"I think the problem is we're living in a time with too many film schools," Terry Gilliam said to me as I headed out the door after completing an interview for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. "Too many people are trying to intellectualize it and put it in simple words that everybody can understand." As appreciative as I was for Gilliam's candor, I couldn't help think he was referring at least in part to me, who had just spent the better part of the previous 15 minutes trying to get him to explain in detail how he comes up with those wonderful, weird ideas, and then somehow puts them up on the silver screen.
Gilliam has been working in film for more than 40 years, creating some of the most amazing, spectacular, and most of all unexplainable imagery audiences have ever seen. Unfortunately, however, rather than offering a return to form for the visionary filmmaker, his latest project has thus far been recognized primarily as a eulogy for the late, great Heath Ledger, who died during filming, and whose role was eventually completed with the help of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, who stepped into his character's shoes to shoot the film's final scenes. Cinematical spoke to Gilliam late last year during a press day for Parnassus, and in addition to discussing the ramifications of Ledger's death on the production, the iconoclast pulled back the curtain on his unconventional style, and reflected on four decades of moviemaking – little of which, despite my best efforts, could be explained or analyzed intellectually.
Cinematical: Maybe just to get the most obvious question out of the way, notwithstanding the use of other actors in the role of Tony, how much changed or had to be changed following the death of Heath Ledger?