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Quint chats with Terry Gilliam about his goofy short film THE LEGEND OF HALLOWDEGA and the current status of QUIXOTE!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a brief chat with one Mr. Terry Gilliam. To paraphrase one Mr. Winston Zedmore, when someone asks if you want to talk to a God you say yes. The circumstances for the talk weren’t as interesting as my last conversation with the man (read the very long and very frank discussion from Comic-Con 2009 here), but I’m such a gonzo fan of his that when I got the call to chat with him via phone for a short film he did about Nascar of all things, I of course said yes. I only got 10 minutes with him, but we talk about the short film, titled The Legend of Hallowdega, his working relationship with David Arquette (who shows up in the short and brings a Gary Busey sized amount of crazy with him) and where he’s at with Don Quixote. If you would like to check out his short (and if you’re reading this I’d imagine you would) you can check it out at this website! Hope you guys enjoy the chat. When you get to the end look for a link to the short film itself! Enjoy!

Quint: Hey, how’s it going sir?

Terry Gilliam: How are you? (Laughs) Fine, I’m fine.

Quint: I’m doing very well. I got to check out the short. You and NASCAR don’t seem to be the most obvious combination. I love that they brought you in to do this crazy thing. It seems like they gave you a lot of freedom, especially when David Arquette shows up things get really bizarre.

Terry Gilliam: I think the new patrons of the arts are corporations and when Pepsi said “We want you to make a little film, you’ve got complete freedom.” That’s it. It’s not a commercial, so I was thinking it was kind of like the new meta che and I’m either the new Michelangelo or Leonardo or this is how low things have sunk. (laughs)

Quint: But it must be great. When you do something as big as a film, you’ve got a lot of people to answer to; there are so many people that want to have a say and if they gave you complete freedom, that must have been extremely attractive.

Terry Gilliam: It was actually just something fun to do on a week that I had nothing else to do, that’s what it was really about. It was about playing. Again, I’m just trying spell out it’s not a big film that requires all of the production, the pre-production, and the planning. This is just something we kind of through together quickly, had a good laugh and had a great time. What was most fun was working with David and Justin who were… And it’s the same thing, they just came down to play and that’s what we did. It was almost like… I wouldn’t say it’s Python, but it was the same kind of light free fun.

Quint: And I think that shows through, it really does. At the beginning, I’ve got to be honest, they were like “Here’s this short that Terry Gilliam directed about NASCAR.” I’m like “Oh… okay.” It really won me over the second that David Arquette showed up and I’m like “Okay, I get what you guys are doing now.” It really is just kind of this loose, as you said, very laid back fun.

Terry Gilliam: Yeah, it’s not going to change history. It’s not going to make society better, it’s just having some fun and for me also it was just shooting very fast with a really good crew of people. We just handheld the whole thing and this is so unlike the way I normally work and that for me was one of the things that interested me because I couldn’t spend the time on all of the things I normally spend time on. We would just grab things and to be honest it really loosened me up a lot, possibly for the future even.

Quint: Can you talk a little bit about working with David specifically? That dude goes into some crazy places there. He’s a little OUTER LIMITS in that character and it’s really fun.

Terry Gilliam: That was the thing. Literally I had never met David before; I had talked to him once on the phone and he was a big fan of TIME BANDITS among my other things and I just said “Just come on down, we will just play.” That’s what happened, he got down there, we met the evening before we started shooting, talked a bit, got the costume sorted out thanks to the guy who was doing the tattoos, he was wearing the trousers that David had ultimately in the film and those were better than the costumes that were given to David. (Laughs) Everything was ad hoc and then to focus David’s mind on this weird character, I gave him a lot of references of arcane symbolism of Robert Flood, who was an alchemist and said “Look at all of this stuff.” And then he had this waistcoat that he then spent the entire evening and night drawing all of these abstract symbols all over it. It’s a piece of art now which he made and which was kind of his training for the character.

Quint: And something else that I really liked about the short though was kind of the red herring where I love that there were ghosts, but that wasn’t what was causing the accidents. Do you know what I mean? It’s like I love that there was all of this time spent trying the find the ghosts and they are there, but they are really not doing anything.

Terry Gilliam: It’s such a silly joke… It’s actually just a shaggy dog story, really. It has a very silly ending to it. (Laughs) Even the sound guys were having fun, because when the car gives the final moment… We don’t want to give anything away yet, the car does its final flop, there’s the sound of the pipe and foot.

Quint: Nice!

Terry Gilliam: Another funny thing is one of the first characters that comes on, a local, he’s the guy who’s in a business suit and he’s with the little cars on his mantle piece. “There’s nothing like Nascar.” The guys working on this thing, because they all seem to be fans... Ken Shabby is the character that I think Michael Palin played in Python. I changed the spelling, if you look at it, it’s “Kenneth Shabeigh.” It’s just for Python fans, there are bits and pieces.

Quint: Nice! Another thing that caught my eye a little bit was… You are very well-known for casting really interesting people and I loved seeing all of the faces discussing the ghost stories.

Terry Gilliam: That’s the thing, some of them are real drivers who are in real races and others are actors and others are real local people that we picked up. The (person) who is talking about how she’s half Indian she says, that’s a lady that was just in a little country restaurant we found. The two guys at the beginning who are sitting in the chair and they say “You want use of this moonshine?” Those are real guys who were just there.

Quint: (Laughs) Yeah, it felt like it. They were either the real guys or the best actors I’ve ever seen.

Terry Gilliam: Those are real guys and they are great! They are just wonderful. So I think for me, I think the most important thing was being able to spend time in Alabama and meet all of the people down there and I really liked them. They come with a rather bad reputation of being dumb and blah blah blah and a bunch of rednecks. That’s not what I found. I just found great people.

Quint: Yeah, well you know it kind of reminds be just a little bit of seventies filmmaking. You have movies like DELIVERANCE where they have the real people and that felt like a little bit more redneck-scary, but then the other side is like Spielberg and JAWS and casting so many of the Martha’s Vineyard locals as Amity townsfolk and that really does give an identity I think to things and I could feel a little bit of that.

Terry Gilliam: It’s like the guy who is Ken Shabeigh is actually the manager of the hotel we were staying in. (laughs) And there were a lot of guys that were playing ghosts who were waiters in the same hotel. Everybody just wanted to come and play and that’s what we did.

Quint: That’s great. Do you think that you will do more of this kind of stuff in the future? It sounds like you had a fun time.

Terry Gilliam: It’s not where my main attention is. This happened to come at a right moment where there was a gap and I was depressed and I wanted to do something different, just to shake myself up. This came at just the right time and it’s perked me up to no end.

Quint: Excellent, so what are you onto now? Are you still chugging away at QUIXOTE?

Terry Gilliam: Of course, QUIXOTE is the main thing and we are trying to put the other leg back on the horse, the one that fell off! That’s one reason I’m in LA right now, meeting a lot with people just to get the thing back and running. In fact I just saw Robert Duvall two nights ago, we had drinks and he’s as excited as can be. It’s nice. It’s nice when you’ve got people who are so committed to this project.

Quint: I talked to Robert for GET LOW. I was pretty nervous, but he seemed like the coolest, most down to earth dude.

Terry Gilliam: And he’s a truly great actor. I had never seen him put a foot down wrong, really. He even takes little nothing parts and makes them interesting somehow and his best work is pretty hard to top by anybody.

Quint: Absolutely. Well, good luck on the film and I speak for a bunch of fans of yours that we can’t wait for you to finally get it up and going. Thanks for taking the time.

Terry Gilliam: We’re in California panning for gold right now.

Quint: (Laughs) Well, we hope you strike a deep vein.

Terry Gilliam: Lovely!

Quint: Have a good day, sir.

Terry Gilliam: Thank you.

Quint: Bye.

Hope you guys enjoyed the chat and the short! Again, if you want to see this short film, The Legend of Hallowdega, you can watch the whole thing at the official website here! -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 8, 2010, 2:12 a.m. CST


    by macheesmo3

    Thats so damn nutty it just might work!

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 2:17 a.m. CST

    It's NASCAR, not Nascar

    by critter42c

    Just like it's NASA not Nasa.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 2:17 a.m. CST


    by Chocolate_Giddyup

    Thank you.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 2:40 a.m. CST

    It's BUTTHEAD, not Butthead

    by Rocco Curioso

    I watched BTTF 2 last night on TV. Thomas Wilson *owns* that movie.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 2:58 a.m. CST

    meta che

    by paynoattentiontothemanbehindthecurtain

    hey quint, i think gilliam was referring to the (in)famous Medici family, patrons to both leonardo and michelangelo.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 3:58 a.m. CST

    Gilliam, one of the few really greats

    by AsimovLives

    When your worst movie, by far, is THE BROTHERS GRIMM, then something is very right in your talent as a filmmaker.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:01 a.m. CST

    Gilliam is Stupid and Poor.

    by onezeroone

    Stupid to not give in to studio demands and make dollops of money, and as a result of that, poor. Thus making him a perfect fit for NASCAR.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:02 a.m. CST

    "It's NASCAR, not Nascar"

    by AsimovLives

    Who cares?

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:03 a.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    I hope that was sarcasm.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:04 a.m. CST

    The man is cursed!

    by John_McClanes_Vest

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:21 a.m. CST

    I'm surprised people would work with Gilliam

    by lochkray

    Not due to any lack of talent. His movies just have a history of falling apart around him as he makes them - and for no other reason that bad luck. He's like some kind of cursed tiki of the movie making world. Otherwise a great, visionary, director. Fisher King is one of my all time favorite movies. And Tideland was absolutely the most black of black comedies. That flick is simultaniously horrific and hillarious like no other I can think of. Shame it bombed.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:31 a.m. CST

    David Arquette was good and crazy in Riding The Bullet.

    by V'Shael

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:44 a.m. CST

    Check this out; Terry Gilliam Presents 1884 animation test

    by tastic1

    Check this unusual little animation test by Gilliam..

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:50 a.m. CST

    IMAGINARIUM does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    Terry Gilliam is a legend, but I'm sure there's not a soul on earth who'd say his 'newer' stuff is as good as his 'older' stuff.<p> I watched THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR PARNASSUS for the first time last week in fact and enjoyed it - but in more of a 3 stars out of 5 kinda way.<p> I'd recommend it to fans because it's unmistakably a 'Gilliam' movie and is more fun than the rather grim BROTHERS GRIMM. It's also interesting to see some of the visuals Gilliam can put on screen with CGI - although wish he'd been given more money to work with, the lack of budget does hurt PARNASSUS which is a movie that dares to dream big but doesnt quite have the funds to realize it.<p> Heath Ledger is on cracking good form in it but the other male lead, a young british actor who's name I dont know didn't impress half as much. The stand in actors (Depp, Law and Farrel) fit in nicely too within the context of the story.<p> So IMAGINARIUM gets a solid recommendation to Gilliam fans but only a lukewarm one to others.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 4:59 a.m. CST

    Cobra Kai

    by jackalcack

    I'm pretty sure the other male lead you're talking about is Andrew Garfield from The Social Network and soon to be Spiderman.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 5:01 a.m. CST

    Duvall and McGregor better have life insurance

    by ricarleite2

    Terry Gilliam isn't the luckiest man on Earth, you know.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 5:20 a.m. CST

    "Extra cheese? Who do take me for? Lorenzo De Medici?"

    by UGG

    Gilliam is one of my favourites. He needs to adapt a Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, his humor and dirty, grimy style would be perfect. In fact Gilliam should be attached to all the upcoming possible epics, like Dune, and Akira, or an Alien prequal, give him a chance with something people will actually watch.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 5:30 a.m. CST

    Pepsi are funding this?

    by Flibbertygibbet

    It's interesting where advertising's going these days. All about making the target market respond to the brand essence and values, rather than sticking a logo in their face. Plus, if you get a return on your investment, you may actually end up in profit - Marketing that pays for itself. eh

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 6:19 a.m. CST


    by Darth Busey

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 6:19 a.m. CST


    by Darth Busey

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 6:20 a.m. CST


    by Darth Busey

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 6:32 a.m. CST

    i hated imaginarium


    i wanted to like it, and i understand the reworks that had to be done after ledger's death, but i have never been so bored and annoyed by a 'strange fantasy' movie.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 6:35 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    jackalcack, yep. I'm not saying the guy's a bad actor but his particular character in this movie is a 'whiney cockney'. Characters who spend most of their time whining are never very appealing... plus he's upstaged by Heath in every scene they're together.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 6:38 a.m. CST

    Gilliam is a lot like Welles...

    by Daytripper69

    ... in the sense that he needs restraining sometimes, otherwise, like steamship without any bolts to hold it together, the whole damn thing blows apart. The short that we just saw seems to me to be his most coherent storytelling in recent years, and yet he managed to retain his "Gilliam-ness" with the David Arquette character.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 6:39 a.m. CST

    And I like the little touches like the "Brazil" reference

    by Daytripper69

    Tuttle, not Buttle.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 8:18 a.m. CST

    Cobra--Kai, he's hardly cockney

    by DrRumpledink

    more like a middle class school boy. I thought he was great in it. It's a movie that gets better each viewing. Tom Waits alone is worth the price of admission.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 8:23 a.m. CST

    meta che..

    by thx185

    Medici, surely..

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 8:57 a.m. CST

    Eat up Martha

    by Joely_Boy

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 10:14 a.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    Agree with you about TIDELAND. Certainly that movie is not for the faint of heart.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 10:36 a.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    BRAZIL and 12 MONKEYS needs that cold cinematography to tell it's tale effectively. there's more to cinematography then just posting a bunch of postcard style images. There's more then one kind of pretty cinematography. The warmer type of cinematography in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, as you called it, does go in tune to that movie's tale and it's mood. Cinematography is not like in those Michael Bay piece of shit movies, where it's always the same, regardless of the story and setting.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 10:37 a.m. CST

    William_Faulkner —

    by blakindigo

    Gotta disagree. There is plenty of colour design contrasts in "Brazil". Compare Sam's dreams and the stylized colour to the dreary reality that he lives in — they are radically different.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 2:25 p.m. CST

    Snooty hipsters find it easy to hate on NASCAR.

    by BanditDarville

    People should actually go to a race before they completely dismiss it as just dumb rednecks watching guys drive in circles. It's actually fun, happy rednecks drinking all day and watching strategic driving at 200mph in a big oval. Hate all you want, I'll still go and enjoy myself.

  • Nov. 8, 2010, 3:06 p.m. CST


    by BadMrWonka

    This is why non-rednecks watch auto racing: <p>

  • Nov. 9, 2010, 4:09 a.m. CST

    A new Terry Gilliam animation project

    by tastic1

    Check out this TG puppet animation test... =iMuirCKzYEU