I am sure that at some point while watching the ongoing struggle that filmmaker Terry Gilliam has gone through over the nearly two decades that he has struggled to get his passion project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote made that I said something along the lines that I would believe that we would see the film only once we see the first trailer released.
Well, the first trailer for the film has been released, but there’s still a possible legal impediment that could hold up Gilliam’s hopes to have the film premier at the Cannes Film Festival later this year.
First, though, let’s take a look at the trailer which features Adam Driver as a commercials director and Jonathan Pryce as a man who believes he is actually Cervantes “Knight of the Mournful Countenance” Don Quixote.
Last year, as production got underway, this long-form synopsis was released –
Once upon a time, Toby was an idealistic young film student. His great achievement, a lyrical re-working of the Don Quixote story set in a quaint old Spanish village. But that was then; these days he is a jaded, arrogant and over-sexed commercials director. Money and glamour have derailed him, and now he juggles his boss’s wife Jacqui, a biblical storm and his own ego as he tries to complete a new commercial shoot in Spain. Until a mysterious Gypsy approaches him with an ancient copy of Toby’s student film: Toby is moved and sets off to find the little village where he made his primary opus all those years ago. To Toby’s horror, his little film has had a terrible effect on the sleepy village; Angelica, the young girl who was innocence personified, now works as a high class call-girl, and the old man who played Quixote has now gone completely mad, believing he really is the ‘Knight of the Mournful Countenance’. A series of accidents leads to a fire that threatens to destroy the village. The police come for Toby, but he is ‘rescued’ by the deluded old man, who, mistaking him for his loyal squire Sancho, leads Toby away into the countryside on the quest for his perfect lady, Dulcinea. On their quest, Toby comes face to face with demons, both real and imagined, modern and medieval. Damsels are rescued, jousts are fought, giants are slain and women have beards! Reality and fantasy blur on this bizarre road trip which leads to a phantasmagorical finale.
Gilliam entered into pre-production on his first attempt at The Man Who Killed Don Quixote two decades ago, getting the project in front of cameras with French actor Jean Rochefort as Quixote and Johnny Depp as Toby Grisoni in 2000. But the production was plagued by numerous issues – chronicled in the heartbreaking documentary Lost In LaMancha – and shut down within a week never to resume with that cast. Over the years, Gilliam reworked the screenplay and came close to getting a greenlight with the various likes of Robert Duvall, Michael Palin and John Hurt as Quixote and Ewan McGregor and Jack O’Connell, as Grisoni.
And it was during one of those rounds of trying to secure the financing to remount the film where the seeds for the latest legal issue confronting Gilliam were planted.
In 2016 Gilliam and European producer Paulo Branco entered into an agreement where Branco would bankroll Gilliam for the production of the movie. While Gilliam would retain final cut on the film Branco would would own the rights to the film itself. However, after some tumultuous back-and-forths between Gilliam and Branco, Branco backed out of funding the the project, leaving Gilliam to go back to a task he was well familiar with – finding someone who would actually give him the money to produce The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
But as the film has now actually been made, Branco contends that he owns the rights to it. Gilliam, on the other hand, disagrees, seeing as Branco never financed the actual production that resulted in the film. Without seeing the actual contract, it does seem like a pretty cut and dried case in Gilliam’s favor, but it still has to go before a court and a judgement is reportedly due on June 15. That is a date that would nix Gilliam’s plan to premier the film at Cannes a month earlier.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Gilliam. After struggling for twenty years to get the film finally made only to have the possibility of it all being ripped out of his hands just mere steps from the finish line has got to be an agonizing thing for him, no matter how meritless the case against him appears to be.