Terry Gilliam

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Terry Gilliam (2019)

Terrence "Terry" Vance Gilliam [ ˈɡɪliəm ] (born November 22, 1940 in Medicine Lake , Minnesota ) is an American - British film director , screenwriter and actor . He became known as a co-founder of the Monty Python group .

Cartoonist, Monty Python, director

Gilliam studied political science at Occidental College, Eagle Rock , Los Angeles . His career began in 1962 as a signatory of in New York produced satire magazine, HELP! , a sister publication of MAD , where he met John Cleese . He also drew two short stories for the French magazine Pilote .

After moving to England in 1967, John Cleese found him a job with the BBC . There he met other comedians, with whom he and Cleese founded the group Monty Python . Gilliam initially worked as a writer and director and later as an actor . The kind of humor in the Pythons' skits differed enormously from the humor we were used to. Sometimes the ideas were very subtle, but sometimes they were deliberately tactless and provocative. The skits didn't have to make sense, they were based on mostly absurd humor; they often had no punchline , and occasionally they didn't even end. Above all, however, Gilliam was responsible for the comedian troupe's bizarre cartoons , for whose animation he used a trick trick technique.

Directorial work

In the 1970s

He made his directorial debut in real film in 1975 in collaboration with Terry Jones with the Monty Python film The Knights of the Coconut . Prior to that, he gained experience in animation with Storytime (1968) and The Miracle of Flight (1974). In 1977 he made his first own film: Jabberwocky , which - like some other Gilliam films - is often incorrectly referred to as the Monty Python film.

In the 1980s

Terry Gilliam 1985

After he and the rest of the pythons had completed their greatest success, The Life of Brian , he began to devote himself entirely to his own directing career. In 1981 the comedy Time Bandits appeared . For the last Python film The Meaning of Life , he independently shot the “supporting film” The Crimson Permanent Assurance , a 15-minute surrealistic short film whose production costs exceeded those of the main film. For the actual film, The Meaning of Life , he was again responsible for the animations, wrote the script and played small roles in some of the skits.

In 1985 Brazil appeared , which established him as an independent filmmaker independent of Monty Python and is still considered one of his most ambitious works to this day. The film deals with the dystopia of a paranoid surveillance state in a surreal and often satirical way . The adventures of Baron Münchhausen were published three years later , in which John Neville as Münchhausen and Robin Williams as the Moon King can be seen.

In the 1990s

After Münchhausen had remained unsuccessful at the box office, Gilliam took on several commissioned works in the 1990s: First in 1991 King of the Fishermen with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges and then in 1995 his greatest success 12 Monkeys with Bruce Willis , which made his role well below the usual for him took over the usual fees to make a movie with Gilliam, and Brad Pitt , who was about to become a star at the time of shooting.

In 1998 Fear and Loathing followed in Las Vegas , for which Gilliam again co-wrote the script for the first time, which in commercial terms was significantly less successful than the two previous films, but nevertheless achieved "cult status".

Georg Seeßlen (in epd Film, 10/2005) attested Terry Gilliam that he was:

"... one of the most idiosyncratic and visually powerful directors of our time, he builds a bridge between cultures in each of his films, the pragmatic-materialistic of the new and the fantastic-spiritual of the old world."

- Georg Seeßlen

In the 2000s

Gilliam 2006 at the IFC Center : "Will direct for food" ("Directing for food")

In 2000, Gilliam, who had seen his reputation as a respectable filmmaker restored after the successes of the 1990s, finally wanted to tackle a project he had been working on for about ten years: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote , which he starred Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort could win.

But the shooting turned into a catastrophe, jets from a nearby NATO base rose constantly during the shoot, a downpour made the desert landscape unsuitable for the continuity of the filming, and when the main actor Jean Rochefort could no longer ride due to health problems, the shooting was stopped set. The documentary Lost in La Mancha by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe shows the failure of this shooting. The rights to the film passed into the possession of the German insurance company, which had insured the film, which made it impossible to start again for years.

In July 2006, Gilliam reported that the legal disputes had meanwhile been resolved so that The Man Who Killed Don Quixote could be realized in the foreseeable future. In October 2009 he stated that the script had meanwhile been released and that the budget and the main actors had been determined. At this point, Johnny Depp and Robert Duvall were being discussed as the cast. However, the publication date planned at the time in 2011 could not be realized.

Pre-production for the film was resumed in January 2014 and filming was completed in June 2017. On May 19, 2018, the film celebrated its world premiere as a graduation film at the 2018 Cannes International Film Festival . The German premiere of the film was on June 30, 2018 at the Munich Film Festival . The film was released in German cinemas on September 27, 2018.

In 2002, Gilliam directed the Nike commercial, The Secret Tournament , which was also shown in Germany as part of the Nike advertising campaign for the World Cup.

In 2005 Gilliam completed the films Brothers Grimm and Tideland . Brothers Grimm came to US cinemas on August 25, 2005 and was almost unanimously panned by critics. However, the audience numbers in the first week were better than any of his other films before. Above all, the screenplay, which was perceived as bad, and the half-baked story were the focus of criticism, while Gilliam's visualization was rated positively in some cases.

Tideland, on the other hand, was characterized by the typical Gilliam quirkiness and was awarded at the San Sebastián International Film Festival , among others . However, the low budget available meant that the producers hardly advertised the film and therefore it was not shown in theaters at all in Europe.

In December 2007, the shooting of Gilliam's film Doctor Parnassus's Cabinet began in London, starring Heath Ledger and Christopher Plummer and starring Tom Waits as “Mr. Nick “(the devil). The film should initially be released in early 2009. However, due to Ledger's unexpected death in January 2008, production had to be interrupted. The filming of Ledger's role was not finished at this point, but could be continued in March 2008 in Vancouver. Parts of Ledger's role, which play in fantastic parallel worlds , were taken over by Johnny Depp , Colin Farrell and Jude Law .

The English theatrical release for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was on October 16, 2009, in North America the US distributor Sony Pictures Classics brought the film into theaters on December 25. The film was shown in Germany under the title The Cabinet of Doctor Parnassus from January 7, 2010.

From 2010

In January 2009 it was announced that after completing The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus , Gilliam would make a new attempt to direct The Man Who Killed Don Quixote . In 2012, however, Gilliam began producing the film The Zero Theorem , which was originally planned for 2009. The leading roles were taken on by Christoph Waltz , Mélanie Thierry and Matt Damon , among others . The film was in post-production from the beginning of 2013 and was presented to the public at the Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2013. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was released in 2018 .

Unfinished film projects

The Defective Detective

The Defective Detective was a film about a seedy detective who ends up in a child's fantasy world. It was planned after King of the Fishermen and later again after 12 Monkeys , Nicolas Cage had agreed for the lead role, and Bruce Willis was also very interested in the film, but the Paramount studios did not want to finance the film. After that, Gilliam Hollywood initially turned her back on him out of disappointment that after the successes of the King of Fishermen and 12 Monkeys, he was still not trusted.

Good omens

In 2001 Gilliam wrote together with Tony Grisoni (with whom he had already written the screenplay for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ) a screenplay based on the novel A Good Omen (OT: Good Omens ) by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett . Its filming was postponed in favor of other projects for the time being, because a film studio provided it with a budget of 45 million US $, but an additional 15 million US $ was needed despite existing commitments from Johnny Depp and Robin Williams for the leading roles. Gilliam is currently working on a possible resumption of this project, but has not yet found sufficient investors.

Theseus and The Minotaur

Theseus and The Minotaur was a project Gilliam worked on after completing Jabberwocky . Not satisfied with the script he had written himself, he turned to other projects. After 12 monkeys he worked on it again, but dropped it again. It is currently unlikely that this project will be realized.

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities was a project Gilliam devoted himself to in 1994. Mel Gibson was scheduled for the lead role, but he turned away from the project very early to direct Braveheart . Liam Neeson would then take over the role, but the film studios were then only willing to provide less than half the production costs. Gilliam thought the film was no longer feasible with less than half the original budget.

Time Bandits 2

In the mid-1990s, Gilliam was working on a screenplay for a sequel to Time Bandits , and in 2002 ABC was working on a corresponding television series format. Nothing is known about the current status of the project.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

In 1995/1996, Gilliam worked on a remake of the subject for about six months, for which he had Gérard Depardieu in the lead role. However, when Gilliam learned that Disney was working on a cartoon version at the same time, he turned away from the project.

Realized film projects without Gilliam's involvement

A scanner darkly

A Scanner Darkly - The dark screen was also a project Gilliam worked on after King of the Fishermen . Once again this failed because of the film studios, which did not give the project the green light. It is a dark science fiction story by Philip K. Dick (German book title " The dark screen "). After the new anti-terror laws in the USA, the story seemed so topical again to many that the film was made more than ten years late. It was released in cinemas in the summer of 2006 after having beenshownat the Fantasy Film Festival thatsame year. The main role is played by Keanu Reeves . Terry Gilliam was no longer involved in the project, directed by Richard Linklater .


The film adaptation of the "anti-superhero comic" by Alan Moore (in German Watchmen - Die Wächter ) was offered to Gilliam for the first time in 1989, for which he initially agreed. The film then had to be postponed due to insufficient funding. In 1996, Gilliam was asked again whether he was still interested in a film, but Gilliam had in the meantime come to the conclusion that the story was too complex to be made into a movie. Instead, he suggested a mini-series, which, however, met with little approval from the producer. In 2005 the project was revived, but this time without Gilliam. After Paramount initially did not want to finance the film, the project was now implemented under the direction of Zack Snyder due to the previous box office successes with film adaptations of Alan Moore comics .

Harry Potter

Gilliam was also Joanne K. Rowling's preferred candidate to direct the film adaptation of Harry Potter , but the Warner Bros. film company refused to work with Gilliam and chose Chris Columbus . Gilliam was very angry about Warner Bros.'s negative attitude towards himself: “I would have been the perfect man for Harry Potter. I left the meeting [with the producers], got in my car, and drove furiously down Mulholland Drive for about two hours. I mean, Chris Columbus' version is terrible. Simply dull. "

The Golden Compass

Even Philip Pullman called for a film version of his bestseller The Golden Compass by Gilliam. As with Harry Potter, however, the producers did not follow the author's request.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Likewise, the author's widow Roald Dahl wanted to hire Gilliam to direct the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory . This also failed due to the veto of the producers.

Gilliam's foray into the fine arts

With his project “past people of Potsdamer Platz” Terry Gilliam showed a video installation in Berlin on Potsdamer Platz in May 2006 (May 4 to June 8, 2006), thereby venturing into the field of “ art in public space ”. He designed life-size figures made of metal, which had a hole instead of a head. If you looked into such a figure, you could see video recordings of life on Potsdamer Platz for the past 50 years. The visitors were photographed and then shown as "big faces" morphed from individual partial faces on the light and media facade. The aim of his work was to confront passers-by with the history of the square and with themselves.


In many of his own films, Gilliam has had cameo appearances that do not appear on the actor lists.


Terry Gilliam has been married to Maggie Weston since 1973 , who has worked as a makeup artist on many Monty Python and Gilliam productions. Together they have two daughters Amy Gilliam (* 1978 as Amy Rainbow Gilliam) and Holly Dubois Gilliam (* 1980), who later played a small role in Brazil , and they also have a son named Harry Thunder Gilliam (* 1988).

In 1968 Terry Gilliam also took British citizenship in addition to the US. He surrendered his US passport in January 2006 and has not had any other citizenship than British since then. According to some sources, this was in protest against the Bush administration. In an interview published on January 3, 2010, Gilliam said, however, that this was not a political statement, but was done in order to end his deferred capital gains tax liability in the USA, which had been charged to his property in London under US law as long as he was US Was a citizen, although he is domiciled in Great Britain. However, he criticizes George Bush and Dick Cheney in the interview insofar as they made an 'unauthorized' real remake of his film Brazil about a surveillance state out of their tenure .



  • Susanne Marschall: [Article] Terry Gilliam . In: Thomas Koebner (Ed.): Film directors. Biographies, descriptions of works, filmographies. 3rd, updated and expanded edition. Reclam, Stuttgart 2008 [1. Ed. 1999], ISBN 978-3-15-010662-4 , pp. 274-277 [with references].
  • Harald Mühlbeyer: “Perception is a Strange Thing.” Terry Gilliam's films. Schüren, Marburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-89472-558-7 .
  • Susan Vahabzadeh: Beware of Psychoanalysis! For the seventieth birthday of anarchic cinema visionary Terry Gilliam. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 22, 2010, p. 14.
  • Terry Gilliam: Gilliamesque - My Pre-Posthumous Memoirs , Heyne Hardcore, 2015, ISBN 978-3-8105-2407-2 .

Web links

Commons : Terry Gilliam  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Terry Gilliam , Internationales Biographisches Archiv, in Munzinger-Archiv , accessed on March 26, 2015 ( beginning of article freely accessible)
  2. Terry Gilliam has found his Don Quixote, the budget is in place. In: moviegod.de. Retrieved August 9, 2016 .
  3. "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote": Johnny Depp plays in the new Terry Gilliam film ( memento of the original from September 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. from December 21, 2009 on filmstarts.de @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.filmstarts.de
  4. Terry Gilliam in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  5. Terry Gilliam: Dreams of Don Quixote have begun again. Facebook , January 12, 2014, accessed January 25, 2014 .
  6. Michael Nordine: Terry Gilliam Wraps Production on 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' After 17 Years. indiewire, January 12, 2014, accessed January 25, 2014 .
  7. Elsa Keslassy: Cannes Adds Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built,' Sets Terry Gilliam's 'Don Quixote' as Closer. In: Variety . Penske Media Corporation, April 19, 2018, accessed April 19, 2018 .
  8. Gilliam and Thompson honored in Munich , dw.com, July 3, 2018
  9. Adam Dawtrey: Shooting resumes on 'Parnassus'. In: variety.com. March 10, 2008, accessed August 9, 2016 .
  10. Stars to replace Ledger in movie. BBC , February 18, 2008, accessed August 9, 2016 .
  11. Press information from the Concorde Film Distribution. ( Memento from December 19, 2005 in the Internet Archive ).
  12. Gilliam Back To Work On Don Quixote. ( Memento from September 9, 2012 in the web archive archive.today ).
  13. Russ Fischer: Terry Gilliam's Next Movie is Wild Existential Sci-Fi 'The Zero Theorem,' Starring Christoph Waltz. In: slashfilm.com. August 13, 2012, accessed May 23, 2013 .
  14. Dreams: The Zero Theorem. Retrieved May 23, 2013 .
  15. Wizard News: Terry Gilliam bitterly about Potter
  16. a b Gilliam mounts 'Parnassus' in London ( Memento of the original from January 4, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.variety.com
  17. Terry Gilliam & Friends present "past people of Potsdamer Platz". ( Memento of October 11, 2007 in the Internet Archive ).
  18. http://www.irecuthemovie.com/
  19. Tagesspiegel from February 10, 2006 ( Memento from March 18, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  20. Sunday newspaper ; January 3, 2010
  21. Terry Gilliam. In: Science Fiction Awards Database. Retrieved November 24, 2017 .
  22. ^ Munich Film Festival: CineMerit Award . Retrieved June 11, 2018.