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Terry Gilliam

Updated on October 3, 2012

"Though I've got this reputation for being out of control, it's not true, it just happens to be a more interesting story than the truth. " -- terry gilliam

Terry Gilliam is a film director who first came to public attention with the British comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus, where he first became known for his cut-out animations.

With the expansion of the Pythons into feature films, he began screen-writing and directing. His strongest efforts straddle the realm of fantasy films with a strong dose of comedy, most often of the darker variety. Some of Gilliam's more popular films include TIME BANDITS, BRAZIL, 12 MONKEYS and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. It was during the production of his film THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS that actor Heath Ledger, who was playing one of the leads, passed away.

Terry Gilliam Mini-Bio

Terence Vance Gilliam was born November 22, 1940 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He went to college at Occidental College in Los Angeles. After school, he was briefly employed by MAD magazine, but in 1967, he moved to England.

He began working doing animations for a children's television show called DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET, a show which also employed Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. In 1969, Gilliam was invited to join the newly forming MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS.

Following the Python's first film, MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, Gilliam moved into directing on his own with JABBERWOCKY (1976). His second film TIME BANDITS (1979) caught the public's eye and his directing career has continued ever since.

Gilliam's work is often cited for having strong fantasy elements and a wonderfully-detailed settings. He's also got a bit of a reputation in Hollywood for standing by his vision, even facing off with the studios backing his productions when they try and curtail things. Debate continues over whether he is a "difficult" director or if it's just a sign of someone willing to stand up for their art.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

When actor Heath Ledger, who starred in Gilliam's BROTHERS GRIMM, passed away in the midst of filming a role in THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS, Gilliam himself wasn't sure if they'd be able to finish the film at all. But due to the fantastical nature, and the fact that all of the real world scenes had been completed, the production was able to continue with actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell sharing the portrayal of Ledger's character Tony in the fantasy sequences. All three donated their salaries from the film to Ledger's young daughter Matilda.


A fantastic interview with Gilliam cartooning live and life-size!

Also, here are a pair of commercials that Terry Gilliam did for Nike in 2002. They coincided with the World Cup that year.

About Terry Gilliam

Here is material that focuses on Terry Gilliam and his performing, screen-writing and directing career.

Animations of Mortality
Animations of Mortality

This was a book that Gilliam put out in 1979 about his animations. I'm very proud that I had the good sense to keep it all these years, as my copy is not only a first edition, but it's still in perfect shape.

One of the blurbs on the back reads "In ANIMATIONS OF MORTALITY Terry Gilliam, aging animator for MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and the Monty Python TV series; and creator of the film JABBERWOCKY lays bare for the first time the twisted and sordid little secrets of the Wonderful World of Animation."

Monty Python's Flying Circus - Terry Gilliam's Personal Best
Monty Python's Flying Circus - Terry Gilliam's Personal Best

After a hilarious opening sequence, this DVD is a "non-skit-interrupted" look at Gilliam's animation work from the Monty Python tv show. For those who are fans of his artwork and view on the world, this is a pure delight!


Gilliam Takes to the Streets for TIDELAND

Gilliam's TIDELAND went into wide release in the fall of 2006 after being screened at several film festivals. This movie reunites Gillam with his lead from THE FISHER KING, actor Jeff Bridges. It follows the story of young Jeliza-Rose, whose father moves her to a house into the middle of nowhere after the death of her mother. Advanced word is that this movie is one of Gilliam's darker offerings, as the story involves a little girl who uses fantasy to escape from her heroin-addict parent's reality and whose companions are a series of decapitated doll heads.

TIDELAND - official movie site

Tideland - from Wikipedia, talking both about the book and movie

DREAMS: Tideland - about the movie from the Terry Gilliam fanzine

Tideland - from the Toronto Film Festival site

If you like a bit of pre-release reviews and spoilers, check out what AICN has to say about Tideland!

Terry Gilliam recently appeared in New York "crashing" the line for The Daily Show, appealing for funding for independant filmmakers and promoting his new movie TIDELAND.

You can watch the video below, and read more about the Street Mixer on AICN.

BRAZIL - It's Only A State Of Mind

Gilliam intended for his dystopian film BRAZIL to open in 1984, but battles with the movie studio over it's "unhappy" ending wound up delaying the film until 1985. Edited to be "less dark" for it's US release, the film didn't catch with the movie public, was praised and awarded by critics and is now considered a cult classic.

The movie follows Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) a corporate drone who has dreams about a mysterious redhead, who constantly covers for the incompetence of his boss (Ian Holm) and who is always being badgered by his mother (Katherine Helmond) about his lack of promotion at his work. One day when he literally sees the girl of his dreams, he decides to take sudden action, which not only breaks up the boredom but threatens to destroy his world.

There are a variety of fantastic supporting roles in this film, including Robert DeNiro as a commando heating engineer, Bob Hoskins as a hysterically-nasty repairman and Michael Palin in what might be called the villain's role. The production design is retro-futuristic, with many 1940s elements incorporated in the look of things.

Official Web Sites

Here are some sites which "officially" talk about Terry Gilliam and his films.


Clips and Trailers

Select Films From Terry Gilliam

LOST IN LA MANCHA - The Gilliam Film that Never Was, but Still Might Be

I had the good fortune to see this documentary during its brief theatrical release. If you've ever wondered just what it is that can make a film production implode, you will find this a fascinating film.

Arriving on set to film the making of Gilliam's adaptation of Don Quixote starring Johnny Depp, the filmmakers instead got to watch as the production costs soared, disaster after disaster happened and the entire production was shut down after mere weeks. Wondrous and strange.

One of Gilliam's current wishes is to reclaim the rights to this movie and make the picture.

Terry Gilliam: Film Genius or Madman?

If you read up on the career of Terry Gilliam, you'll see that it's not all uncommon for him to clash with the studios producing his work. Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's time, sometimes it's the slant he's put on the story. What's your take on this? True stories that Gilliam just doesn't like to hear or are the tabloids just trying to pay the rent with the hype?

Do you think Terry Gilliam is a great filmmaker or that he's a director who just can't keep control of his film shoots?


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