Terry Gilliam Discusses Depp Bridges Film Scouts in Annecy

Terry Gilliam Discusses Depp Bridges Film Scouts in Annecy

In a scene reminiscent of his whimsical animated works, Terry Gilliam graced the stage at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, surrounded by a sea of crashed paper planes. The celebrated director was there to receive the honorary Cristal award and to deliver a masterclass on his animated creations.

Gilliam’s last visit to Annecy was in 1975 with his short film “Miracle of Flight,” a comedic take on humanity’s attempts to fly. Despite its innovative approach, the film did not win any awards. Reflecting on his long-awaited recognition, Gilliam humorously remarked, “Do you know how long it’s taken me to get this f**king award… They’ve finally let me in… I think they know I might not be around next year.”

The festival, which runs from June 9 to 15, is expected to attract nearly 16,000 animation professionals, many of whom are seeking their next big project. Gilliam, addressing a packed 1,000-seat theatre at Annecy’s Bonlieu cultural complex, revealed that his primary reason for attending was to scout talent for his upcoming film.

“I’m looking for a guy or a girl, a man or woman, whichever is the correct word, or adult or ‘adultess’… I met just last night with some very interesting people. I’m trying to do something that is not my style of animation… some of it’s stop motion, some is going to be digital… Annecy’s got some of the greatest animators on the planet, so I’m just here to meet people,” he shared.

The film in question is a biblical comedy titled “The Carnival at the End of Days,” which Gilliam plans to start shooting next January. The cast includes Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges, Adam Driver, and Jason Momoa. Depp, who has previously worked with Gilliam on “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998) and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” (2009), is set to play Satan. In a twist, Satan finds himself trying to save humanity from a punitive God, portrayed by Jeff Bridges.

During the masterclass, Gilliam confirmed the film’s development, saying, “Apparently I read in Premiere magazine, which is a French magazine I believe, that I’m doing a film with Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges and Adam Driver… I’ll come back next year and we’ll see whether I was lying or not.”

Although Gilliam has never directed a full-length animated feature, his cut-out animations for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “The Life of Brian” (1979), and “The Meaning of Life” (1983) have left a lasting impact on animators worldwide. His 1988 film “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” was notably influenced by Czech director Karel Zeman’s 1961 film “The Fabulous Baron Munchausen,” which combined live action and animation.

Gilliam’s passion for animation began in his childhood, inspired by Walt Disney movies. He reminisced about his early career in New York, working under the mentorship of American cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman as an assistant editor for the magazine Help!. “The great thing is, it paid me $2 a week less than I would have gotten on the dole but I was with a man I loved, who I learned so much from, playing with all the various forms of comedy, whether it’s written comedy, comic books, or beautiful drawings,” he said.

After the magazine folded in 1965, Gilliam hitchhiked around Europe and eventually settled in the UK. He initially worked as a magazine art director and cartoonist before landing a pivotal commission in 1968 to create an animated segment for “We Have Ways of Making You Laugh,” a show that poked fun at celebrity DJ Jimmy Young. This work caught the attention of Monty Python co-founders Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.

“This is around the birth of Python. There were only three television stations in England at the time, BBC One, BBC Two, and ITV. So people were bound to bump into what you do because there were so few choices and nobody had ever seen that kind of cut-out animation in England. And literally overnight, I became a famous animator,” Gilliam recalled.

Gilliam also shared insights into his work ethic during the early days of Monty Python. “In those days, I just worked frenetically. I would probably have at least one, if not two, all-nighters every week. A lot of people, especially with the Python stuff, thought I was on drugs. But no, I was on lack of sleep. It’s better than drugs and cheaper,” he said.

Reflecting on his career, Gilliam emphasized the importance of creative freedom. “Double thinking is the worst thing because you start doubting your idea. It happens to all of us, and especially if you’re surrounded by other people, like agents and studio executives. They live in a world of complete neurosis… but all I know is that all the mistakes I’ve made have never been as bad as the mistakes the highly paid executives have made.”

Gilliam’s commitment to maintaining creative control has often led to challenges. “It’s a bit arrogant, but it simplified life. So many doors just shut in my face after that. You say, ‘I want total control’, doors shut, and then the big money runs away,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Gilliam remains proud of his work. Reflecting on “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” which went over budget and lost Columbia Pictures $38 million, he said, “It was completely out of control, even though I had storyboarded the whole film. The bond company was threatening to sue me for fraud and misrepresentation. My wife was pregnant with our third child, and they were threatening to take over my house.”

However, upon revisiting the film for a new 4K release, Gilliam concluded, “Watching it again, I’m just, ‘F**k me, this is good’.”

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