Star power may count for a lot when it comes to selling a film, but it might not be the only thing that gets a completed movie in front of an audience.
Director Terry Gilliam is discovering this the hard way with his latest film, the fantasy The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus. The last film that Heath Ledger was working on before his untimely passing, Imaginarium also features Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stepping in to play portions of Ledger’s role through a plot twist involving magical mirrors and various aspects of Ledger’s character’s personalities. But even this lineup is not enough to get distributors interested in picking up the film.
According to a recent story in The Hollywood Reporter, the problem may lie with Gilliam himself. It seems that the director’s bad luck – his last box office hit was 1995’s Twelve Monkeys – is what the studios are unwilling to take a chance on. “In this market, unless I have a reason to think a movie like this is going to be a slam dunk I’m not going to take a flyer on it, even with Heath Ledger,” the Reporter quotes one anonymous distribution executive. Another exec interviewed stated, “For all the elements in this film, it is a Terry Gilliam picture, and as much as you want a movie of his to be good, you have to be careful.”
Even Lionsgate, who is handling the sales of the film to foreign territories, has not committed to picking it for domestic distribution.
Man, is this just a sad, sorry state of affairs. When left to his own devices, Gilliam has produced some of the greatest fantasy films of the last several decades- Time Bandits, Brazil, Baron Munchausen, Twelve Monkeys.
But the failure of the films that followed can not be lain solely at Gilliam’s feet. He came onto the production of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegasat the last minute, barely having any preparation time before the cameras rolled. The problems that led to the disintegration of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote during its production are well documented in the film Lost In La Manchawhile Gilliam’s clashes with studio honcho Bob Weinstein over the making of The Brothers Grimm have been well documented in many places.
I have every faith that Gilliam has produced a film that people will want to see for more than just the reason that it is Ledger’s last film. Marketed right, Imaginarium can make money for the studio with the foresight to distribute it. Someone just has to have the courage to stand up to the challenge.