Terry Gilliam is a filmmaking icon for his wildly creative, strange and visionary works, including the classics Time Bandits, Brazil, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and Twelve Monkeys. For years, Gilliam has tried to complete his already-impressive filmography by creating a fantasy retelling of Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote, but for various unfortunate, sometimes downright tragic reasons, his film has never come to fruition.
In 2000, Gilliam made his most serious attempt at realizing his Don Quixote dream, with Johnny Depp aboard in a leading role. But a series of disasters, including a massive storm that destroyed many of his sets, forced Gilliam to abandon his quest. Though the intended Don Quixote film itself never came to fruition, the disastrous production did yield a great behind-the-scenes documentary, Lost In La Mancha.
Three years ago it was reported that Gilliam had put together financial backing and was taking another stab at his version of Cervantes’ story, to be titled The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, but that film reportedly fell apart when his backers pulled out. Gilliam is nothing if not persistent and despite the setbacks he kept his dream alive, and now the maverick filmmaker is once again out there tilting at his own very large personal windmill. In 2016, Gilliam signed a deal with Amazon and now Indiewire reports that the filmmaker has (fingers crossed) begun shooting The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Actress Rossy De Palma seemed to confirm the movie was going forward with her recent Instagram post:
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is the story of an advertising executive who through some unimaginable (except to Terry Gilliam) series of events, meets a modern-day incarnation of Don Quixote and is dragged along on a series of adventures. Though Johnny Depp is no longer involved in the production, Gilliam has reportedly secured Adam Driver to play the advertising executive. Jonathan Pryce is reportedly playing Quixote. Olga Kurylenko and Stellan Skarsgard are also both reportedly attached. Gilliam may have competition on the Don Quixote front, with Disney reportedly pursuing its own version of the story. Warner Bros. at one time wanted to get in on the Don Quixote action, but that project is seemingly dead.
Considering all the difficulties Gilliam has encountered on the road to finally realizing his Don Quixote film, one hesitates to declare that this time he’s finally going to make it happen. In some respects Gilliam has been his own worst enemy on this project, refusing to compromise his vision in the face of enormous financial difficulties. On one hand, you must applaud Gilliam for sticking to his guns, but on the other hand you have to wonder where artistic vision ends and pure stubbornness begins. At least with Gilliam’s latest rewrite, which removes the original script’s time-travel element, the director appears to be somewhat scaling back his vision in the name of prudence.
Like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fabled Dune, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote always seemed destined to remain an unrealized dream of a film. But though Jodorowsky was finally forced to abandon his wildly ambitious and totally unrealistic plans, Gilliam was never placed in a position where he had to absolutely surrender. If this time Gilliam’s Don Quixote finally does get made and released, it will mark one of the great triumphs of pure persistence over seemingly cosmic misfortune.