In Quixoteville | Filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe
emily blunt interview
film Lost in La Mancha is brilliant on so many levels.
Of course brilliant is often the most familiar adjective found
floating in stories that revolve around La Mancha's star,
director-visionary- pseudo-wacko Terry Gilliam. But this time
filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (pictured left) get to
share the worthy adjective with Gilliam.
two have managed to make a relatively micro-budgeted docu-film
on a quirky Quixote adaptation that like all good documentaries
informs us, but also captures the elements needed for a great
dramatic film. Brilliant.
exceptionally clever bunnies they even had animator extraordinaire
Chaim Bianco create some Gilliam styled "cartoon"
sequences for the loyal Monty Python* brigades that'll
be flying to see their circus...
believe me this film simply shines for its details like that
and its wonderful honesty and its heart wrenching emotional
swells. Swells that you fear may actually make you start sobbing
and stamping your feet in utter frustration at what the cast
and crew faced while attempting to bring Gilliam's Euro-financed
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to the screen.
and Louis were originally on board as the 'behind the scenes'
documenters for a one-hour TV show on Gilliam's latest film.
What they ended up with was an incredible feature length film.
And you'll notice Gilliam's The Man Who Killed on Quixote
is nowhere on any 2003 upcoming films lists? Um, yeah, that's
because it never got finished
talented duo captured so much with their lens - more than any
involved could have imagined. It's as if Quixote himself tried
desperately to give his muse Gilliam some happiness since his
own mind's vision will most likely never make it to the big
bad voodoo screen.
personal traveling "documentarians" (this is their
second documentary with Gilliam), Keith and Louis, sat with
me and discussed the production behind the production. Let's
get to it!
Hello guys. What a great great film!
Thanks! And just so you know
we are NOT answering any questions
about J Lo, Ben or the wedding.
Damn. There goes this half of my questions.
And up front we acknowledge the whole disaster of The Man
Who Killed Don Quixote is our fault by virtue of there being
a camera there.
Well of course it is. We all know that...You think it was the
dreaded Quixote Curse?
We didn't know about the curse of Don Quixote till things started
going really really wrong [on this set]. There have been other
films that have gone wrong so maybe there's a curse
was only later when someone said, "Oh no if you look on
the last page of the book Cervantes [Quixote's author] says
leave my character alone." We asked Terry if he remembered
reading it... and even he didn't remember reading it.
Do think maybe Orson Welles, who died without getting his version
of Quixote to the screen, reached out from the grave bellowing,
"If I can't get it done you won't either Mr. Gilliam!"
Technically he reached out from the grave for the "Hearts
of Darkness" adaptation too.
I think that it's really that Don Quixote as a subject matter
attracts writers that like to take on difficult things. To whom
does this story appeal?
In the long run, ironically, you two actually made a successful
adaptation- and on film! You sirs have beaten the curse.
Knock on wood - yeah.
EMILY: This documentary/film is just brilliant. The success
- besides excellent film making talents you two obviously possess
- comes in the form of your primary subject; uber talent Terry
Gilliam. He's has one of those great Walter Mitty/Quixote-esque
minds. And here he is so completely open and honest throughout
- even as his film starts to disintegrate. How'd you get Terry
to do another documentary - [they also did a "behind the
scenes" documentary on production of Gilliam's 12 Monkeys
"The Hamster Factor"]?
Terry had actually first approached us with the idea in 1999
when he trying to get the film together then. And we said okay.
We were gearing up for it and his financing fell through. So
when he called us a year later and said, " Now it's going
to go." We knew there was a built in conflict. And because
we already did the "film being made" documentary with
Hamster, we said we wanted to focus on the pre- production.
We want to focus on those eight weeks of how all these elements,
like casting, locations, financing, how all that gets funneled
into starting production.
When we wrote a proposal to finance this project we were already
talking about the strong parallels between Terry Gilliam and
Don Quixote. Frankly most of the movies he has made have Don
Quixote like characters embedded within them. He was finally
going to tackle the source itself. We thought this is a great
story. This is a director who always takes on difficult stuff.
Like 12 Monkeys. Of course that's film that got made
and was successful but still that story was full of conflict
and struggle. Terry's a great subject! We said what better time
to do another film with him then when he's tackling Quixote.
Yeah right. But then everything that could go wrong on set did
go wrong. I mean who was the location manager? That particularly
painful segment where you all set up to shoot directly in the
path of a NATO testing area? What was that?
The crew knew there was going to be a problem with NATO planes.
They were told - very clearly- that the test planes would only
be flying for about an hour each day. There was a rumor going
around the set the planes were swooping done, closer to the
set, because they were trying to get a glimpse at Johnny Depp.
You can watch this film and think a lot of people mis-managed
stuff. The reality of that is that even with the chaos things
were so carefully planned out - they had gone to that location,
just two weeks before, and they were with their watches. Noting
exactly what times do
the planes show up. The planes would show up for maybe a ½
hour to an hour then gone for the rest of the day. They even
checked the almanac! For two hundred years in this particular
area in Spain it has not rained during the week that they were
choosing to shoot. And of course there it is 2nd day of production
there's flash flood! It was like one thing after another. Like
(Gilliam's Quixote) Jean Rochefort's illness. The doctors had
all given him their seal of approval, "Yes insure this
guy." It wasn't like these people went, "Iit's only
a budget of 32 million dollars? Lets not pay attention to this
stuff." There were so many decisions made and it was a
bit of a precariously structured production. There was no room
for one thing to go wrong - then everything goes wrong.
It must have been tough to watch your friend Terry suffering
even as documenters.
As a filmmaker naturally your always looking for dramatic occurrences;
for those conflicts. There was an element when the flash flood
was occurring we were excited - oh my god you could never afford
to produce a scene like this. You're getting very high production
values for free. But at the same time - and I have known Terry
for a long time - we were suddenly filming his disaster. So
yes, it was hard. It was a combination of both; we're happy
we're getting a good story and we're depressed were in some
ways putting Terry under a microscope at his darkest moment.
We said all right some difficulties are happening
don't think it's going to mean the end of the production. This
is just going to be a rough patch and we're going to have a
happy ending. It took a while for it to sink in that because
of this the film was going to be shut down. Those are not the
stories that make there way out to general knowledge; what is
the mechanics of a movie falling apart.
Where you aware as you were filming you were headed towards
No. In watching Lost in La Mancha you get the benefit
of hindsight. When we were actually in Madrid it's so much harder
to see things like that. You're in the field - we didn't have
all the information at all times. Like we were not aware when
we went to Terry's set on the sixth day of production- in fact
we weren't actually were not going to go to the set at all -
but then we got a call from Terry's assistant saying you have
to come to the set...It turned out Terry wanted us to come to
he set because he knew the investors were showing up and he
knew we'd capture the great irony of the investors showing up
and there was no actor
[laughter] and he knew the lead actor had just gotten on a plane
and left! We said to Terry's assistant Ella. "Is there
something you're not telling us?" [laughter] She said,
"Oh no. Terry just wants you to be here early on Monday
We were kind of excited. Because the investors showing up on
set like that, "unmasked," was straight out of 8
½ (Fellini) ! What we didn't know was the
actor wasn't there and it was that much more like 8
The audience learns so much in this film. Especially about contracts
and financing. At first you think okay the lead's sick - why
aren't they just replacing him?
Ya. Well, Jean Rochefort. I mean because Terry was so intent
on making the film outside of Hollywood system, it was an international
coproduction and every single entity from each of these countries
says I'll put in X millions dollars, here's what we want. When
Terry got Jean Rochefort he said to the French financers, "I
got Jean Rochefort." He's like a national treasure in France!
French financers are like, "Well of course, if you have
a film with Rochefort you can have our money." So when
you no longer have a movie with Rochefort now that money I going
to disappear. You don't really think of filmmaking as being
such a house of cards; where one tiny little thing can bring
down the whole production.
EMILY: Was there ever a time when you two were looking at the
dailies and saying, "Oh man this is painful. Our poor friend?"
Yeah. There was actually a real significant moment for us
we got back to Madrid and we were going through footage, that
we had gathered up to that point, about 80 hours
got to a part of the footage where Terry is watching the rushes
and Lou is shooting a close up of Terry's face and we noticed
for the first time there's no smile on his face. There's no
light in his eyes. There's nothing there. We thought this is
where our film is going. This is the moment and kind of the
emotional climax of the film. To see someone who is always able
to laugh suddenly not able to laugh is very tough.
It was a couple of days before we shot that we actually called
Terry and said, "Look we're starting to get odd looks form
people in the production office. We're beginning to feel like
it feels a little unethical. What do you want
us to do?" And Terry said, "Screw ethics I been working
on this for ten years, and in such misery, someone has to get
a film out of it. If it's not going to be me it better be you!"
Wow. I already respected the man
Yes. It's a testament to his candor and his willingness to not
He often talks about the fact that journalists are always saying
to give up some truth about something is brave. You're praised
for being able to do that. Terry thinks it's not bravery it's
just the truth.
So how did you decide what to put into the 89 minutes we see
as Lost in La Mancha?
We did this thing where are editor, Jacob Bricca, said, "look,
think without looking at your notes what are the ten scenes
you think are the best scenes. Write them down them do the next
ten. If that's what you remember than that's your strongest
material. Use that as the backbone of your film. Take those
twenty scenes and start building out of that."
Is that what you did?
Yes. And nineteen out of twenty of those scenes are in the film.
The other thing you do is say,"Yes it's a documentary,
these things really did happen in front of the camera."
But you also have to think about it also as a fiction script.
You have to look at your footage like, "Okay who's the
main character, who's your secondary character, where are the
story strands and where are those emotional moments?" You
build it to try and move an audience the same way a dramatic
Well you succeeded gentlemen.
is one helluva film folks. Whether you're a Gilliam disciple
or not, like the immensely handsome mansteaks said, they've
set up this documentary with all those elements you find it
fine dramas. Right. But you can't script this kind of drama...err...calamity.
Gilliam's film got canned but he still radiates greatness, not
only in the entertaining glimpses we get of his defunct Quixote
film, but as a consummate filmmaker that even at his own expense
stays true to a film - even when it's someone else's film. And
of course great bows to Pepe and Fulton are demanded. At all
times, even as the "windmills" in Terry's own La Mancha
cease to rotate, they are admiring and positive about their
two documenters were, themselves, obviously amazed at the wicked
and diabolical catastrophe's that haunted Gilliam's production.
The saddest part is really not in The Man Who Killed Don
Quixote's demise, but the thought that a genius like Gilliam
- the one director that would best deliver Quixote - may never
for fill his beautiful dream.
off to watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
for some well-needed giggles and guffaws!
Terry Gilliam was originally a lowly half-loved member of the
Monty Python troupe. As the "Pythons" whacked their
audience upside the head with their off-the-wall sketches and
nonsensical rantings on their little seen Flying Circus show,
they allowed Terry to appear once in awhile in a sketch - usually
half naked or insane.
It was his unique collage stop-motion "cartoons" that
gave the abused American, in an all-British regime, a chance
to shine and attempt inclusion with the clicky gents. His outrageous
animations helped many of the seemingly nonsequential ravings
of his fellow Pythons flow smoothly. Being college boys the
Pythons saw a good thing when they saw it and eventually allowed
Terry to dine in the same hall with them - though at a separate
Meanwhile, abuse from his "friends" aside, his hysterical
animated offerings made him an icon. A god as of yet unequaled
...I'd say he has had us much an impact on animation as his
snooty comrades have influenced the more talented of this generation's
comics ( this statement excludes but is not limited to exclusion
of hack Tom Green - who blatantly plagiarized the troupe in
that filmatic poopinshit Freddy Got Fingered! ARGH).
aside, Monty Python was/is by far the greatest comedy troupe
- Gilliam most definitely included - that ever existed.
Gilliam went on to make several films: The Holy Grail, Meaning
of Life, Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing
in Las Vegas, The Fisher King, Baron Munch-something and
you know who he is right? - Emily