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The Brothers Grimm (film)

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The Brothers Grimm
Brothers grimm movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerry Gilliam
Written byEhren Kruger
Produced byCharles Roven
Daniel Bobker
CinematographyNewton Thomas Sigel
Edited byLesley Walker
Music byDario Marianelli
Distributed byDimension Films (United States; through Miramax Films[1])
Bontonfilm (Czech Republic)[2]
Miramax International (International; through Buena Vista International[2])
Release date
  • 26 August 2005 (2005-08-26) (United States)
  • 4 November 2005 (2005-11-04) (United Kingdom)
  • 11 November 2005 (2005-11-11) (Czech Republic)
Running time
118 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
Czech Republic
Budget$80–88 million[1][2]
Box office$105.3 million[1]

The Brothers Grimm is a 2005 adventure fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam. The film stars Matt Damon, Heath Ledger and Lena Headey in an exaggerated and fictitious portrait of the Brothers Grimm as traveling con-artists in French-occupied Germany, during the early 19th century. However, the brothers eventually encounter a genuine fairy tale curse which requires real courage instead of their usual bogus exorcisms. Supporting characters are played by Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce, and Monica Bellucci.

In February 2001, Ehren Kruger sold his spec script to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). With Gilliam's hiring as director, the script was rewritten by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni, but the Writers Guild of America refused to credit them for their work, thus Kruger received sole credit. MGM eventually dropped out as distributor, but decided to co-finance The Brothers Grimm with Dimension Films and Summit Entertainment, while Dimension took over distribution duties.

The film was shot entirely in the Czech Republic. Gilliam often had on-set feuds with brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, which caused the original theatrical release date to be delayed nearly ten months. The Brothers Grimm was finally released on August 26, 2005 with mixed reviews and a $105.3 million box office performance.


In 1811 French-occupied Germany, brothers Wilhelm (Will) and Jakob (Jake) Grimm are famed monster-hunters with a strained relationship stemming from Jake's naive selling of their family's cow as a child in exchange for "magic beans" rather than selling it for money to pay for medicine for their sick sister (leading to her death). Arriving in Karlstadt, they are hired to rid the town of a witch's ghost, which they “kill” in an elaborate battle. In actuality, the Grimms are con artists who exploit Jake's knowledge of local legends; with actors Hidlick and Bunst, they fabricate monsters to defeat for a price. Celebrating at an inn, the brothers are captured by Italian torturer Cavaldi and brought to French General Delatombe. In exchange for amnesty for their crimes, Delatombe tasks the brothers to solve the disappearance of several girls in Marbaden, believing charlatans like them are responsible.

In Marbaden, a huntress named Angelika whose younger sisters were the first to be taken following the disappearance of their father, leads the brothers, Cavaldi, and his men to a tower in the woods. She recalls her father's story of the Thuringian Queen: Long ago, the Christian king of the region built a city in the forest, slaughtering the pagan locals; when the bubonic plague came, his vain queen sealed herself in the tower, only to catch the plague and lose her beauty. Jake's horse is cursed by a mysterious huntsman, and brutally swallows a girl named Elsie whole when they return to town. Pursuing the horse into the forest, they are attacked by a giant wolf which seems to recognize Angelika and by the forest itself; Cavaldi's men are killed. Cavaldi brings Angelika and the Grimms to Delatombe, who orders their execution. In desperation, the brothers convince Delatombe that the magic in the forest is actually German rebels.

They are sent back to Marbaden with Hidlick and Bunst, where Cavaldi holds Angelika hostage. As Jake scales the tower, Hidlick and Bunst flee back to town, where a girl named Sasha is turned into a gingerbread man made of dirt and jumps into a well. Inside the tower, Jake discovers the queen alive, mummified in her bed; in a mirror, the queen's young reflection attempts to seduce him. Sasha's body surfaces outside the tower, where the wolf transforms into a huntsman. Placing Sasha in one of the tower's twelve crypts, the huntsman attacks Will when he tries to rescue her. Jake leaps from the tower with the aid of the queen's long hair, landing on the huntsman and escapes with Will, the unconscious Sasha and the huntsman's magic axe.

The brothers realize the extent of the queen's curse: Taking black magic from the pagans slaughtered by the king, she cast a spell granting herself eternal life, though not eternal youth. Rotting in her tower for centuries, she sent her werewolf huntsman to steal twelve young girls to regain her beauty and youth; Sasha was to be the twelfth. The Grimms try to warn the villagers, but Delatombe and his troops arrive. Having interrogated and beheaded Hidlick and Bunst, Delatombe orders the forest burned, along with the Grimms. As the soldiers set fire to the forest, Angelika rescues the brothers, but the huntsman – revealed to be her father under the queen's curse – drowns Angelika as the queen's twelfth victim.

The queen extinguishes the forest fire with her breath, and the brothers are confronted by Cavaldi, Delatombe, and his manservant. Cavaldi refuses to kill the Grimms and is shot by Delatombe. Jake kills the manservant with the magic axe, and Will impales Delatombe with his own flagpole. The brothers reach the top of the tower, but the queen's enchanted daggers force Jake to stab Will. The huntsman gives the queen blood of the twelve victims to drink, restoring her youth. She releases the huntsman from her thrall, which slowly starts to kill him, and bewitches Will as her new servant. Jake breaks the mirror, shattering the queen's curse and her body. Regaining his memory, the huntsman avenges Angelika by leaping out of the tower with the mirror's final shard, and the bewitched Will jumps with him. The mirror is destroyed upon landing, killing the queen.

Jake is saved by the queen's many mattresses while Cavaldi, having survived Delatombe's bullet with the aid of the Brothers supposedly fake magic armour, tells Jake that the curse can be lifted with a kiss of true love. He wakens Angelika with the kiss, and the eleven girls and Will are revived. As the villagers celebrate, the Grimms discuss pursuing a new profession – presumably writing fairy tales – while a crow carries away a mirror shard of the queen's eye.


  • Matt Damon as Will Grimm. Will is the older more serious brother, interested in making money and meeting women. Will is often hard on Jake and blames him for the death of their sister, but at the same time is very protective of him.
  • Heath Ledger as Jake Grimm. Jake is the younger and more sensitive of the brothers and interested in fairy tales and adventures. Jake feels that Will doesn't care about or believe in him.
  • Peter Stormare as Mercurio Cavaldi: Delatombe's Italian associate. Cavaldi originally has a grudge against the brothers, but eventually has a change of heart.[3]
  • Lena Headey as Angelika: Her father is a woodsman transformed into a werewolf huntsman by the Queen's curse.
  • Jonathan Pryce as General Vavarin Delatombe: A cruel French military commander. Delatombe attempts to burn down the forest and kill the brothers.
  • Tomáš Hanák as the Huntsman
  • Julian Bleach as Letorc, Delatombe's manservant
  • Monica Bellucci as the Mirror Queen
  • Mackenzie Crook and Richard Ridings as Hidlick and Bunst: Duo sidekicks for the Grimms. They are eventually beheaded by French soldiers.
  • Roger Ashton-Griffiths as The Mayor
  • Anna Rust as Sister Grimm


Ehren Kruger's screenplay was written as a spec script; in February 2001, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) purchased the script, with Summit Entertainment to co-finance the film.[4] In October 2002, Terry Gilliam entered negotiations to direct,[5] and rewrote Kruger's script alongside frequent collaborator Tony Grisoni. The Writers Guild of America refused to credit Gilliam and Grisoni for their rewrite work, and Kruger received sole credit.[6] After Gilliam's hiring, production was put on fast track for a target November 2004 theatrical release date.[3] MGM had trouble financing the film, and dropped out as main distributor.[7] Weeks later, Bob Weinstein, under his Dimension Films production company, made a deal with MGM and Summit to co-finance The Brothers Grimm, and become the lead distributor. Projected at $75 million, this was to be Dimension Films' most expensive film ever.[8]


Johnny Depp was Gilliam's first choice for Will Grimm, but producer Bob Weinstein believed Depp was not commercially famous enough for the role and Depp himself has moved on to star in two Tim Burton films, the 2005 remake of Willy Wonka and Corpse Bride. Damon joked that Weinstein "was kicking himself because half-way through production, Pirates of the Caribbean came out and Depp was all of a sudden a big sensation".[9] Ledger met Gilliam in November 2002 when Nicola Pecorini recommended the actor to the director, comparing him to Depp. Gilliam intended to cast Ledger opposite Depp.[10] Damon and Ledger were originally cast in opposite roles before they asked to have their characters switched.[11] Damon had wanted to work with Gilliam for years. The actor "grew up loving [Gilliam's] Time Bandits, the way that movie created this weird but totally convincing world".[12] Gilliam elected to have Damon wear a prosthetic nose, but Weinstein said "it would have distracted audiences from Damon's star-studded good looks".[12] Gilliam later reasoned that "it would have been the most expensive nose job ever".[9] Gilliam wanted Samantha Morton for the female lead but was overruled by The Weinsteins who wanted a more conventionally beautiful actress.[12] Robin Williams was originally cast in the role of Cavaldi before dropping out, and was replaced by Peter Stormare.[3] Nicole Kidman turned down the role of the Mirror Queen due to scheduling conflicts.[13]


The original start date was April 2003,[14] but filming did not begin until 30 June.[15] It was decided to shoot The Brothers Grimm entirely in the Czech Republic over budget constraints. Damon said "this is an $80 million movie, which would probably cost $120—$140 million in America".[16] The majority of filming required sound stages and backlots from Barrandov Studios in Prague. Filming at Barrandov ended on 23 October. Location filming began afterwards, which included the Křivoklát Castle.[6][17] Along with Alien vs. Predator and Van Helsing, The Brothers Grimm provided work for hundreds of local jobs and contributed over $300 million into the Czech Republic's economy.[18] Gilliam hired Guy Hendrix Dyas as production designer after he was impressed with Dyas' work on X2.[7] Gilliam often disputed with executive producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein during production.[19] The Weinstein Brothers fired cinematographer and regular Gilliam collaborator Nicola Pecorini after six weeks. Pecorini was then replaced by Newton Thomas Sigel.[12]

"I'm used to riding roughshod over studio executives," Gilliam explained, "but the Weinsteins rode roughshod over me."[12] Gilliam got so upset, filming was shut down for nearly two weeks. Matt Damon reflected on the situation: "I've never been in a situation like that. Terry was spitting rage at the system, at the Weinsteins. You can't try and impose big compromises on a visionary director like him. If you try to force him to do what you want creatively, he'll go nuclear."[12] The feud between Gilliam and the Weinsteins was eventually settled, although Bob Weinstein blamed the entire situation on yellow journalism.[20] Filming was scheduled to end in October, but due to various problems during filming, principal photography did not end until the following 27 November.[21]

Due to the tensions between the filmmaker and the producers during production, Gilliam said in retrospect about the film, "[I]t's not the film they wanted and it's not quite the film I wanted. It's the film that is a result of [...] two groups of people, who aren’t working well together."[22] With regards to the Weinsteins also producing Martin Scorsese's film Gangs of New York (2002), Gilliam stated: "Marty [Scorsese] said almost the exact same quote I said, without us knowing it: 'They took the joy out of filmmaking.'"[22]

Visual effects[edit]

Post-production was severely delayed when Gilliam disagreed with the Weinsteins over the final cut privilege. In the meantime, the conflict lasted so long that Gilliam had enough time to shoot another feature film, Tideland. To create the visual effects, Gilliam awarded the shots to Peerless Camera, the London-based effects studio he founded in the late-1970s with visual effects supervisor Kent Houston. However, two months into filming, Houston said that Peerless "ran into a number of major issues with The Brothers Grimm and with the Weinstein Brothers". He continued that "the main problem was the fact that the number of effects shots had dramatically increased, mainly because of issues that arose during shooting with the physical effects."[23] Meanwhile, the Queen's chamber inside the tower was actually built by the Art Department as 2 sets. One set was resplendent and new while the other was old and decrepit. The sets were joined to each other by the central mirror, a piece of transparent glass giving the illusion that a single set was reflected and used to create the effect.

There were originally to be about 500 effect shots, but it increased to 800. The post-production conflict between Gilliam and the Weinsteins also gave enough time for Peerless to work on another film, The Legend of Zorro. Four different creatures were required for computer animation: a Wolfman, a mud creature, the Mirror Queen, and a living tree. John Paul Docherty, who headed the digital visual effects unit, studied the animation of the computer-generated Morlocks in The Time Machine for the Wolfman. Docherty depicted the Morlocks "as a nice mix between human and animal behaviors".[23] The death of The Mirror Queen was the most complex effect of the film. In the sequence, the Queen turns into hundreds of shards of glass and shatters. With computerized rendering, this could not happen, as the 3D volume of the body suddenly turns into 2D pieces of glass. The problem was eventually solved due to sudden advances that occurred with Softimage XSI software.[23]


The original theatrical release date was due in November 2004 before being changed many times; the dates had been moved to February 2005,[24] 29 July,[25] 23 November,[24] and finally 26 August. Executive producer Bob Weinstein blamed the pushed back release dates on budgetary concerns. To help promote The Brothers Grimm, a three-minute film trailer was shown at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, while twenty minutes of footage was shown at the 2005 event.[26] Mirimax spent around $30 million promoting the film.[27]

Box office[edit]

The Brothers Grimm was released in the United States in 3,087 theaters, earning $15,092,079 in its opening weekend on second place behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin.[2] The film eventually grossed $37,916,267 in the United States and $67.4 million internationally, coming to a worldwide total of $105,316,267.[2] The Brothers Grimm was shown at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival on 4 September 2005, while in competition for the Golden Lion, but lost to Brokeback Mountain, also starring Ledger.[28]

Critical reception[edit]

The Brothers Grimm was released to mixed reviews from critics.[29] On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 38% based on reviews from 182 critics, with an average score of 5.18/10. The site's consensus states: "The Brothers Grimm is full of beautiful imagery, but the story is labored and less than enchanting."[30] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 51 out of 100 based on 36 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[29] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "C" on scale of A to F.[31]

Roger Ebert called the film "an invention without pattern, chasing itself around the screen without finding a plot. The movie seems like a style in search of a purpose, with a story we might not care about."[32] Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post wrote that "The Brothers Grimm looks terrific, yet it remains essentially inert. You keep waiting for something to happen and after a while your mind wanders from the hollow frenzy up there with all its filigrees and fretwork."[33] Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle felt "despite an appealing actor in each role, the entire cast comes across as repellent. Will and Jake Grimm are two guys in the woods, surrounded by computerized animals, putting audiences to sleep all over America."[34] Peter Travers, writing in Rolling Stone magazine, largely enjoyed The Brothers Grimm. He explained that "if you're a Gilliam junkie, as I am, you go with it, even when the script loses its shaky hold on coherence." Travers added, "even when Gilliam flies off the rails, his images stick with you."[35] Gene Seymour of Newsday called the film "a great compound of rip-snorting Gothic fantasy and Python-esque dark comedy".[36]

Home media[edit]

Paramount Home Entertainment via Miramax owns the home video rights, while Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer holds the television rights.[24] The DVD release of The Brothers Grimm released 20 December 2005 includes audio commentary by Gilliam, two "making-of" featurettes, and deleted scenes.[37] The film was released on Blu-ray Disc format in October 2006.[38] Both the DVD and Blu-ray were released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, under license from Miramax.[39]


The film served as inspiration for the manga series Blue Exorcist.[40]


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  3. ^ a b c Marc Graser (19 February 2003). "'Brothers Grimm' filled to brim". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  4. ^ Charles Lyons; Kathy Dunkley (13 February 2001). "Lion future looks 'Grimm'". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Adam Dawtrey (27 October 2002). "Inside Move: Back on his horse". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
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  14. ^ Michael Fleming (21 October 2002). "'Ring' scribe turns 'Skeleton Key' at U". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  15. ^ David Rooney (10 June 2003). "'Scary,' 'Grimm' casting shows a new Dimension". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  16. ^ Carol Memmott (11 April 2004). "Damon, Prague star in 'Grimm' fairy tale". USA Today. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  17. ^ Cathy Meils (23 April 2003). "Gilliam gets a 'Grimm' start date". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  18. ^ Cathy Meils (1 December 2003). "Czech this out". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  19. ^ Dana Harris (25 September 2003). "Bellucci gig gets 'Grimm'". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  20. ^ Charles McGrath (14 August 2005). "Terry Gilliam's Feel-Good Endings". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 29 May 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
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  24. ^ a b c Dana Harris; Gabriel Snyder (24 August 2004). "Miramax pushing pause button". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Gabriel Snyder (3 February 2005). "Studios play summer shuffle. . .again". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  26. ^ Staff (13 May 2005). "'Grimm' by the minute". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  27. ^ CLAUDIA ELLER (16 August 2005). "'Great Raid' Points to Minefield for Disney". Los Angeles Times.
  28. ^ Staff (28 July 2005). "Venice fest has Far East flavor". Variety. Retrieved 8 December 2008.
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  31. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 20 December 2018.
  32. ^ Roger Ebert (26 August 2005). "The Brothers Grimm". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 13 January 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  33. ^ Stephen Hunter (26 August 2005). "Gold into Dross". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  34. ^ Mick LaSalle (26 August 2005). "The fakers Grimm, before they became famous storytellers". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
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  36. ^ Gene Seymour (16 August 2005). "These 'Brothers' are far from grim". Newsday.
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  39. ^ "Lionsgate Shop - Search Results". Archived from the original on 25 February 2018. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  40. ^ Deb Aoki (22 July 2016). "Interview: Blue Exorcist Mangaka Kazue Kato". Retrieved 25 October 2019.
Further reading

External links[edit]