Terry Gilliam’s Doomed ‘Don Quixote’ Moves Forward With a New Leading Man (Again)
Director Terry Gilliam may have an army of passionate admirers and fans, but that sure hasn't translated into continuous success. Although the filmmaker behind classics like 'Brazil' and 'Time Bandits' tends to find his projects followed by bad luck and misfortune, his frequent attempts to bring Miguel de Cervantes’ 'Don Quixote' to the screen have been the stuff of legend -- no matter what he does, the project implodes before his very eyes. However, Gilliam is now prepping his seventh (!) version of the film and he's found a leading man in Jack O'Connell.
O'Connell, who won a lot of favor with this year's 'Starred Up' and will tango with the Oscars in the upcoming 'Unbroken,' is a fine actor, but he's a definite downgrade in star power from the people Gilliam has courted in the past. Over a decade ago, this project was titled 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' and was set to star a pre-Jack Sparrow Johnny Depp as a time traveller who encounters Cervantes' delusional knight. The series of calamities that brought that production down were captured in the incredible (and very hard to watch) documentary 'Lost in La Mancha.' A few years later, Ewan McGregor was attached to the role and Robert Duvall was being sought to play Don Quixote himself. Those attempts fell apart, too.
It's telling that Gilliam is now casting a smaller name and that the most recent rewrites of the film seem to have removed the scope and fantastical nature of the original idea altogether. Here's how Variety describes the current iteration of the story:
A modern and satirical twist on the tale, “Don Quixote” stars O’Connell as Toby, a jaded commercials director who travels to Spain for a shoot and comes across a gypsy who gives a copy of his student film — a lyrical re-working of the Don Quixote story set in a quaint old Spanish village. Moved by the discovery, Toby sets off on a bizarre road trip to find the little village where the student student film was shot and gets caught up in a series of catastrophies.
Unfortunately, the days of Gilliam being given big budgets to make insane and successful fare like 'The Fisher King' and '12 Monkeys' are long gone, so it's not surprising that he has to make smaller movies. Expect 'Don Quixote' to be similar in scope to his 'Zero Theorem' or 'Tideland' than any of his bigger movies. Gilliam may be everyone's favorite mad genius, but he's a mad genius that no studio (and no investor) wants to trust with their money.
So we'll cross our fingers and hope, but we'll believe that Gilliam has actually gotten this movie made when it starts screening in actual theaters in front of real people. Still, Gilliam has been tilting at windmills and battling seen and unseen forces for his entire career. Why lose faith now?