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March 2010

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D I R E C T O R ' S C H A I R H OLLYWOOD — If the mark of a great director is a unique personal vision coupled with the ability to bounce back after disaster hits, then Terr y Gilliam is a very great director indeed. With such films as Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Brothers Grimm, Gilliam has created a body of work that has earned the director a reputation as both an inspired visionar y and a maverick with little regard for the realities of Holly- wood filmmaking. First there was the legendary battle with Universal and studio head Sidney Sheinberg over the distribution of Brazil.Then there was the financial disaster of Baron Munchausen followed by the collapse — mid-production — of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Undaunted, the American ex-patriate and Monty Pythoner (who has lived in London since the '60s) bounced back with The Imagi- narium of Doctor Parnassus, a fantastical morality tale starring Heath Ledger — only to see the actor's life tragically cut short be- fore filming was completed (Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law quickly stepped in to play versions of Ledger's character to help finish the production). The film stars Christopher Plummer as Doctor Parnassus, who is cursed with a dark secret. An inveterate gambler, he made a bet thousands of years ago with the devil, Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), in which he won immor- tality. Centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr. Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immor tality for youth, on condition that when his daughter reached her 16th bir thday, she would be- come the proper ty of Mr. Nick. Desperate to save his daughter, Parnassus sets out to seduce five souls (the condition of her free- dom) with a magic mirror that, once passed through, reveals magical worlds, and Gilliam, whose love of animation dates back to the '60s and his Python work, makes liberal use of extended animated sequences through- out these scenes. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, the director talks about making the film, and his passion for post production, anima- tion and visual effects. POST: With your star's tragic death, it must have turned out ver y differently from the film you set out to make? GILLIAM: "Not really, and that's what's so bizarre about it, as we didn't change any- thing of any substance. Once the face is changed, then you're free.The dialogue's the same. The difference is, how it would be if Heath had done all the stuff on the other side of the mirror [the film's magic door- way]. This way, it's probably more of a sur- prising ride for the audience." POST: What were the biggest challenges? GILLIAM: "A great chunk is done with bluescreen and CG models, and there's a lot of visual effects — over 650 shots. But tech- nically this is what I do. I'm used to this process, so although it's always complicated, it's a fun challenge and I try to simplify cer- tain things. We'd build the working sets for the actors and then do all the CG work as backgrounds. It was a way of being able to create these amazing worlds without spend- ing a fortune, as we didn't need creature an- imation going on." POST: Why did you do all the bluescreen in Vancouver, not London where you shot? GILLIAM: "Because it was a UK-Canadian co-production, and that was the deal.We did a month's shoot in London, and then we did nearly two in Vancouver, but it was ver y tricky tr ying to match Johnny's, Colin's and Jude's schedules to ours. We were constantly shifting things around as we didn't know when they'd be available, so you build a set on one stage and suddenly they turn up and you're stuck with the wrong set [laughs]. There was a lot of that going on." POST: Do you like post? GILLIAM: "I love it because it's finally the time when you have all the pieces of the jig- saw and none of the pressure of daily shoot- ing. You're just sitting there and having fun putting it all together. I think, though, on this the post with all the effects proved to be ver y, ver y difficult, because we originally planned to do 250 shots and then it ended up at 650, which is huge. "Peerless Camera Company in London, who've always done all my effects work, just weren't quite ready for that big increase. So we ended up mixing the film without shots even being finished. We were working in the dark, which was ver y hard. We were also running out of money! Everything was going crazy, as we had a huge insurance claim that was being argued while we literally ran out of cash. Luckily I got hit by a car and broke Terry Gilliam: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus By IAIN BLAIR After a string of challenges, this film finally made it to the big screen. Even though Terry Gilliam calls this film's post "the worst" because of outside circumstances, he does like the post production process in general. "It's finally the time when you have all the pieces of the jigsaw and none of the pressure of daily shooting," he says. 12 Post • March 2010 For the film's VFX, Peerless used Maya, Mental Ray, XSI, Houdini, Vue, Terragen, Shake, Fusion, Inferno, Photoshop, plug-ins from the Foundry and GenArts, and a host of in-house proprietary modules.

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