The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

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The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Screenplay by Tony Grisoni
Terry Gilliam
Based on Don Quixote
by Miguel de Cervantes
Music by Alberto Iglesias
Distributed by Amazon Studios
Language English

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is an upcoming fantasy-adventure-comedy film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni, loosely based on the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. It is widely recognized as one of the most infamous examples of development hell in film history, with Gilliam unsuccessfully attempting to make the film a total of eight times over the span of nineteen years.[1][2][3][4][5]

Pre-production of the film first started in 1998, with a budget of $32.1 million without American financing, with Jean Rochefort as Quixote, Johnny Depp as Toby Grisoni, a 21st-century marketing executive thrown back through time, and Vanessa Paradis as the female lead. Shooting began in 2000 in Navarre, but a significant number of difficulties such as set and equipment destroyed by flooding, the departure of Rochefort due to illness, problems obtaining insurance for the production, and other financial difficulties, led to a sudden suspension of the production and its subsequent cancellation. The original production was the subject of the documentary film Lost in La Mancha, which was intended to be the making-of the film but was released on its own in 2002. Gilliam made repeated attempts to relaunch production between 2005 and 2015, which included the likes of Robert Duvall, Michael Palin, and John Hurt as Quixote, and Depp, Ewan McGregor, and Jack O'Connell as Grisoni, but all ended up being cancelled for various reasons, such as failing to secure funds, Depp's busy schedule and eventual loss of interest in the project, and Hurt being diagnosed with cancer (which would eventually result in his death).[6][7][8]

Gilliam announced during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival that the film would finally start shooting in October 2016, with Palin as Quixote, Adam Driver as Grisoni, and Olga Kurylenko as the female lead.[9][10] Production was abandoned yet again when producer Paulo Branco was unable to secure funds; however, in March 2017, it was reported that the film had finally started filming for the first time in 17 years, with Jonathan Pryce as Quixote, and Driver still attached as Grisoni.[11]



In 2005, Gilliam voiced his interest in re-casting the role of Don Quixote with Gérard Depardieu.[15] In 2008, Michael Palin reportedly entered talks with Gilliam to step in for Rochefort and play Don Quixote.[16] In November 2009, Gilliam said he had finished re-casting the role, but he refused to disclose the actor's identity.[17] In a December 2009 interview with, Robert Duvall claimed on-camera to be Gilliam's new choice for Don Quixote,[18] which was confirmed by Gilliam himself a few days afterwards.[19]

For the role of the advertising executive Toby Grisoni, Johnny Depp was at times connected to the project,[20] but it remained unclear if Depp's filming schedule would have allowed for his participation and if he wanted to join the production at all. During a press junket for his film Public Enemies, Depp stated:

[Gilliam and I] have talked about it. But to be honest, the thing about Terry... I love Terry, and I'd do anything the guy wants to do. But with Quixote... my dance card is pretty nutty for the next couple of years. So I'd hate to put him in a position—or ask to be in a position—where he'd have to wait for me. That would be wrong. But also, I feel like we went there and tried something, and whatever it was—the elements and all the things that got up underneath us—were there and happened and were documented well in that film Lost in La Mancha. So I don't know if it's right for me to go back there. I don't know if it's right for Terry too, but if he wants to...[21]

Gilliam later stated that Toby would be played by Adam Driver, alongside Michael Palin in the role of Don Quixote, for a release in 2017. When the film began principal photography in 2017, the cast featured Driver and Jonathan Pryce as Quixote alongside Olga Kurylenko and Stellan Skarsgård.[11]


Aborted production (2000)[edit]

Terry Gilliam was very excited[citation needed] to direct this film, since Don Quixote embodies many of the themes that run through his own work—such as the individual versus society, and the concept of sanity. Quixote was set to have been one of the biggest continental European films ever made, with a budget of $32.1 million that had been scaled back from an original $40 million. It was to have been one of Gilliam's most ambitious films, produced without any American financing.


Finding the source material by Cervantes too vast, Gilliam and his co-writer Tony Grisoni decided to create their own version of the Quixote story, including a major change inspired by A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The character of Sancho Panza would appear only very early in the film, to be replaced by Toby Grisoni, a 21st-century marketing executive thrown back through time. The entire film would have been filmed in Spain and throughout Europe. Jean Rochefort was picked to play Don Quixote, in preparation for which he spent seven months learning English. Toby Grisoni was to be played by Johnny Depp, and Vanessa Paradis would have been his love interest. Other actors who were to appear in the film included Miranda Richardson, Christopher Eccleston, Bill Paterson, Rossy de Palma, Jonathan Pryce, Ian Holm, Eva Basteiro-Bertoli, Peter Vaughan, and Sally Phillips.[22]

Filming and cancellation[edit]

With Nicola Pecorini as director of photography, shooting started in September 2000. The first location shoot was at Bardenas Reales, a scenic, barren area north of Madrid, Spain, near a military base. Military fighter jets flew overhead repeatedly, ruining the audio recording and mandating a later re-dubbing in post-production. A flash flood on the second day of filming washed away equipment and changed the color of the barren cliffs, making the previous filming unusable. Rochefort, an able horseman, attempted to ride and act, but was obviously wincing in pain, and required assistance dismounting and walking. He then flew to his doctor in Paris, where he was diagnosed with a double herniated disc. For several days the crew attempted to shoot scenes that did not involve Rochefort – including a scene with Depp at Monasterio de Piedra – but as time passed, it became apparent that Rochefort would not be able to return. Gilliam decided this was a fatal wound to his project: he had spent two years casting the role of Don Quixote, and Rochefort had then spent seven months learning the English language for the part. The production was finally cancelled in November 2000, and the only result that was ever officially released was included in the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha, a film that chronicles the attempts to make this "film that didn't want to be made".

After the abandonment[edit]

After the production had been cancelled, an insurance claim was filed on behalf of the film's investors. US$15 million were reportedly paid, and the rights to the screenplay passed on to the insurance companies. Since 2003, rumors had occasionally claimed that Gilliam and his producers were lining up support to restart production. At the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, there was at last some conclusive news. After working with British producer Jeremy Thomas on Tideland, it was announced that Thomas was interested in getting the project up and running again. In July 2006, after nearly six years of legalities between the French producers and German insurers, the issue over the rights was settled. Terry Gilliam announced this at the Munich International Documentary Film Festival, saying that the production company was willing to give Gilliam the rights, and that Jeremy Thomas was still interested in producing. In August 2006, Gilliam indicated at a post-screening Q&A for Tideland that the complex legal case concerning the film's collapse was finally being wrapped up, and that the rights to the script would hopefully be given back to Gilliam and co-writer Grisoni in the near future.

Later attempts[edit]

In 2008, Gilliam restarted preliminary work on a new version of the film. The film will be reshot completely, and Rochefort's role has been recast. On The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos on 17 December 2009, Gilliam revealed that Robert Duvall would play the role of Don Quixote. Johnny Depp remained attached to the project.[23] Since Depp was signed for two Disney films, further production delays were suspected,[24] but commencement of shooting was scheduled for early 2010.[25] Whether the production timetable would have been maintained is unknown, because Depp stated that he would not make room in his tight schedule for Gilliam's film.[26] Depp even noted that he was not sure if he wanted to revisit the revived film project at all.[27] The film was to be produced by Jeremy Thomas for Recorded Picture Company. International sales would be handled by HanWay Films. On 17 May 2010, it was announced Ewan McGregor had been cast in the film.[28]


Gilliam entered main pre-production in 2009. After finally retrieving the rights to the screenplay, Gilliam and Grisoni started to rewrite the plot in January 2009 and hoped to be finished within a month.[29]

Variety reported on 5 September 2010 that Terry Gilliam had revealed funding had collapsed a month and half earlier and as a result shooting had not yet started. He stated that primary casting was finalised with Robert Duvall as the title character as well as Ewan McGregor being on board.[7]

In January 2014, Gilliam published on his Facebook page that "Dreams of Don Quixote have begun again. [...] Will we get the old bastard back on his horse this year?"[30] In an interview with Empire's website, Gilliam stated that production would start up again 29 September 2014 in the Canary Islands. Spanish producer Adrián Guerra was on board to fund the project. Gilliam said of Guerra, "He's really smart, loves movies. He's young enough to still love movies, but we've still got to cast it and get the money but other than that, that's the deal."[31][32] New concept art by Gilliam collaborator Dave Warren was also released.[33] In August 2014, in an interview with TheWrap, Gilliam revealed that he had received funding, and that the plot of the film has changed: "Our main character actually made a Don Quixote movie a lot earlier in his history, and the effect it had on many people wasn't very nice. Some people go mad, some people turn to drink, some people become whores."[34] In September 2014, actor John Hurt confirmed he'd become attached to the film as the titular role of Quixote, replacing Robert Duvall.[35]

In an interview with Rolling Stone promoting The Zero Theorem, he said that making the film next "[...] is my plan, but plans have nothing to do with reality. We shall see what happens. I really can't say anything at the moment, because there's been a little hiccup — once again. The Sisyphean rock that keeps rolling back. Just as we almost get to the top of the mountain... We'll see what happens. I'm not a happy camper at the moment." When asked why he continues to attempt making the film, Gilliam said, "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. [...] I've wasted how many years? Fifteen? Yeah, there's a certain point. It's kind of the determination to be crazy and unreasonable. Every intelligent person around me says, 'Walk away from it.' But those are reasonable people."[36]

On 9 June 2015, it was announced that Amazon Studios would release the film theatrically, followed by a streaming Amazon début. Gilliam said of the deal, "I'm intrigued by their way of doing it. They go into the cinemas first and then a month or two afterwards they go into streaming. And I think that's good because you get a chance to see it on the big screen, and yet I know that more people have seen my films on DVD than they have in the cinemas and that's the reality of life now."[37] In September 2015, it was reported that the film's production was being suspended again, due to Hurt being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer shortly before filming.[8]

Current production[edit]

In 2016, Gilliam announced during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival that it was planned to start shooting in October 2016, with Palin as Quixote, Adam Driver as Grisoni, and Olga Kurylenko as the female lead.[38][39] The new version would be set in modern day, with Grisoni as a director shooting a commercial and coming across a copy of his old student film, a re-telling of the famous Don Quixote story, which leads him back to the little Spanish village where he shot it back in the days, only to get embroiled in a series of adventures and catastrophes. However, in October 2016, it was announced that the production was delayed yet again, as producer Paulo Branco was unable to secure funds; Gilliam however still intends to make the film, stating, "I will be dead before the film is."[40]

On 2 October 2016, it was announced that production was delayed again because Branco could not deliver the necessary funds for the project on time.[40] In March 2017, the project finally began filming.[11]


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