There’s no doubt Terry Gilliam is one of the chattiest directors out there, and his disdain for mindless popular entertainment is well-documented. During a sit-down interview at Entertainment Weekly’s first ever CapeTown Film Fest, the director answered questions about his career, popular culture, and everything in between.
Gilliam’s failures have been just as heavily documented as his successes. Case in point, the excellent documentary “Lost in La Mancha” which details his struggles to get an adaptation of “Don Quixote” off the ground (an idea the director continues to bring up every few years). In discussing his legacy in film with EW, he considers the failure of his film “Brazil” as a “huge success. And that’s why we, today, are so proud of Homeland Security.”
No doubt the director has a wry sense of humor and sarcasm is his main method of communication. When he’s not making quips about Homeland Security, Gilliam talks about his latest film, “Zero Theorem” starring two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz and which could be gaining actor Bill Murray... Gilliam didn’t go into details on the plot, at least if what he says is the plot, but described it thus: “If you want to go see a movie about a guy sitting in front of his computer in a burnt-out chapel waiting for a phone call that gives meaning to his life, that’s the one for you!”
He also went into detail on what could have been, such as a television spin-off of his movie “Time Bandits,” and the almost, not quite time he was set to direct a “Harry Potter” movie. In terms of the “Time Bandits” television show, he explains that Hallmark considered doing a show at one point, and that a couple episodes were written by him and Charles McKeown. Unfortunately, “9/11 occurred…and they decided after that that people didn’t want to be entertained.” If you haven’t noticed by the comments, Gilliam has no filter. Such is the case with his views on almost directing an installment of the “Harry Potter” franchise: “J.K. Rowling and the producer wanted me. Then wiser heads -- studio heads -- prevailed.”
Gilliam also doesn’t have any love lost for the spate of remakes and sequels that permeate the theaters today, saying that he refused to sell the rights to “Time Bandits” because “the only stipulation was that there wouldn’t be any dwarves in it.” Don’t expect him to craft any sequels to his work, as he finds the continuous repetition in Hollywood to be “like a McDonald’s hamburger.”
But perhaps his most quotable remarks of the conversation come when he talks about his preference for endings with ambiguity rather than definitive answers. And he pits two sci-fi classics against each other to make his point. “It always stuck with me, the ending from '2001.' I don’t know what it’s really saying. I know it’s beautiful, it’s telling me many things, I don’t quite understand it, but I know it gets me thinking," he explained. "When I look at 'Close Encounters,' there’s a perfect ending: the door opens, and that great sort of Preying Mantis Silhouette figure comes out. Cut to black, folks! Don’t let the little kids with the rubber suits come in! That’s a really fucking awful answer!”
The video interview with Gilliam is hilarious and includes more of his views on “Transformers,” God, and anything else you can think of. You can head over to the Entertainment Weekly website to watch it.