Favourite Films: Twelve Monkeys

Above: “I am the man who kills Bruce Willis” – the actor with the dubious and singular honour of killing Bruce on-screen is coached by Terry Gilliam”

Most of you will know about my mild obsession with Terry Gilliam and his amazing films. Gilliam’s movies are some of the most regularly re-watched in my extensive collection, along with those of the Coen Brothers and Christopher Nolan. All of them delight in visually stunning extravaganzas combined with off-beat yet engaging characters, and Twelve Monkeys is no exception.

Twelve Monkeys is Gilliam’s 1996 sci-fi time-travel confuso-thriller starring Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis and Madeline Stowe amongst others. The basic story is based around the surreal French short film La Jetee, centering around a man from the future who has seen his own death as a child. In this re-telling our soon to come dystopian future has the remnants of he human race living underground, holding on after a devastating virus has killed most people. Willis plays James Cole, a prison inmate chosen to go back into the past to try and investigate what happened and ultimately retrieve a pure source of the original virus so the future/present scientists can create a cure. With me so far? Well there be spoilers ahead, so be warned.

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Meeting my Idols #2: Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam in Q&A @ The Curzon Mayfair
Originally uploaded by ultrahi.

Last night we had the joy of seeing Terry Gilliam’s latest film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, followed by a Q&A with the great director himself. All very exciting stuff.

The film is awesome, a fantastical myth making tale along the lines of Baron Munchausen, with great performances from all the actors. The way in which Heath Ledger’s untimely departure from halfway through filming is handled extremely well and, if anything, adds to the film – as in some scenes Heath’s English accent veers a little antipodean or is smothered in excessive use of the word ‘mate’.

Lily Cole is visually stunning and hypnotising as Parnassus’ daughter, unaware of her imminent fate as the trade made in a bet between Parnassus and the Devil – played excellently by Christopher Plummer and Tom Wait respectively. Why are Gilliam’s casting choices always so spot on?

After the fun of the film we got to spend a while in Q&A with Terry Gilliam. He was at ease, happy to go into stories, and full of interesting anecdotes. The only annoyance was the apparent inability for some audience members to not ask questions regarding Heath’s death and family, all of which had been answered by Terry in many of his recent interviews or were just deeply inappropriate.

Post Q&A Terry was thronged by fans outside in the bar, some more greedy with his time than others, but thankfully he found a few seconds on the way out the day to sign my favourite Brazil DVD. Huzah! Fanboy #2 goal achieved (#1 being meeting Eddie Izzard back in ’98 of course).

Terry Gilliam’s Latest Film to Continue?

Following on from Heath Ledger’s unfortunate, accidental death the filming of Terry Gilliam’s latest epic was put on hold. With one of his lead actors dead, Gilliam and the rest of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus team were faced with an awkward and probably uncomfortable decision – stop the film entirely, or find some other way to do it without Ledger, perhaps using computer animation or a new actor.

Well, according to the BBC they’ve decided to push on with a typically Gilliamesque solution. Ledger’s character will be played by not one, but three of the most outstanding actors in film today – Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law! Depp comes as no surprise, as he and Gilliam work together regularly, but the other two are somewhat from left field. As a Gilliam fan I’ll be waiting to see how he pulls this together, and as a fan of Heath Ledger’s work it’s great to know that his final legacy will make it to the screen with such a ‘supporting’ cast paying tribute to him along the way.