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Terry Gilliam on NPR (thoughts on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Vickie_M, Feb 4, 2003.

  1. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    rtsp://audio.npr.org/fa/20030130.fa.01.smil

    Terry Gilliam was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air about the new film Lost in La Mancha, a documentary about the making - and unmaking - of Gilliam's film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. It's a good movie, one of the best I saw last year (at a film festival) and it's a good interview. This part of it caught my ear though.

    About 24 minutes in, Gilliam is talking about the possibility of him directing the Harry Potter movies (Rowling wanted him to do it). He really wanted it too.

    From the interview:

    Barbara Bograve (sp?) (in for Terry Gross): After the La Mancha debacle, you auditioned to direct J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter film, that's one of the things you did in the wake of the Don Quixote mess, for Warner Brothers. How does a director's audition work, what's the protocol?

    Terry Gilliam: It wasn't actually that I auditioned. What happened was, that it turned out, J.K. Rowling and the producer wanted me to direct it. The likelihood of me directing was very slim, I think nonexistent, and I have a feeling that Warner Brothers brought me out to Hollywood just to show them that they were doing their due diligence and giving everybody a fair chance. And it was a very interesting experience because I know that when I went into the meeting that the majority of people were against me and by the end of the meeting I'd actually won over quite a few people that were against me, and I was so angry with myself for getting excited about the project, knowing that I would never get it.

    Barbara Bograve: For caring.

    Terry Gilliam: I ended up driving around for hours later, just kicking myself. For a moment, I allowed myself to really fall into that world and begin to imagine it and think that yeah, I could do this. And that kind of feeling, when you're not ever going to get the job, when you know that, is very irritating, to say the least. And on it went. And so the film was made as it was, and it was a huge success, and they obviously made the right choice in director.

    Barbara Bograve: What do you think of the film?

    Terry Gilliam: Crap.

    Barbara Bograve: Really?

    Terry Gilliam: I think the film is very badly directed. I think it's uninspired, unfortunately, to be quite honest about it. I think the first Harry Potter just was very, very disappointing. It was pedestrian, there was no real magic in it, it was by the numbers, and Lord of the Rings is a wonderful film in comparison. That's what I think. The box office doesn't agree with me. I don't know.

    Barbara Bograve: What do you think the distinction is though, in the way that they create these visions. Because I'm thinking that Lord of...they're two very different styles, and Lord of the Rings seems to have more of a dark and yet childlike imagination to it.

    Terry Gilliam: I'm totally impressed with Peter Jackson. I think he actually believes that world, I think he's a very good director, let's begin with that, he's an excellent director. He threw himself so passionately into that world, he understands it, he understands magic, heroism, epic...the whole thing, I just feel that it's in his bones and so it spews out onto the screen and is totally believable. The film was, whatever, 3 hours long, that first one, and I sat there and I was just transported into this other world. I never felt that for one moment with Harry Potter, I thought it was sort of by-the-numbers, there was some technically brilliant stuff in it but there's no magic, no real real immersion into that world.

    (interview continues)

    ==========

    As a huge fan of Gilliam and LOTR, I'm thrilled to hear that Gilliam liked LOTR. I liked Potter, but feel the same way he does, that it has no magic. I don't feel it was crap, but wish that it had been better.
     
  2. Paul Case

    Paul Case Supporting Actor

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    Oh man, if only WB had let Terry Gilliam direct Harry Potter! We could have had another fantasy film series on par with LOTR, easily. Just another example of WB screwing a project right from the beginning...[​IMG]

    Thanks for posting that interview link, Vickie. It is excellent and enlightening.
     
  3. Craig S

    Craig S Premium
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    While I wouldn't go so far as to call HP "crap", Gilliam has hit the nail on the head. I'm glad he had the guts to say it publicly.
     
  4. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter

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    God, I love Gilliam. Shoots straight from the hip and tells you exactly what he thinks. Unfortunately, it makes him hard for the studios to hire. They like "Yes Men" who will deliver market-tested product. Gilliam makes FILMS!
     
  5. Phil Florian

    Phil Florian Screenwriter

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    Terry nailed it. The death of "La Mancha" was a killer blow. That movie had me more excited about a flick than just about any in the last few years. I am almost afraid to see the doc because it will have glimpses of what could have been. Maybe there is hope (though not after THAT interview?) of Terry doing Potter IV or V? If they go on that long? Hell, I just want him to put SOMETHING up on the screen, dang it. Glad he was a fan of PJ, though. Always nice when one agrees with a director one admires.


    (sigh)

    Phil
     
  6. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Thanks for that Vickie, I'm so happy to hear that a superb fantasist like Terry Gilliam is a big fan of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, nice![​IMG]
     
  7. Michael St. Clair

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    I agree 100% with TG. [​IMG]
     
  8. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Screenwriter

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    Ever since I watched the superb documentary on the 12 Monkeys DVD, I've become a huge TG fan. The man has a singular vision and it's a tragedy that he simply can't find the right people to back him properly.
     
  9. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    Good post Vickie, good info.
     
  10. andrew markworthy

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    At the risk of sounding a dissenting voice, I think that TG's view is a little unfair. The movies are a bit pedestrian, but far from awful.

    I've also got to say that my verdict of TG's work is not far from the view he expressed. There's an awful lot of us out there who think that Monty Python was almost ruined by his (in our humble opinion) ghastly cartoons and that films like Brazil and 12 Monkeys are a triumph of sick, unfeeling style over intellectual content. There, I've said it, I feel better.

    Before anyone flames me, this is a personal opinion. I know that a lot of HTF folks whose opinions I greatly respect who love TG's work, but I think it's fair to say that he's a love or hate sort of director. I'd be loathe to see him stop making movies (vive la difference, and all that) but getting his hands on Potter would have alienated a lot of the movie-going public, IMHO.

    I wasn't that impressed by the Potter movies, but I think the best job was made of appealing to a wide audience. A more 'auteur' like approach might have wowed the critics, but they would have been less successful. Imagine if someone like Tarkinovsky had directed Star Wars. Critics would probably have orgasmed over the result, but could you see the movie being a formative experience for a generation of kids?
     
  11. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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  12. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Well, with big properties like this, studios tend to get conservative. They set out to not fail, rather than make a great film. Better to have a bland but steady director (Columbus) rather than a flamboyant, but unstable one (Gilliam). It is why we get a movie that is a slave to the books, rather than one that fits the world.

    It isn't saying that I don't like the films, but they aren't great films. They are by the numbers, following the points one by one, but not really getting to the heart of it. I'm going to be interested to see what Alfonso Cuaron does with the third book. He seems to be an upgrade at least.

    As for Gilliam, it is sad to say, but I don't think he'll ever work on a movie with a budget again. That's a sad thing to say about one of the best filmmakers in the last 20 years.

    Jason
     
  13. andrew markworthy

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    Joseph, I did say it was a personal opinion! However, a lot of folks I've talked to have the same feeling about TG's work - that ultimately there is no feeling in his work that being decent, honest, and kind has any point. Of course there are times in real life when that happens, but it is not a universal truth. However, in TG's world, it appears that it is. Maybe the TG-bashers just can't get on his wavelength. I'm sure he's a decent human being - and indeed when I've heard him interviewed I've found him likeable. It's just his films are a personal turn-off. Just to reiterate - it's only what some folks personally take from his movies. I'm not saying it's the only viewpoint.
     
  14. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Great article Vicki. [​IMG]

    I have to say that Andrew's response was the best stating of an anti-Gilliam position I've ever read. I could never get my brain around how someone couldn't appreciate the worlds that he had created, but I'm starting to see how. I don't agree, but the door has finally been open to the world where he doesn't "work".

    I was rather hoping that the success of films like The Lord of the Rings would open doorways for directors just like Gilliam, who bring passion, style, and creativity to the films they make. I would have been so excited to see what might have come out of pairing him with Harry Potter. I could see many situations where he might have lost the audience, but the chance for true greatness was there. I think it is that same reaction that prompted the hiring of Chris Columbus.
     
  15. Bryant Trew

    Bryant Trew Second Unit

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    Harry Potter was overrated crap. Everything about it is horribly shallow.
     
  16. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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  17. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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  18. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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  19. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Excellent article, Vick! Thanks for posting it. As a lifelong fan of Gilliam, it comes as absolutely no surprise that he disliked HP1.

    Man oh MAN would he have been perfect for that directing gig, but it's clear why WB would never have hired him: he's an artist; they needed an employee.
     
  20. Steve_Knutzen

    Steve_Knutzen Screenwriter

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    Interesting interview. I love Gilliam's stuff, especially 12 Monkeys. Too bad that so much went wrong with the production.
    I agree with his view on Harry Potter as I felt that it was just a series of exciting events and special effects thrown together and didn't flow very well.
     

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