Dr. Parnassus: "Nothing's permanent, not even death."
2009-12-18 0:00

By Brian Truitt | USAWeekend.com

"Maybe the most memorable thing about Heath was that he seemed to be such an ancient soul. He seemed far older than his years. He was probably 243 years old when he died. I always thought he had aboriginal blood in him.”

Terry Gilliam, a founding member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus some 40 years ago, still is in awe of that comedy troupe’s enduring popularity all over the world. “I guess it’s a combination of being anti-authoritarian, incredibly silly and very intelligent,” Gilliam says. But as memorable as he was on the BBC, he’s been equally famous as the wildly imaginative filmmaker of Time Bandits, Brazil and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His colorful visions are back on screen with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (in theaters on Christmas Day), and they couldn't be more welcome since they bring us the last starring role of the late Heath Ledger. Read below for some of Gilliam’s conversation with our Nancy Mills, and check out a trailer from the director’s new film.

Video from: YouTube.com

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a morality tale featuring Ledger in the role of a mysterious stranger, discovered hanging under a bridge by a passing theater company. His character is not really dead, but who exactly is he? When Ledger died nearly two years ago during filming, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell agreed to take over transforming versions of his character in order to help Gilliam finish the film. They donated their fees to Ledger’s daughter, Matilda. The film also ends with this credit: “A Film from Heath Ledger and Friends.” “We finished the film, and it is what it is because of friends of Heath coming to the rescue out of friendship and love,” Gilliam says.

Gilliam has had catastrophes before during production. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was shut down within the first week of filming in 2000 because lead actor Jean Rochefort became ill, and then a flash flood washed away the sets — all chronicled in the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha. (Gilliam hopes to get one more start at production again next spring with a new cast, although he says Depp won’t return to his Quixote sidekick role because “he’s got more swashing and buckling to do” in a new Pirates of the Caribbean flick.) With Imaginarium, producer William Vince died shortly after filming was completed, and Gilliam himself was struck by a car last fall and his back was broken. “The Grim Reaper got Heath and Vince but missed me,” Gilliam says. “It was a close call. I’m back walking almost upright now.”

Talking about his leading man Ledger, with whom he had worked previously on The Brothers Grimm in 2005, Gilliam says, “Heath was constantly trying to learn, trying to improve himself. He was limitless. It’s a terrible loss. We’ll never get to see what greatness was waiting there. Unlike all the others who died young, there wasn’t a kind of neurosis or strangeness. Maybe the most memorable thing about Heath was that he seemed to be such an ancient soul. He seemed far older than his years. He was probably 243 years old when he died. I always thought he had aboriginal blood in him.”

Article from: USAWeekend.com

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