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Trivia / Brazil

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  • Actor-Inspired Element: The toolbelt worn by Tuttle and all of its gadgets were supplied by Robert De Niro himself.
  • BFI Top 100 British Films: #54
  • Cast the Runner-Up: Robert De Niro wanted to play the role of Jack, but Terry Gilliam had already promised this to Michael Palin. De Niro still wanted to be in the movie, so he was cast as Tuttle instead.
  • Doing It for the Art: Robert De Niro originally went uncredited, despite playing a major character, because he was under contract elsewhere. He took a role that he had not applied for and did it for free because he really wanted to be in the film.
  • Executive Meddling: Oh, where do we begin? To be frank, the film probably stands out as one of the most contentious and publicly played-out instances of Executive Meddling ever. Universal's COO, Sid Sheinberg, tried to hack the film down from its original run time of 142 minutes to 97. He also wanted to replace Michael Kamen's orchestral score with contemporary rock music hits so it would "attract the teens", spin its tone from a sci-fi epic into a love story, and lastly, to use a dream sequence scene filmed for earlier in the film literally to turn its bleak last scenes into an cuddly, romantic happy ending. Terry Gilliam fought back-and-forth with Sheinberg, who was holding him to a clause on the length of the film, but even after the director edited 10 minutes from the film to fall under his contract's agreed-upon running time, Sheinberg continued to fight Gilliam on the film's Orwellian-like content. Gilliam then set up clandestine screenings for students & critics, which began to drum up buzz for the film. Film critics in both New York and L.A. began putting it on their top 10 lists — without the film having yet been officially released. Finally, frustrated, Gilliam bought a full-page ad in Variety asking Sheinberg, 'When are you going to release my film, Brazil?'. Gilliam eventually secured a theatrical release of his 132-minute cut. Sheinberg worked with outside editors to create his shorter cut (dubbed the 'Love Conquers All' version) which was also released theatrically, to massive indifference. Gilliam's original 142-minute cut was eventually released by Criterion on home video, side-by-side with the shorter 'Love Conquers All' cut, which actually still occasionally crops up on television in syndication.
    • Gilliam was able to compromise with Sheinberg on three things: to shorten the film by 10 minutes, to include the title song over the opening scene (so audiences would understand the relevance of the title), and to have the end titles superimposed over clouds. None of these changes are apparent in the European version, which is Gilliam's preferred version.
    • Brazil was considered one of the more prominent examples of Executive Meddling in recent years so much that a whole book, The Battle of Brazil, was written by L.A. Times' film critic Jack Matthews on how much Sheinberg & Universal screwed Terry Gilliam over. A documentary based on the book, hosted by Matthews, appears on Criterion's home video releases.
    • Matthews has argued that the "Love Conquers All" version was only released because Gilliam refused to shave a third of the film's running time to fit a two-hour time slot, and that version conveniently ran in the allotted time slot.
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  • Real-Life Relative: Jack's daughter Holly is played by Terry Gilliam's daughter.
  • Star-Making Role: The first notable role by Jonathan Pryce, who you likely know from Tomorrow Never Dies, Game of Thrones, or Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Stunt Casting: Despite prominent billing, Robert De Niro and Bob Hoskins are hardly in the film.
  • Troubled Production: The film was subject to such severe Executive Meddling that it inspired a book, The Battle of Brazil, and Gilliam felt obliged to place a full-page ad in Variety begging producer Sid Sheinberg to reverse the changes he had made and release the film as originally intended.
  • Wag the Director: Terry Gilliam and his crew were excited to have Robert De Niro on board at first, but as time wore on they found De Niro's need for "research" and obsession with details increasingly irritating, saying that he "wanted to strangle him".
  • What Could Have Been:
  • Working Title: 1984 and a 1/2, The Ministry, The Ministry of Torture, How I Learned to Live with the System - So Far, and So That's Why the Bourgeoisie Sucks.


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