EXCLUSIVE: ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Stalled On ‘Financial Hiccup,’ Terry Gilliam Says

Let’s not rehash the appalling collapse of Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” a decade ago, OK? You can read all about the natural disasters, backstabbing producers and injured actors here.

And, hey, let’s not dwell on his latest stalled effort to bring “Don Quixote” to the big screen with Robert Duvall in the title role and Ewan McGregor as an ad exec who travels back in time to the 17th Century. Instead, how about we just check in with Gilliam for a general update on the long-troubled project, which was quietly moving forward until recently?

Gilliam is quite happy to talk about the film. Maybe that’s because, at the moment, he’s hanging out with Arcade Fire in advance of directing a webcast of their live show at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (August 5). Or maybe, at the age of 69, the director has encountered enough professional hardship to be serene about this latest holdup. Whatever the case, Gilliam opened up about the reasons for the “Don Quixote” delay, the difficulty of making films these days, and how he’s rewritten a great deal of the script.

MTV: So…”Don Quixote.” Where are you at right now? I have my fingers crossed that you’re still moving forward.

Terry Gilliam: We moved forward and then we stepped back a bit. Originally, I thought we were going to be in pre-production right now, but there’s been a little hiccup. And me doing this thing with Arcade Fire is a result of this hiccup with “Don Quixote.” Robert Duvall is still Quixote and Ewan McGregor is still involved — all that stuff is still happening. There’s just been a financial hiccup.

MTV: You were so close this time. After all the craziness surrounding the project, to be so close and hit that hiccup, is it just incredibly frustrating or business as usual?

Gilliam: It’s business as usual. That’s the problem. The sad thing is you get used to this, which is a kind of numbing experience. And to be numb is not the best thing to be creative. You gear yourself up for a certain level of work — and then boom: hiccup. Suddenly the energy had nowhere to go. That’s frustrating. So it was extraordinary to get the call from Arcade Fire. I have to thank them for liberating me from weeks of depression. I’ll get back on “Quixote” after I get back.

MTV: Is it really still going to happen?

Gilliam: I’ll get back to it, but at the moment out there, if you’re not spending a couple hundred million dollars in Hollywood, it’s pretty rough. It’s hard to predict anything. Everyone’s having these problems. I’m not different from anybody else.

MTV: How has the project evolved from a decade ago? Have there been script changes or production changes in terms of what you can pull off technologically.

Well, technology is just technology. They’re just tools. You want to keep up with what the tool manufacturers are doing, because it makes everything easier. But that’s all it is. I’ve got my own effects company in London. We’ve always been doing digital work. In “12 Monkeys” there is digital work. You just don’t notice it and I never bleated it out there, “Please come and see our movie — it’s got CG work in it.” What was interesting with “Quixote” was not any technological change, but having not read the script for seven years, when we got it back finally, I realized it needed work. It was really nice to rewrite it and I think it’s a far, far better script than when I was originally doing it.

MTV: Just having that distance, you could approach it with fresh eyes?

Gilliam: Yeah. Times have changed and I had been through different experiences, so I thought, “Ah, this is a better way of telling that story.” So I’d say probably two-thirds of the film is exactly the same, but it means something completely different.