Terrence Vance Gilliam (born 22 November 1940) is an American-born British writer, filmmaker, animator and member of the Monty Python comedy troupe. He has the distinction of being the only American-born Python, as the rest of the group are all native Britons. Gilliam is known as the most creatively artistic member of Monty Python, directing several well-regarded films including Brazil (1985), Twelve Monkeys (1995) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).
The family moved to California because of his sister's bout of pneumonia, and Terry Gilliam enrolled into Birmingham High School. He became class president, senior Prom King, was voted "Most Likely to Succeed," and got straight As. During high school, he discovered Mad magazine, which was then edited by Harvey Kurtzman; this later influenced his work.
When Gilliam graduated from high school, he attended Occidental College, at first studying physics, then switching to fine arts before finally majoring in political science. Gilliam contributed to the college magazine, Fang, becoming the editor during his junior year and turning it into a tribute to Kurtzman, to whom he later sent copies. While in college, Gilliam was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. After finishing college, Gilliam worked briefly for an advertising agency before Kurtzman offered him a job at Help! magazine.
In 1968, Gilliam obtained British citizenship and held a dual American and British citizenship for 38 years. In January 2006, he renounced his American citizenship. In an interview with Tagesspiegel he described the action as a protest against U.S. President George W. Bush, but in an earlier interview with The Onion AV Club he also indicated that it was related to concerns about future tax liability for his wife and children. As a result of renouncing his citizenship, Gilliam is only permitted to spend 30 days per year in the United States, less than ordinary British citizens. Gilliam also maintains a residence in Italy near the Umbria-Tuscany border. He has been instrumental in establishing the annual Umbria Film Festival, held in the nearby hill town of Montone.
Gilliam was a part of Monty Python's Flying Circus from its formation, at first credited as an animator (his name was listed separately after the other five in the closing credits), later as a full member. His cartoons linked the show's sketches together, and defined the group's visual language in other media (such as LP and book covers, and the title sequences of their films).
Besides doing the animations, he also appeared in several sketches, though he rarely had any main roles and did considerably less acting in the sketches. Instead, he usually played parts that no one else wanted to play (generally because they required a lot of make-up or uncomfortable costumes, such as a recurring knight in armour who would end sketches by walking on and hitting one of the other characters over the head with a plucked chicken) and took a number of small roles in the films, including Patsy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the jailer in Life of Brian.
Terry Gilliam started his career as an animator and strip cartoonist; one of his early photographic strips for Help! featured future Python cast-member John Cleese. Moving to England, he animated features for Do Not Adjust Your Set, which also featured future Pythons Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.
Gilliam's surreal animations for Monty Python have a distinctive style. He mixed his own art, characterized by soft gradients and odd, bulbous shapes, with backgrounds and moving cutouts from antique photographs, mostly from the Victorian era.
His films are usually highly imaginative fantasies. Most of Gilliam's movies include plot-lines that seem to occur partly or completely in the characters' imaginations, raising questions about the definition of identity and sanity. He often shows his opposition to bureaucracy and authoritarian regimes. He also distinguishes "higher" and "lower" layers of society, with a disturbing and ironic style. His movies usually feature a fight or struggle against a great power which may be an emotional situation, a human-made idol, or even the person himself, and the situations do not always end happily. There is often a dark, paranoid atmosphere and unusual characters who formerly were normal members of society. His scripts feature black comedy and often end with a dark tragicomic twist.
His films have a distinctive look, often recognizable from just a short clip; Roger Ebert has said "his world is always hallucinatory in its richness of detail. There is often a baroqueness about the movies, with, for instance, high-tech computer monitors equipped with low-tech magnifying lenses in Brazil, and in The Fisher King a red knight covered with flapping bits of cloth. He also is given to incongruous juxtapositions of beauty and ugliness, or antique and modern. Most of his movies are shot almost entirely with extremely wide lenses of 28 mm focal length or less, and extremely deep focus.
In the mid-1990s, Gilliam and Charles McKeown developed a script for Time Bandits 2; the project never came to be, as several of the original actors had died. He also attempted to direct a version of Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, which collapsed due to disagreements over its budget and choice of lead actor.
In 1999, Gilliam attempted to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, budgeted at US$32.1 million, among the highest-budgeted films to use only European financing; but in the first week of shooting, the actor playing Don Quixote (Jean Rochefort) suffered a herniated disc, and a flood severely damaged the set. The film was canceled, resulting in an insurance claim worth US$15 million. Despite the cancellation, the story behind the whole production was filmed by a second crew hired by Gilliam to document the process. This production story was made into the documentary Lost in La Mancha. In recent years, both Gilliam and the film's co-lead, Johnny Depp, have expressed interest in reviving the project. However, the insurance company involved in the failed first attempt withheld the rights to the screenplay for several years. The production was finally restarted in 2008.
Gilliam has attempted twice to adapt Alan Moore's Watchmen comics into a film. Both attempts (in 1989 and 1996, respectively) were unsuccessful. Most recently, unforeseeable problems again befell a Gilliam project when actor Heath Ledger died in New York City during the filming of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Gilliam's reputation for production problems has been sufficient for the satirical newspaper The Onion to run a news article entitled "Terry Gilliam Barbecue Plagued By Production Delays.
Gilliam has encounted some successes though. The Fisher King (1991) (his first film to not feature a member from Python) was nominated for five Academy Awards and Twelve Monkeys went on to take over US$168 million worldwide whilst The Brothers Grimm, despite a mixed critical reception, grossed over US$105 million worldwide. However, according to Box Office Mojo, his films have grossed an average of $26,009,723.
Despite the rumors, Gilliam has stated that he will never direct any Potter film.
Gilliam has several projects in various states of development, including an adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's comic fantasy novel Good Omens; Gilliam also has in mind for the leads Johnny Depp as Crowley and Robin Williams as Aziraphale.
In the near future, Gilliam may direct - or be involved in the production of - the animated band Gorillaz' movie, due out in 2008 or 2009. In a September 2006 interview with Uncut magazine, Damon Albarn was reported saying "... we're making a film. We've got Terry Gilliam involved.". However, in a more recent interview with Gorillaz-Unofficial, Jamie Hewlett, the co-creator of the band, stated that since the time of the previous interview, Damon's and his own fixation on the film had lessened.
After regaining the rights to the screenplay of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote Gilliam restarted pre-production in 2008, with Johnny Depp still attached to the project. The film will be reshot completely, and Rochefort's role will be recast. Michael Palin reportedly entered talks with Gilliam to step in for Rochefort and play Don Quixote. Main production start is planned for 2009.
On 23 January 2007, Gilliam announced that he had been working on a new project with writing partner Charles McKeown. One day later, the fansite Dreams reported that the new project was entitled The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. On 3 October 2007, Dreams confirmed that Gilliam's next project will be Imaginarium, slated to star Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits, and scheduled for release in 2009. Production began in December 2007 in London.
On 22 January 2008, production of the film was disrupted following the death of Heath Ledger in New York City. Variety reports that Ledger's involvement had been a "key factor" in the film's financing. Although production was suspended indefinitely by January 24, Gilliam has now completed principal photography, the major task now being the completion of the visual effects. The director has stated his intention to dedicate the film to Ledger. In February 2008 actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell reportedly signed on to continue Ledger's role, transforming into multiple incarnations of his character in the "magical" world of the film.
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