Anyone working in showbiz knows that to survive in the ferociously competitive industry, one needs to get cozy with the word “no.” Directors, especially; Tim Robbins’ executive character in Robert Altman’s The Player outlines that, of the 50,000 story pitches he receives each year, only 12 get the coveted green light.
Nobody knows this better than Terry Gilliam, whose pet Don Quixote adaptation has faced setbacks of Biblical proportions. From complete on-set cataclysms to self-doubt from the ship’s captain (Gilliam was quoted as being “almost at the point where I’m ready to give it up” back in August), Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel has had a troubled path to the silver screen. It would go on to inspire the engrossing documentary Lost In La Mancha, suggesting that Gilliam’s really not much more impractically idealistic than Cervantes’ hero.
Ultimately halting and re-starting production seven times in total, Gilliam’s passion project has taken 20 years to get off the ground, but it appears it could be happening for-reals this time. Variety quotes Gilliam as joking, “Seven is my lucky number, so let’s break the curse and make it!”
Gilliam has even made it as far as casting a leading man, landing Jack O’Connell for the starring role. O’Connell, whose Starred Up earned our Essential Viewing tag earlier this year, will play “jaded commercials director” Toby. (O’Connell will next appear in Angelina Jolie’s awards-bait biopic, Unbroken.) After Toby comes into possession of a young Gypsy boy’s student film while shooting in Spain, he embarks on a picaresque journey to find the picturesque village where the film takes place.
If Gilliam’s film adheres to the source material, Toby will then get waylaid by a series of comic misadventures doubling as harsh societal satire. One could assume that Gilliam moved the setting out of 17th-century Spain in an effort to zero in on critiques more familiar to a modern audience. (Though who doesn’t feel a little rush when seeing the feudal system get the dressing-down it deserves?)