In the 48 hours that have elapsed since the unexpected death of young actor Heath Ledger, speculation has already started to turn as to what will happen to The Imaginarium Od Dr. Parnassus, the film he was in the midst of shooting.
The Terry Gilliam-directed fantasy had already completed its London location shooting and was prepping in Vancouver for the remainder of its production schedule. As of now, the production has been shut down until a decision is made on how to proceed. It is a decision that will most likely be rendered by the film’s insurance company, a decision which could come as early as tomorrow.
Whomever makes the decision has three options- Replace Ledger in the role, restructure the film, or shut down the film permanently.
Knowing Gilliam’s strong commitment to telling the story that he sets out to tell, I don’t imagine he would want to change his script around the accomodate the loss. But would Gilliam want to resort to body doubles and digital trickery to somehow “complete” Ledger’s performance? Does the film’s budget allow for such an additional expense?
At the same time, Gilliam might find it hard to replace Ledger and reshoot where needed both from a personal standpoint and from the fact that Ledger’s participation in the film was instrumental in getting the $30 million indie project the investors needed.
I think the option that no one wants, though, is shutting the film down permanently. It is a situation that Gilliam already went through once during the initial week of shooting on his The Men Of Killed Don Quixote and heartbreakingly chronicled in the documentary Lost In La Mancha. I can not begin to imagine the intense storm of emotions he must be dealing with right now.