Something in the Moroccan air agrees with Terry Gilliam. When we met him here last, two years ago, he was in fine, jocular form and again this time he laughed and joked his way through his Marrakech Film Festival duties as a returning guest. This is despite the fact that a lot of what he had to say was essentially pessimistic, often shaded with that dark humor that characterizes so much of Gilliam's best output.
Following a screening of his latest film, "The Zero Theorem," the previous evening (our review), Gilliam pulled up a chair in a pleasant Moroccan garden and held forth on everything from his who-the-hell-can-keep-up-with-if-it's-happening-or-not 'Don Quixote' picture, to the "Twelve Monkeys" TV show to doing the Monty Python reunion stage show for the joy of it, yes, but also largely for the money. As ever, he was a candid interviewee whose giggly, avuncular manner totally belies his sometimes barbed comments on the state of the filmmaking scene today.
So a long-cherished dream of comedy fans everywhere is taking shape in the form of the Monty Python reunion show. Tell us how it came about?
I knew about it about 3 weeks before the public! We had to get together because we were involved in a court case, which we lost. And we decided to change our management and suddenly realised we had a big debt. And because we were spending time together the idea came about that we could do a live show and ask what happened.
It was going to be one show, but that show sold out in 43 seconds and then we added four more and they sold out in 2 hours, so we were making a lot of money. So then when asked if everyone was available for one more week, we all said yes.
So is it just for the money or are you enjoying yourselves?
We better enjoy it or the audience won’t! There was talk about [a world tour] but if these 10 shows keep us happy, Terry Jones' mortgage will be paid and John [Cleese] will cover his alimony... we’ll see what happens. It’s been a huge shock, Eric Idle put a kind of script together, some sketches and things, then we read them out and it was just wonderfully funny again and everybody was really good. Michael Palin has been stuck doing these boring travel shows, and he was just brilliant—he's such a great performer, so it was so good to see him being funny.
Any chance you'll do another movie with them?
Hmm, the reason we’ve never done a movie is it involves months and months of being together. The show is going to take 3 weeks.
And will it be old stuff or mostly new material?
We are the old stuff.
Are comebacks a potential disaster?
Yes, but we have the public's money already, like HBO we have the money first so we can take a chance... I don’t watch TV usually, but I signed up for Netflix a month ago, and I stayed up for 3 days and nights watching "Breaking Bad." It’s really good. When you see something like that, that well-written and well-performed that’s what is so good about places like AMC, HBO, Netflix, even Amazon—they're all doing the same thing and it’s making television far more interesting than cinema.
Does that give you any more hope for Syfy's mooted "Twelve Monkeys" series?
No, I know nothing about that except what I read in the papers, I have no control, I get no money. I think it’s a really bad idea frankly, particularly because I thought we did a very good film. I thought the script was wonderful, Chris Marker was very happy with "Twelve Monkeys" since it was inspired by "La Jetee," and I think the series will have nothing to do with that.
How about "Absolutely Anything," the Terry Jones-directed live action/animation hybrid that was to feature all of you and Benedict Cumberbatch at one point?
This is one that Terry Jones is making and it looks like it’s going ahead now. The producers are trying to sell it as a Monty Python movie but it’s not. We are doing some voices, and it is no longer Benedict Cumberbatch. It is Simon Pegg.