“Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through failure.” – Aisha Tyler

“Sorry for the long silence. I’ve been busy packing the truck and am now heading home. After 17 years, we have completed the shoot of THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE. Muchas gracias to all the team and believers. QUIXOTE VIVE!”

So writes the inimitable Terry Gilliam in a Facebook post on June 4, 2017 concerning his 17-year odyssey chasing and battling his cinematic windmills with the film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Gilliam has spent nearly twenty years trying to get the archetypal adventures of Don Quixote to the silver screen and he’s been upended at nearly every turn. But now, with the completion of the surrealistic movie’s photography, Terry has finally conquered his demons and wrapped the once-thought-to-be-cursed motion picture. Indeed, the so-called curse of Quixote is chronicled in the 2002 nightmarish documentary Lost in La Mancha in which Gilliam, along with Johnny Depp and a beleaguered crew, battle gale-force winds, flooding, hail-damaged equipment, F1 jet fighters, financial difficulties, and even a serious injury while attempting to shoot the moribund project. Ultimately Terry and crew packed up their bags and headed home with tails between their legs.The celebrated director of Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, among other iconic films, considers the story of Don Quixote to be an obsession. “All my stuff’s been about reality, fantasy, madness, sanity, and Quixote encompasses all of those.”

In total, Gilliam attempted to make the film eight times, thus making it recognized as “one of the most infamous examples of developmental hell in film history” according to Wikipedia. Indeed, he once referred to making the film as the “Sisyphean rock that keeps rolling back.” When asked why he would continue to pursue the project that caused him so much strife and frustration, Gilliam answered, “Oh, I don’t know, pigheadedness, stupid–I really don’t know anymore. I’m beginning to actually think, ‘If it doesn’t work this time, I’m gonna dump it.’ I’ve wasted far too much of my life doing it. If you’re going to do Quixote, you have to become as mad as Quixote…It’s kind of a determination to be crazy and unreasonable. Every intelligent person around me says, ‘Walk away from it.’ But those are reasonable people.”

The film now stars Adam Driver as the advertising executive Toby Grisoni–the role that Depp pulled out of years ago. Hopefully, Gilliam’s adventures in the editing room will prove to be a lot more contained and predictable–but only time will tell. It’s clear that Terry Gilliam isn’t going to give up on his vision until he’s crossed the finish line! But his seemingly insurmountable, monstrous, and colossal struggles with the film serve as a reminder to all who devotedly pursue their cherished visions and goals: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Or as the famed New York Knickerbocker “Dollar” Bill Bradley once said, “Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”

 

 

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