Terry Gilliam, the Monty Python member and director of such zany flicks as Brazil and 12 Monkeys, has been working for almost 20 years to bring his film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to the big screen. He has endured endless rejection, lawsuits, floods, disease, and even NATO bombings, but now the movie is finally done and set to debut at the Cannes Film Festival next week. But it’s not coming out without trying to kill Gilliam one last time.
Cannes Film Festival
Don Quixote is the story of a 17th-century nobleman who believes he is a famed knight of yore, and his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza. The movie’s not a straight adaptation of the thousand-page novel, but instead the story of an ad executive going to the site of a Don Quixote movie, only to find that the local cobbler they hired to play Don Quixote believes he is Don Quixote. (So he’s a shoemaker who thinks he’s an actor who thinks he’s Don Quixote who thinks he’s a medieval knight.) Pretty weird stuff, so it’s perfect for Gilliam.
Playing the ad exec / Sancho Panza is Kylo Ren himself, Adam Driver, who replaced Jack O’Donnell, who in turn replaced Ewan McGregor, who replaced Johnny Depp. Don Quixote is played by Jonathan Pryce, who replaced Michael Palin replacing John Hurt replacing Robert Duvall replacing Michael Palin (again) replacing Jean Rochefort. As you might be able to tell, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has hit a few bumps in the road. In fact, the first attempt to make the movie was all the way back in 2000. It was a $40 million production that lasted six whole days. On Day 1, they found out they were shooting right next to a NATO bombing range (which can get pretty loud). On Day 2, a flash flood hit the region, washing away all the sets. On Day 6 (after drying out the sets for three days), Rochefort got a double hernia and had to be airlifted out. Aaaand cut!
Over the next 15 years, Gilliam spent every free moment trying to get the production going again. Finally, attempt #8 did the trick. Buoyed by funding and distribution from Amazon and Adam Driver’s star power, the director was finally able to film Quixote in 2017, only about a decade after he had first promised to do so. But the curse of Quixote was not finished with him! Mere weeks before the premiere, a disgruntled former producer claimed actual ownership of the movie and sued Gilliam and Cannes to prevent Quixote from screening. This caused so much of a fracas that Amazon backed out of distributing the movie. And while waiting for the court’s decision, Gilliam suffered a freaking stroke. (Thankfully, he seems to have made a full recovery.) “It’s not a film, it’s a tumour,” he once said in an interview. “It’s one of those nightmares that will never leave you until you actually kill the thing.” Apparently, for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, the feeling’s mutual.
But that no longer matters. The film is in the can, so we will eventually get to see The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in one form or the other, at which point the world will end. Flash floods will drown the land, hernias will ravage humankind, and a big animated thumb will squash the earth with a comical fart noise. This movie is cursed, and we were warned many times over. Now we’re going to blink out of existence because Adam Driver is too bankable for his own damn good. The fool. The fool! He’s killed us all.
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