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Creator / Terry Gilliam

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I will destroy you with my fantastical and science-fictional movies! If I manage to complete them...
"The problem with movies is that you're in with the most bizarre group of people."
— as quoted in Losing the Light: Terry Gilliam and the Munchausen Saga

Terrence Vance Gilliam (born November 22, 1940) is an American-born British cartoonist, animator and film director, best known as the token American member of the very British Monty Python (although he held a dual US/UK citizenship during his years with the troupe and renounced his US citizenship in 2006).

Born in Minneapolis and raised in Los Angeles, Gilliam began his career in the 1960s as a photographer and cartoonist for Harvey Kurtzman's satirical magazine Help!. After that publication folded, he moved to the UK; there, he first came to prominence with the children's series Do Not Adjust Your Set, where he worked with several of his fellow future Pythons and for which his primary responsibility was creating the surrealist cut-out animations that he subsequently brought over to Monty Python's Flying Circus. As the latter series progressed, Gilliam also did many small roles the other Pythons didn't want to perform for various reasons, and had very few speaking parts, if you forget his voice acting during the animated segments (one of his most notable lines is "I want more beans!"; he was also Cardinal Fang of the Spanish Inquisition). He also helped write a number of the sketches, and from there co-wrote the troupe's three films based on original material with the rest of the troupe, on which he also played much more parts than he usually would in the series. He co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail and directed the opening segment of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, "The Crimson Permanent Assurance".

From there, Gilliam moved into writing and directing non-Python films, though some of his fellow troupers have appeared in and/or co-wrote them. His specialties are fantasy and Science Fiction films often laced with dark humor: one could construe his worldview as "We're all doomed! Isn't that hilarious?" He was J. K. Rowling's choice of director for the Harry Potter movies — however, Warner Bros. decided against it.

This is understandable, given that few directors in the history of film have been as prone to Executive Meddling, production delays, budget overruns, and/or just plain bad luck as Gilliam. After Jabberwocky (1977) and the hit Time Bandits (1981), the first great tale of his struggles came with 1985's Brazil. It put him at odds with Universal Pictures when executives attempted to recut the movie, especially its ending; the subsequent book The Battle of Brazil tells the tale. His next film, 1988's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, went wildly over budget and then bombed in the U.S. thanks to Columbia Pictures undergoing a regime change that kept it from getting proper release and promotion.

In the 1990s, things were looking up for Gilliam with The Fisher King (1991), 12 Monkeys (1995), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). Then at the Turn of the Millennium, his films became a parade of bad situations behind the scenes. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote took 25 years of on-and-off production to complete thanks to trials and tribulations covered in the documentary Lost in La Mancha; The Brothers Grimm (2005) was beset by Executive Meddling, this time via Bob and Harvey Weinstein; Tideland (also 2005) made it to theaters, but was overlooked and shunned for containing some pedophilia (plus it was set and filmed in a desert, but it just kept raining during filming); The Zero Theorem (2013) was barely released and under-performed; and finally, perhaps saddest of all, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) became Heath Ledger's final film when he died before completing his role.

Bad luck simply doesn't cut it: the man's cursed.

The Onion once joked that if Gilliam were to have a barbecue, it would still be beset by production delays. However, at the end of the day, his perilous productions have resulted in a portfolio of, if not always successful, at least fascinating films.

Terry Gilliam's works on the wiki:

Common tropes found in the films of Terry Gilliam:

  • Knight in Shining Armor: Knights and their associated imagery are Played With to varying degrees in a few of his films. There's the obvious parody examples of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Joberwocky. Both Fisher King and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote feature delusional men convinced they're such a character. A knight shows up early on in Time Bandits. Even in Brothers Grimm, the titular brothers dress in knight-like armor for a few scenes.
  • Life Imitates Art: One of the great artistic ironies of the modern age, many Gilliam fans have noted, is the story of how in his never-ending quest to finish The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Gilliam has become perhaps the quintessential Hollywood Windmill Crusader. Until he finished it.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: His entire career has been about flights of fancy, so naturally his films tend to rail against iron-fisted bureaucracies and the narrow-minded jobsworths who staff them. Probably the pinnacle of this trope was the beginning of Baron Munchausen, when city administrator Jonathan Pryce — graduating from playing a Beleaguered Bureaucrat in Brazil — orders the execution of a soldier. The offense? The soldier was so good at his job he made everybody else look bad. A title card reveals this as "The Age of Reason".
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Aside from the movies and Deranged Animation, he's also directed a few Operas.
  • Playing Against Type: Gilliam likes to challenge his actors; he noted in an interview that one of his main goals in directing 12 Monkeys was to force Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, at the time known mostly as a badass action hero and a charismatic pretty boy, respectively, to get rid of all their trademark mannerisms and be as unrecognizable as possible in their roles.
  • Production Posse: Monty Python members frequently get cast, to the point that some fans misguidedly believe Gilliam's own films are Python productions
  • Re-Cut: The Criterion releases of Brazil on home video include three different versions, his original cut, a slightly shorter version that Universal ultimately released in the US, along with a drastically shorter and drastically altered version Universal almost released instead (see Executive Meddling).
  • Saved from Development Hell: The Gilliam curse appears to have been broken, as it was reported in June 2017 that had finally finished Don Quixote after eight unsuccesful attempts over the course of nineteen years.
  • Scenery Porn: His films have a very distinct look (highly detailed sets shot with very wide lenses), to the point where cinematographers often call a 14mm lens "the Gilliam lens". Granted, what he's actually shooting isn't always that pretty.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Range all over the place. Brazil and Twelve Monkey's is more cynical but Time Bandits and The Fisher King are more on the idealistic end, while Baron and Docter Parnassus might be in the middle.
  • Surreal Humor: When he does comedy, it usually falls under this. Being a Python might have something to do with it.
  • Thematic Series: Some of his movies themselves are not connected by continuity but they share similar themes.
    • He considers Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be his "Imagination Trilogy".
    • Gilliam has also said that Brazil, 12 Monkeys, and The Zero Theorem make up his Orwellian triptych.
    • He also made another trilogy, consisting of The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, being his Trilogy of Americana.
And suddenly, the editor suffered a fatal heart attack
The trope description was no more. The quest for more tropes could continue.