Terry Gilliam - Biography - IMDb
Terry Gilliam Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trade Mark (14)  | Trivia (34)  | Personal Quotes (75)

Overview (4)

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Birth NameTerence Vance Gilliam
Nickname Captain Chaos
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Terry Gilliam was born near Medicine Lake, Minnesota. When he was 12 his family moved to Los Angeles where he became a fan of MAD magazine. In his early twenties he was often stopped by the police who suspected him of being a drug addict and Gilliam had to explain that he worked in advertising. In the political turmoil in the 60's, Gilliam feared he would become a terrorist and decided to leave the USA. He moved to England and landed a job on the children's television show Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967) as an animator. There he met meet his future collaborators in Monty Python: Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Michael Palin. In 2006 he renounced his American citizenship.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: BomberX

Family (3)

Spouse Maggie Weston (October 1973 - present)  (3 children)
Children Amy Gilliam
Holly Gilliam
Harry Gilliam
Parents Vance, Beatriz
Gilliam, James Hall

Trade Mark (14)

Was first known for the bizarre animation sequences in Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) using cutout pictures and photographs.
Heroes in his films often dream of a woman who they have not yet met, but will meet during the course of the film. In the dream, the woman's face is obscured.
Often features people/animals bursting through walls or ceilings
Often begins and ends his films with the same shot
Heavy use of wide angle lenses
[Television monitors] They were in Brazil (1985), 12 Monkeys (1995), The Fisher King (1991), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and Time Bandits (1981).
Dutch tilt shots
Films often have a tragicomic ending
Use of magical realism
His films often have bitter sweet endings.
His films often mix exaggerated comedy with heartfelt drama.
Refrains from including R rated language in his movies(regardless of the film's rating).
Longish bowl cut-style haircut during his Monty Python days

Trivia (34)

Founding editor of and principal contributor to campus humor magazine, "Fang", at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA in the early 1960s.
He started to direct "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" in 2001 (in Spain) with Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis and Jean Rochefort but the shooting was unfortunately stopped a couple of days after it started because of numerous factors including storms, lack of financing, and Jean Rochefort's health problems (he couldn't ride a horse any more). There is a documentary based on the struggle in production entitled "lost in la mancha".
During the filming of Brazil (1985) he became so stressed that he temporarily lost the use of his legs, which only returned to normal several weeks later.
Has taken British citizenship.
Father of Amy Gilliam (aka Amy Rainbow Gilliam), Holly Gilliam (aka Holly DuBois Gilliam) and Harry Gilliam (aka Harry Thunder Gilliam).
J.K. Rowling, creator of the "Harry Potter" book series, originally wanted Gilliam to direct Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001), but Warner Brothers studios wanted a more family friendly film and eventually settled for Chris Columbus.
Turned down the opportunity to direct Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Enemy Mine (1985), and Forrest Gump (1994) and Alien: Resurrection (1997).
Has been off and on to write and direct a movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's graphic novel "Watchmen." Gilliam has said he attempted to write an accurate screenplay but it would be unfilmable, but he would consider directing it if it were made into 10 or 12-part cable television series.
Was slated to direct an adaptation of the novel "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The project languished in development for three years before finally being abandoned.
Directed a series of TV ads for Nike in 2001. They were part of The Scorpion Knockout Campaign, which featured some of the best soccer players on the globe. That campaign went to win a Cannes award in 2002, in the category of Best TV Campaign.
Also turned down directing Braveheart (1995), when briefly solicited by Mel Gibson to direct an abandoned film version of Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities".
Member of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 54th Cannes International Film Festival in 2001.
Raised in Los Angeles.
He did not originally intend to cast Sean Connery as King Agamemnon in Time Bandits (1981), he merely wrote in the screenplay that when Agamemnon took off his helmet that he looked "exactly like Sean Connery." To Gilliam's surprise, the script found its way into Connery's hands and Connery subsequently expressed interest in doing the film.
Born in Minnesota, he is the only non-British member of the Monty Python comedy troupe
The Fisher King (1991) was the first film that he directed in which he was not involved in writing the screenplay.
He and John Cleese are the only members of 'Monty Python' to be nominated for Oscars. Coincidentally, they were both for Best Original Screenplay, Gilliam for Brazil (1985) and Cleese for A Fish Called Wanda (1988). Both screenplays did not win their Oscars, and both films featured Michael Palin.
Gave up his US citizenship in January 2006. [source: Haaretz interview, Feb. 2006].
Was offered the chance to direct Troy (2004). He stopped reading the script 5 pages in and declined the offer.
Is a fan of science fiction author Philip K. Dick.
Member of the comedy group "Monty Python" along with John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman. Gilliam also created the animations.
Four of his films are in the Criterion Collection - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Fisher King (1991), Brazil (1985), and Time Bandits (1981).
As of 2010, has directed three actors in Oscar-nominated roles; Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys (1995)), Robin Williams, and Mercedes Ruehl (The Fisher King (1991)). Ruehl won her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
As a result of renouncing his American citizenship, he is only permitted to spend 29 days a year in the United States, considerably less than the average U.K. Citizen.
Contributed animations and sketches to Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967); he did one of David Jason's head on a pig's body.
According to his memoir, Terry Jones actually wanted Gilliam to co-direct Life of Brian (1979) but he wasn't interested after facing some tension with the Monty Python group (apparently they wouldn't take his directions as seriously as actors he worked with after, and said he got a different experience on Jabberwocky (1977)), so he was brought on as production designer instead.
He was approached soon after the release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) to make a movie involving Beatles songs called 'All This and World War 3', but he turned it down and pitched Jabberwocky (1977) instead.
Retrospective at the 11th New Horizons Film Festival (2011).
Due to his long history of bad luck with productions, The Onion once joked that, if he were to throw a barbecue, it would be beset with production delays.
Because of his work with "cut out" animation for the Monty Python series, Gilliam often frustrated and angered his fellow Pythons on the sets of movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and Life of Brian (1979); he would often demand very precise placement of actors in a scene, as if he was shooting an animation sequence with paper cut outs.
Gilliam has co-written and directed 2 films not based on previous source material (Time Bandits (1981) and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) ).
Gilliam has directed 6 feature film literary adaptations (Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Jabberwocky (1977), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Tideland (2005) and The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018) ) with different degrees of freedom and parody. Or 7 if Brazil (1985) is considered an adaptation/parody of "1984".
Gilliam has directed 1 remake (12 Monkeys (1995) is a remake of La Jetée (1962), (or 2 if Brazil (1985) is considered as a remake of 1984 (1956).
Gilliam has directed 3 original screenplays from other writers (The Fisher King (1991),The Brothers Grimm (2005), and The Zero Theorem (2013).

Personal Quotes (75)

There's a side of me that always fell for manic things, frenzied, cartoony performances. I always liked sideshows, freakshows. Jerry Lewis was a freakshow...Absolutely grotesque, awful, tasteless. I like things to be tasteless.
People in Hollywood are not showmen, they're maintenance men, pandering to what they think their audiences want.
To be deemed to be OK, to be part of the culture, that's the kiss of death. When I'm pushing against something it helps me define what I believe. I've always been led to see what's beyond, what's round the corner. The world tries to say that this is what it is, and don't go any further, because out there are monsters. But I want to see what they are. So when I talk about the others in the group not having done more, that's because I really admire them, and I get angry when I see those with extraordinary talents not using them.
I am getting tired of these fights [with backers.] Each time you get into a fight the world closes in a bit. You start losing an innocence, a belief that everything is possible. Terry Jones thinks I'm belligerent and egotistical, and that I've got to get into a fight to keep me going. It does keep me awake. But I limit it to the fights that are worth it nowadays.
All I do is hunt. I want to be thrilled. And I'm not being thrilled at the moment. So I'm being old and bitter and curmudgeonly, because I want sensory buzz and I'm not getting it!
I think I've got a certain talent and I don't know how to defend it. So I end up defending it more vociferously than it may need, but I always feel under threat. It's a basic in-built paranoia. When people start interfering, I go a little bit crazy.
Hollywood is run by small-minded people who like chopping the legs off creative people. All they want to do is say no.
I do want to say things in these films. I want audiences to come out with shards stuck in them. I don't care if people love my films or walk out, as long as they have a strong response.
My problem is I'm like a junkie. I want a good movie fix, and I never get that fix. I want to be taken into some place, some world, some idea that I haven't thought of or imagined. And it doesn't happen.
It happens with every film. There comes a part where the money and the creative elements all come crashing together. Everybody's under a lot of pressure, and everybody is panicking about what works and what doesn't. And the studios and the money always have one perspective and the creative people have another one, and usually what happens is a lot of compromises get made.
(on future use of CGI in his films) "Nooo! Leave that to George Lucas, he' s really mastered the CGI acting. That scares me! I hate it! Everybody is so pleased and excited by it. Animation is animation. Animation is great. But it's when you're now taking what should be films full of people, living thinking, breathing, flawed creatures and you're controlling every moment of that, it's just death to me. It's death to cinema, I can't watch those Star Wars films, they're dead things."
Whether I like it or not, or whether anybody else does, when I start a film I have a few ideas. And as you're getting into it, you think, 'Ooh, there's another idea,' and you're shooting some more and, 'Oh, here's another thing. Let's do that.' I'm always changing and adding. That's just the way my mind works.
Everybody has their opinion and some people are wrong. One of the things I enjoy about my films is that children really love them. They are open-minded. As we get older we seem to close in. We limit the size of the world we limit everything about it. We have to break that shell open sometimes and (The Brothers Grimm) is just a desperate attempt to do so.
"My main concern is to protect the film, and sometimes even I can get in the way of the film. If I'm causing a problem for the ultimate film, then I've got to be stopped, and I tell this to everybody who works with me. They find it hard to believe, but they finally do say, 'Terry, you can't do it.'
I think there's a side of me that's trying to compete with Lucas and Spielberg - I don't usually admit this publicly - because I tend to think that they only go so far, and their view of the world is rather simplistic. What I want to do is take whatever cinema is considered normal or successful at a particular time and play around with it - to use it as a way of luring audiences in.
The more successful I get, the more the onus of having to get it right wants to settle on my shoulders alone, but I just hate that, I freeze up. I want everyone to share my responsibility, the guilt, and I'll shoulder the blame, because that's my job in the end.
It's hard for me to worry about the studios losing money. I'm not very sympathetic to their money problems, because they certainly haven't been sympathetic to mine.
In the end, people have to learn to live together. That is what I didn't like about America - it is so homogeneous. I like places where there are people who are different culturally, physically, in every way. And I like to see how they succeed in living together.
While filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009): We were devastated. We spent the whole day - Amy Gilliam, Nicola Pecorini, the director of photography, and myself - lying flat on the floor. Heath Ledger's dead, and you don't quite get over that. I suppose I'm in an interesting position because while I'm cutting the film I'm basically working with him every day and he's fine; he's in good shape.

Ideas are floating around. Then finally we decided, 'OK, let's get three other people to take over the part'. And we were lucky because we have a magic mirror in this movie. Not every movie has a magic mirror. So you can very genuinely say that these other actors are different aspects of the character that Heath plays. And it works. The point was, we've got to keep going. It was a bit like half being there, but apparently on autopilot I can still do a few things.
Nobody went to see Tideland (2005)! I was hoping people would get angry about it but those that saw it didn't want to talk about it. This is the world we're living in, people don't want to discuss things that are actually worth discussing.
The reason why I don't watch as many as I used to is that I'm not surprised any more. I loved movies because they opened up doors into worlds I never imagined. It seldom happens now.
On his conflict with Universal over Brazil (1985): The first thing was that they wanted a happy ending. Then they decided that the theme of the film was 'love conquers all'. So they started cutting out all the fantasy stuff.

It's one thing to argue about whether you need that scene or whether it can be a bit shorter. It's another to say, 'Let's tell a different story'. And at that point I said, 'Whoa, it's time to go to war'.

The [Hollywood] studio's mentality is that Americans are stupid. They try to lower the standard as much as they can to reach what they think is this great dumb audience. And I have always resisted that and wanted to believe in the audience's intelligence. But if you keep feeding people baby food for long enough they begin to like it.
I won't be getting an Academy Award - I'll predict that - ever. And somehow, my life will be no less for that!
I've always liked gossip, gossip is fun, but whether you believe it or not is something else, and yet the web seems to want to believe. The web doesn't distinguish between what's playful and serious. And the speed! What is happening in the web, and all the tweeters tweeting, they become neurons. They are the neurons of the global village. Village is the right word because the village is where the gossip is taking place, it doesn't take place in the cities. A piece of information comes into that little neuron - whoop - and they've immediately got to pass it across the synaptic gap... a big leap into the next neuron... - [he makes a rocket sound] - Whoosh! And off it goes! Off it goes into the next neuron. We're watching the brain in action, worldwide. The brain is a very simple thing, and the web is the neural structure of our brains, I'm convinced of it.

... See, Hollywood was always like that. Agents have to be available 24 hours a day, because they are the neurons of the system and whatever information hits them, they're off to the next one with that information, there's no secrets in Hollywood... -- on the advancement of gossip on the web
I find that what I do is reactive, so if I'm living in London I'm angry most of the time about the state of the world. When I go to Italy I get all blissful. I've never done any creative work there except building stone walls. I just wander around looking at birds and leaves. It's peace. -- on his house in Italy
The first subversive thing I did was in junior high school, when I was "head of ground patrol" - in other words the local cop. There was a long corridor, and someone was running down it. I was talking to my friend and it was one of those moments, I just put my foot out and he tripped and went flying. I don't know why I did it. I think I didn't like the guy. There was something about the way he was running - I thought, what an asshole.
It depends who you talk to. If you talk to people who have worked with me, they'll say, he's the right guy to work with, he knows what he's doing, responsible... If you talk to Hollywood, they think catastrophes, disasters - he's a magnet for trouble.' If it's easy, I don't do it; if it's almost impossible, I'll have a go. -- on what others in the business say of him
I thought this one would be a piece of cake, to get 25 million with Heath Ledger on board (for 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus'). You would think that there's intelligent life in Hollywood. But then you discover that there's just fear. People are frightened of making decisions or even having - I hate to use the word "vision", but they lack all of that. Hollywood is run by Goldman Sachs and not by entrepreneurs or studio people. It's the bankers who look at the numbers, and Tideland, my previous film, made very little money, and Heath did even worse with a film called Candy. And that's what they look at. Somehow the whole place has been taken over by middle management, like the rest of the Western world. And bureaucracy has settled in very comfortably.
For me, the only reason to try and make my films successful is that it will be more likely that I'll get the next project off the ground.
(on finishing The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2011)): If you're going to play with Quixote you really got to play with Quixote. And those were windmills that came along. Those were giants, they killed us once but we're going to come back. Everybody says 'Oh, forget about it, put it in the past. Move on.' No, I won't because that all sounds so reasonable and I don't think films should be reasonable. The business we're in is about exciting people, stimulating people, doing things, changing them, outraging them -- it's not a reasonable business. Especially when you're spending the gross national product of a country to make a silly movie -- this is not reasonable.
(on Jeff Bridges) If it were up to me, I would cast Jeff in every movie I make. He is that good, such a joy to work with too. He has a large fan base as well, but these guys are real cult-fans, they are dedicated, but they don't run around screaming at premieres for "more Jeff Bridges!". The studios, they don't get this. They don't think he's bankable at all, but he is. It's frustrating, I think, but so very typical.
Cinemoi is the most important television channel in Britain.
My life is about waiting for money. My life isn't about filmmaking -- that's not what I do. It feels incidental to what I do, which is hunt for the money, cast movies and re-cast them and try to get projects going or stop them from falling apart. I spend my whole time repressing everything inside of me until I get the money to work, and then I just go. I'm on autopilot until I get the chance to go on a set.
[on current Hollywood blockbuster movies] You just sit there and watch the explosions. I couldn't tell you what the movie was about. The movie hammers the audience into submission. They are influenced by video games, but in video games at least you are immersed; in these movies you are left out. In films, there's so much overt fantasy now that I don't watch a lot because everything is possible now. There's no tension there. People can slide down the side of a building that's falling and they don't get ripped to shreds? The shots are amazing, but if there is no consequence, no gravity, what's the point? I can't watch Hollywood movies anymore. There's no room for me.
[on filmmaking]: So we create a world that isn't true to a realistic naturalistic world, but is truthful.
[on voting as a member of AMPAS] I just vote for my friends, or do it whimsically, or out of spite in some cases.
[on Robin Williams] When the gods gift you with the type of talent Robin had, there's a price to pay, there always is - it doesn't come from nothing, It comes from... probably deep problems inside, a concern, all sorts of fears, and yet he could always channel those things and turn them into something gold. I think that just comes with the territory, frankly.
[tweeted when Variety accidentally published his obituary] I APOLOGIZE FOR BEING DEAD, especially to those who have already bought tickets to my upcoming talks.
Necessity might be the mother of invention, but restriction is the mother of efficiency.
I had a scholarship to Occidental College, which is heavily funded by the Presbyterian Church.... I was head of the youth group at the local church, I would go to summer camps and my best friends were the minister's sons. But, in the end, I couldn't stand the fact that nobody felt able to laugh at God. Hold on a minute, I said, what kind of God is this that can't take my feeble jokes? It was the sanctimoniousness and, ultimately, the narrow-mindedness of people who were protecting this deity that I never thought needed any protection. Their God was a much smaller God than I was thinking of - less powerful - and he needed them to protect him. I just got fed up with it because I thought: this is getting dull now and there's a whole world out there that's been off limits. That was when I was about seventeen.
This argument that we should be quiet and let them mutilate our work, that they're doing us a favor somehow, is what gets this angry Pavlovian response out of me. You get this same thing over and over. Every film we do, they say 'It's too British, it won't work.' If they hadn't been so consistently WRONG and we so consistently RIGHT, I wouldn't be so arrogant in my attitude.
Missing out on what turned out to be a famously disastrous opening ceremony [for the original Disneyland in 1955] ... was about the closest I ever came to real childhood trauma. That's what kills me; I've always wanted the scars, but I just don't have them. In fact, that's probably why I had to go into film-making - to acquire the deep emotional and spiritual wounds which my shockingly happy childhood had so callously denied me.
[1969; to Michael Palin who had run out of cigarettes and was rummaging everywhere for coins for the slot machine near his home] You're an addict. [petty arguing by Palin] Look at you, you need your fix! [after this incident, Palin quit smoking cold turkey]
[1974] Most of the graduates [of my college] become insurance salesmen. I studied political science, mainly because it's easier to major in than art.
[1974] Perhaps it's not possible [for two people to direct a film]. The difficulty in our case was that we're [himself and Terry Jones] two very similar people. We both operate on adrenaline, which doesn't make for coherent direction. It's like everybody running around with their heads chopped off. After the first couple of weeks of that, however, we subdued ourselves. I think if your abilities don't match up quite as well as Terry's and mine do, it wouldn't be possible to get through it. But we did, and we're still speaking to one another. But I think it would have been better if one had been the outgoing person and the other had been very quiet and introspective. But in fact both of us are large-type people. But you don't really direct Python. I think all we really did was organise a few things, like deciding that the camera ought to be pointing over there, or people ought to be wearing certain kinds of costumes - because Python directs itself really.
The first time I met them [Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones] was at Teddington studios. I remember walking into the bar after a recording of Do Not Adjust Your Set, and Eric was immediately friendly and nice, the first person I bumped into. There were these other two crouching back in a booth being unfriendly and they were Mike and Terry and that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. They were ultimately friendly enough but I really felt it was clear that they were quite territorial and there was this interloper in the big sheepskin coat that everybody talks about. I'd bought this coat in Turkey when I was hitchhiking around and it was fantastic, and I'd painted it. That was probably the thing. I'd done some work on it. This coat attracted Eric immediately because he knew he was seeing some major interesting person and the others were threatened by it, so there you go. But what's so funny is that in the end Mike, Terry and I became the closest of the group.
For better or worse what Disney always did with Grimm's fairy tales was fill them with really well-drawn characters. Unlike some of his later films, Disney's early tales were as frightening as they should be. Fairy tales should confront real fears. They're a part of growing up.
But, the fact was, people were nicer and there was a real sense of community. I always felt my childhood was full of communities which I abandoned because I felt trapped by them; now I wistfully long for them. Maybe making films is a way for me to work within a temporary community - where I'm the mayor!
My education was very straightforward, utterly normal. I did read a lot, but it was always casual and it came easy. So it was with movies. I never thought of them as anything I wanted to make.
I first saw Graham [Chapman] back in New York, in Cambridge Circus, but I didn't meet him then. I was in my typical monomaniacal approach to things, there was only one person in Cambridge Circus that counted, and that was John [Cleese] because he was the one we needed for this thing. And so then there was Graham somewhere, and I really don't remember the moment that Graham and I collided. That was the great thing about Graham, there was a sort of fluidity, he just floated in, he floated out, and so you could have met him anywhere at any time. Maybe I never met him! Maybe that's what happened. I never really felt I'd met Graham.
[on his childhood] It was a very simple existence in the country. Because we didn't have television, radio was our home entertainment. I just loved radio. I had to invent all the visuals in my head. I'd sit there and imagine the faces and costumes and sets. I actually think radio is the best training for a visual sensibility.
The first time I ever won a prize for art was in school. I must have been nine or ten. We had gone to the zoo and we came back and I was supposed to draw an animal from memory, and I cheated. I had a book in my lap with a picture of a bear, so I drew this really good picture of a bear and I got a box of crayons as my reward. So my art career began by cheating, which I think I've done ever since.
I started college as a physics major. Science and maths at that time were being pushed. Within a few weeks I realised that was a big mistake. Then I became an art major but I couldn't stand the art history professor, it bored me, I just wanted to get on and paint and draw and sculpt. So I quit that one and then became a political science major because it had the least number of required courses. So I could take oriental philosophy, I could take drama, and I basically got a very liberal education which I thought was more intelligent than everybody else, who were all becoming specific and focused. Earlier on in my junior year I wanted to be an architect, but that didn't last very long. I went to work in an architect's office one summer and just hated it. When I saw the way the architecture office worked and how the designs were constantly being compromised by the clients, I thought it was disgusting. This firm was a very successful one in LA and they were very good at bending over backwards to the demands of the clients rather than fighting for good designs. That's probably why they were successful, because they appeased. So I dropped that and then I didn't really know what I was going to do. After graduating everybody was going off to do what they wanted to do and I really didn't have a clue what I wanted to do.
I always drew. But, in terms of my being exposed to art, it was only through cartoons and comic books. I'd already started altering the world when I drew it, turning household appliances into extraterrestrials - Martians that looked like vacuum cleaners. That's what my mind was doing then, turning the extraordinary and alien into useful things around the house. I could always entertain people with my drawings. With cartoons you get immediate feedback. You draw something, people instantly go 'Wow!' You write something and it's never recognised as a special skill. People are always impressed that you can draw well and I enjoyed showing off all the time. It's nice to have people say, 'Aren't you talented! Clever boy.'
Even at an early age I was obsessed with knights and tales of chivalry. With my father's help we'd make great big wooden shields. I'd paint them with colourful heraldic designs. My friends and I would gather thick eucalyptus branches for swords, put five-gallon ice cream containers on our heads for helmets, and then go out and bash each other senseless.
To me college was wonderful. It was like being in this safe secure world where everybody's intelligent and you can start the jokes at a certain level already.
School was easy for me. In high school I concentrated on getting good grades, goofed around, played mediocre sports, but always totally focused, thinking that I had a pretty good picture of who I was and what I was doing. But I was invariably wrong. I was constantly surprised by the way the world saw me. One day, out of the blue, two girls - high-powered student politicos - showed up and said they'd like me to run for student body president. This was a total shock to me. I had no political ambitions or any idea that anybody thought that I was capable, much less electable. Their enthusiasm was hard to resist, so I said yes. Somehow I was elected and became student body president without a clue how to run a council meeting or behave with the necessary gravitas. It all seemed rather dreamlike. Then I was chosen king of the senior prom. That was an even greater surprise because it was a popularity contest and I had never striven for popularity. Somehow, by the time I graduated, I had been student body president, valedictorian, king of the senior prom, head cheerleader, a letter man in track - all with no understanding of how any of it came about. Most of my subsequent life has carried on in the same manner.
[on helping out at a circus for one day as a child] Back stage was not magical at all, it was utterly mundane - having got the tent up, I was able to wander around before the crowds arrived meeting the strangely shaped people who made their livings as freaks. Although they didn't look normal, they were behaving utterly and disappointingly boringly normally, sitting around playing cards, washing clothes, smoking, belly-aching about the weather - behaving just like the ordinary people I had to live with day in and day out. They were not at all the wondrous, bizarre, magical monsters painted on the front-of-house hoardings. I was confused, struggling to deal with my desperate desire for the exotic and my relief at discovering that humanity and normalcy are probably king. Ever since, I have been torn between wanting to fly high on the magic carpet of the extraordinary and, at the same time, trying to demystify it and drag it back down to dusty banality.
I remember riding on the subway with him [John Cleese] in New York [after meeting him there for the first time] and he used to do these weird things where suddenly his arm would float up above his head, just to see what people would do. He was performing publicly then. He was in many ways, I think, bolder then than when he became well known, because he was behaving strangely on subways just to see people's reactions, which he would never do now.
I was born on 22 November 1940 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but we soon moved to a small community in the country outside of Minneapolis called Medicine Lake. I'm a country boy basically. My childhood was a Tom Sawyer-esque existence.
I remember when Disneyland was built ... I was actually back East visiting my grandparents in Arkansas when the park opened - an event which glued me to the television. I was just fascinated by the idea of Disneyland, a real, solid, touchable fantasy world. It was my first chance to see a real castle. Of course it wasn't real - it was Disneyland! But when years later I came to Europe and saw real castles, I stayed. The Middle Ages have always interested me, especially when it comes to films. Like a Western, you have a very clear hierarchy and structure you can play within: kings, sheriffs; knights, cowboys; maidens, gals.
[on his childhood] Privately I was an incredibly selfish little bastard. I'm not sure if the others noticed. My mother still swears I was a perfect, polite, generous child with impeccable table manners.
They [his parents] basically provided whatever we needed. I never seemed to want anything. But our needs were simple. There was a real Christian morality surrounding the household. You didn't want to disappoint your parents, it was as simple as that. I always felt I was the favoured one, but perhaps that was my ego speaking. I was the first born of three. I was the brightest. I had the most talent.
I was head cheerleader in college, but I didn't wear a short little skirt or falsies. There were all the girls and then there were three guys and they were the leaders of this thing. The girls were just the backing group. I had been head cheerleader in high school as well, so I had this whole history of standing in front of this huge crowd of people at the football games, and leading the cheers. We didn't have pom poms or jiggle our tits, we did manly jumps in the air. In college I got into this whole thing of getting people to shout silly words - 'Give me a Cromety Silk' and they'd all say 'Cromety Silk'. And one day I said, 'Give me a fleck', and of course with me and my bad enunciation, thousands of people shout 'FUCK!' and that was a word you didn't use publicly in 1960. Everybody stopped and went 'What did he say?' and there was a gasp from the other side of the field.
I've always thought you can create more atmosphere with radio than with film or with any other form because it's all shadow, so it's all imagination on the listener's part. You are exercising your creative and imagination muscles when you listen to radio, which you don't have to do when you watch television. With TV it's all done for you, it's all served up. Just lay back and get dulled down and fat.
The church was also very big in my childhood. We were churchgoers - Lutherans in Minnesota and Presbyterians in LA. My grandfather was a Baptist minister and I went to college on a Presbyterian scholarship. At one point I was going to be a missionary. I was leader of the church youth group - a regular little zealot. Ultimately I became disenchanted because of the hypocrisy and pomposity of too many of the church-goers who didn't share my sense of humour about God. I said to them, 'What kind of God is this that you need to protect from my cheap jokes? If He can't take them, He certainly isn't worth worshipping.' There were two good things about my church days: first, and once again, the sense of community; and secondly, having to read the Bible - a seriously good book. My kids have been raised with no religion as such and I keep thinking it's a pity because the stories and poetry of the Bible are extraordinarily powerful and they don't know them. So I keep thinking maybe I've deprived my children of something very important. The sense of morality and responsibility I learned in church always rears its head in my films, that and the sense I get of feeling I'm serving a higher good when I commit myself to creating a film that has something to say to the world. Talk of pomposity!
[on the production history of The Zero Theorem (2013)] The famous Richard D. Zanuck, producer to the stars, took me out to lunch quite a bit and tried to get me to do it. I was intrigued by it because Pat Rushin, who wrote it, clearly had seen every film that I'd ever made (laughs) and I thought "well, he's written the compendium of Gilliam's films, this is easy, I know how to do that." There was a bit of that and then I thought, this could be fun. It didn't quite happen for a variety of reasons though. Billy Bob Thornton was going to be involved and we had a budget of $20 million and then, four years later, we do it for $8 and half million without him. (...) I haven't worked like that for 35 years. In a way, what happened was my quest for Quixote fell foul [Gilliam's project of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)] and the only thing that looked like a possibility was this film, "The Zero Theorem", because [producer] Nicolas Chartier of Voltage Pictures is as crazy as I am and he said "yeah, let's do it." (...) I mean, you just don't do that, especially since I hadn't been preparing it for a year in advance and so part of the fun was just, "can I do this? I'm an old fart now, but can I work like a young filmmaker? Can I work under these very difficult, stringent conditions and make a film that looks like a $25 million dollar film?" So that's what happened and I gathered together around me a handful of people. We went to Bucharest, I really liked the Romanians, they were great, the crew was very good and we worked our asses off and somehow did it. [2014]
I no longer want to be a white male, I don't want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world: I tell the world now I'm a black lesbian... My name is Loretta and I'm a BLT, a black lesbian in transition.
[why he turned down an Alien (1979) sequel] I got offered an "Alien" sequel because I was hot at that time, as a result of Time Bandits (1981) and The Fisher King (1991), and I just don't want to do films like that. They are factory jobs, working for a studio. My last factory job was on the Chevrolet assembly plant in Los Angeles, during my junior year of college, night shift on the line. Never again. [2018]
[asked who was the most balanced member of Monty Python] Mike, on the surface, would appear to be that person. But I've seen him hitting doors. I think Mike has probably got it. Eric is very together, but whether he's balanced I don't know. And Terry's Welsh, so there's no hope for him.
[on his fellow Monty Python members] As we get together now we like each other, so it's disastrous as far as good comedy. Because what was so important about the group was the tension between these six people who all, on one hand, really loved each other and hated each other at the same time, and the comedy came out of that. And now we're all floppy.
Mike [Palin] is everybody's best friend. There's something about Mike that becomes the cement that always kept us [Monty Python] together. He's the one that, no matter how much we hate the others at any given point, everybody likes.
And what I do works in all languages. [Michael Palin: Except English!]
MeToo is a witch-hunt. I really feel there were a lot of people, decent people, or mildly irritating people, who were getting hammered. That's wrong. I don't like mob mentality.
We're living in a time where there's always somebody responsible for your failures, and I don't like this. I want people to take responsibility and not just constantly point a finger at somebody else, saying, 'You've ruined my life.'

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