather it basically.”

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

Tragic tale of dorsally-challenged Parisian campanologist. Filmed in 1923, 1939 and 1956. Brace yourselves for a Disney cartoon version later this year.

Gilliam: “I turned this down last week.”

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Charles Dickens’ story of friendship and heroism in revolutionary France.

Gilliam: “That was the one I was working on just before Twelve Monkeys . It was going to star Mel Gibson, and at the very last moment he decided he wanted to direct again... So we were then floundering, trying to find a replacement. We needed a big star and the studio started pissing around, and I said ‘Bye!’”