Many people forget that the final screen appearance of the late Heath Ledger will not be The Dark Knight but rather Terry Gilliam’s upcoming The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Faced with the loss of his lead actor and the prospect of a lengthy and expensive reshoot, Gilliam creatively opted to preserve Ledger’s scenes but work in performances by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell who take on the same role each time the main character steps through a magic mirror.
It’s the kind of clever improvisation that you would expect from a director who has met adversity so many times in the course of his career and still kept his integrity. But there was one outing where Gilliam had seemingly met his match. Brilliantly related in the documentary Lost in La Mancha, the director’s attempt to film a script inspired by Cervante’s novel Don Quixote met with disasters that came so thick, fast and varied that it seemed as if judgement of Biblical proportions had been levied on the production. The initial fighter jet flybys that disrupt location filming are followed by flash floods, actor no-shows and actor injuries, money troubles and unusable sound stages. You find yourself in awe of the persistence of bedevilment and eventually rooting for what, in the back of your mind, you realize is a lost cause.
But perhaps even Acts of God cannot stop Terry Gilliam. The Independent released an article last week with a triumphant Gilliam announcing that he has reclaimed legal ownership of script and even better, is set to roll as soon as Johnny Depp’s schedule allows. I can only hope that the eventual DVD is chock full of goodies from the original production and that the extremely likeable gentlemen he cast as giants in his first attempt finally get their moment to shine.