Terry Gilliam fans can start holding their breath, as the eccentric filmmaker is, indeed, going to make a new sci-fi tale about a dystopian future (a la Brazil), titled The Zero Theorem. Filming begins later this month in Romania, with Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) starring as a computer genius hell-bent on solving the titular theorem (which will demonstrate whether existence does, or does not, have a point).
Waltz’ literal and symbolic quest to find out whether his life has a purpose in Zero Theorem was imagined by Pat Rushin, whose script attracted Gilliam’s attention a few years ago. This project will mark only the second time in 17 years where Gilliam directs from a script he did not write. The last time that happened (on The Brothers Grimm) responses were mixed; however, some of Gilliam’s best-received films to date have been based on screenplays penned by other people (The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys).
Zero Theorem takes place primarily within the confines of a deteriorating building (where Waltz resides), but Gilliam has offered assurances that the film is both comical and philosophically profound. As he told Dreams a few months back:
“It’s very funny… The main character is literally living in this burnt-out chapel which one could take as a metaphor for old beliefs and old systems. He’s a computer genius but he’s just sitting there waiting for a phone call, which he’s hoping will give meaning to his life….It really is about relationships, and discovering what’s really important in life.”
The cast for Zero Theorem is steadily coalescing, with French actress Melanie Thierry (Henry V) and Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom) onboard with Waltz. Deadline is reporting that David Thewlis (Harry Potter, War Horse) has also joined Gilliam’s latest, along with Hedges’ Moonrise Kingdom co-star, Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton (Chronicles of Narnia, Michael Clayton). It’s an eclectic ensemble, for sure, but would you expect any less from a Gilliam film?
Those who caught Gilliam’s last couple films (Tideland, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) know that his warped visual sensibilities remain intact, while his storytelling tendencies have gradually become perhaps too hectic and messy for their own good (even when Gilliam is adapting someone else’s original story). Still, every film he makes really is one-of-a-kind and worth a look; not to mention, with someone else scripting Zero Theorem, the narrative could thankfully be a bit tidier here than in other Gilliam projects.
The Zero Theorem is being produced by frequent Tim Burton collaborator Dean Zanuck (Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), with Voltage Pictures handling worldwide sales. We’ll keep you posted on additional details as they come our way.