(This article was written by Screen Rant guest contributor Ryan Connors).
This afternoon at Comic-Con, Writer/Director Terry Gilliam introduced his latest creative endeavor: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.
Before Gilliam arrived on stage, however, a montage of his work was shown followed by what looked to be behind the scenes interviews destined for DVD special features. He was then quickly presented with the Comic-Con’s own Ink Pot award for achievement in Film arts.
After receiving the award, Gilliam pretended that he was leaving the stage, before quickly re-taking his seat to promote his film.
From Gilliam’s discussion, we learn more about the immortal Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and how he’s trying to save his daughter (Lily Cole) from the Devil (Tom Waits), after he made a bet with the Devil a thousand years ago. Parnassus heads a mysterious act which allows viewers access to an alternate reality known as “The Imaginarium.” The act includes Percy (Verne Troyer) the dwarf, Anton (Andrew Garfield) the magician and an outsider named Tony (Heath Ledger). Together, they try to save the girl before it’s too late.
The only other panel attendee and cast member was Verne Troyer, who seemed excited to be present at the Con. Gillian talked about how the role of Percy was created with Verne in mind.
A few scenes from the movie were shown and Gilliam repeatedly called the clips the “boring bits” promising that the trailer would in no way give away the best parts of the film. He emphasized his belief that if you show all the good parts in the trailer, by the time you see the finished film, you will already have seen the best parts. He argues that this way, you get your moneys worth.
The first scene we were presented with was a short clip showing how Parnassus and the Devil first meet. Tom Waits steals the show as he ascends a snowy mountain to approach the then-mortal monk, Parnassus. The visuals and sound are breath-taking and it left the audience wanting more.
Another scene involved a somewhat disturbing glimpse inside the Imaginarium, where a man is beat up by a woman and then carried into space by a giant jellyfish, before being dropped onto a giant thumb-tack (I wish I was making this up).
Gilliam’s philosophy about moving between the Imaginarium and the real world is that he wanted to quickly get in and get out before the audience gets bored. I would be more worried about the audience getting disturbed.
The dark fantasy themes, however, are nothing new to Gilliam, and can be seen in most of his previous works. Gilliam touched on his source of inspiration: a combination of sleep-deprivation along with a healthy dose of literature, paintings and music. He attributes his dark themes to keeping his work “honest” saying how although his work may seem strange and abnormal to the audience, it is very “normal” to him… giant body-snatching jellyfish in space?
As expected, the panel couldn’t escape the extra attention from the topic of Heath Ledgers final performance. Gilliam touched on Heath’s involvement early in his discussion of the film explaining how Heath had specifically asked to play the role of Tony. Once cast, Gilliam was hoping to leverage Heath’s fame to get some much needed financing.
Early into the audience questions, a fan asked Gilliam and Verne to share their experiences while working with Heath. Verne shared his thoughts first, explaining how although he only worked with Heath for a short time, he felt as though they were old friends. Verne continued to say it was an “honor and a privilege” to work with Heath. An emotional Gilliam added how Heath was “an exceptional actor and human being.” He ended with sharing how he thought Heath displayed a “wisdom beyond his years” and a how he had a playful and fearless approach to his work.
After Heath’s death, production was suspended indefinitely, but was continued by casting Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law as Tony’s many magical personas.
When asked what’s next for Gilliam, he revealed that he procured the rights to The Man who Killed Don Quixote and that the film is currently in pre-production. He added that he is on the hunt for actors and financing.
The panel ended with a showing of a specially-prepared Comic-Con teaser trailer, where Gilliam reminded us again, that this is “again, all boring bits.”
It wasn’t boring for me, it was more weird than anything but that’s not unexpected.
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was written and directed by Terry Gilliam and is being released on October 16, 2009.