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Terry Gilliam: My Life In 8 Movies

Photo of Jessica Kiang By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist February 4, 2014 at 3:27PM

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Terry Gilliam

Kicking off what may be a semi-regular series, the wonderful Terry Gilliam proved totally game for the challenge when we found we had a few minutes to spare at the end of our interview at the Göteborg International Film Festival (you can find the rest of it here). Essentially, the idea is that while we're interested in our favorite filmmakers’ films, we’re also interested in what they’re interested in, and we hope you might be too. 

So we’ve drawn up a list of questions about films that influenced them personally or professionally, in the hopes of prompting a few illuminating answers. Gilliam did not disappoint, bringing his trademark chatty honesty to bear, though it’s only fair that we point out that this was entirely dropped on him at the last moment, and, unlike potential future recruits, he had zero time to prepare. So bearing in mind that on another day, in another mood, or with time to mull over and revise, these answers might very well be different, here we go:

What was the first film you remember seeing?
"Snow White." Fantastic, Disney in the glory days—the Disney team was just brilliant. And the music too. The music that was written during the early Disney years was just incredible.

Thief of Bagdad

What film defined your childhood?
Hmm, I should really say “The Thief of Baghdad” is the one I remember most, because I had nightmares about it as a child. Terrified. I mean the Queen from “Snow White” was pretty good, but this one ...

Do you remember an early formative moviegoing experience?
Well, the drive-in? I can’t remember the movie, and it was the opposite of “formative” actually because I loved movies and we went to a drive in with another couple and I was all just like, “Get down! get out of the way! get off! I’m trying to watch the film here!” That was my problem at a certain age ... I still believed in movies in those days. I don’t anymore. Give me a drive-in now any day.

So how about your best moviegoing experience?
One of my best was when I saw “One Eyed Jacks” and it was in some terrible cinema on 42nd Street and I had no money, so I sat there and I had to sit thorough some terrible second feature—that was in the days where they’d show second features—all the way through just so I could watch “One Eyed Jacks” again.

And is there an “epiphany film” that most influenced your later work?
Not quite an epiphany, but there was “Paths of Glory.” It was a Saturday matinee show in the San Fernando Valley and parents would dump their kids at the cinema and I was probably 14, something like that, and there it was, this film that was about injustice. It was two things: first here was technology that I’d never been aware of, the tracking shots through the trenches which of course I copied in “Brazil,” but I’d never been aware of the camera before that film and the second thing was that you talk about injustice in the film, you could talk about big themes, ideas.

This article is related to: Terry Gilliam, Göteborg International Film Festival, Interviews, Interview, Features, Feature, Interviews, The Movies That Changed My Life


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