Uncompromising. Wild. Notorious. These are all words that could be applied filmmaker Terry Gilliam. He's a mad artist, Monty Python member, American ex-patriot, and outspoken social critic who has directed iconic films like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, celebrated hits like Twelve Monkeys, Time Bandits, and The Fisher King. Then of course there were the flops and the reviled, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Brothers Grimm, and Tideland. His fans--us included--love him for the whole of his trials and triumphs.
Gilliam's films are often challenging, frequently underfunded, but always fascinating. His latest is The Zero Theorem, a dystopian drama that stars Christoph Waltz as a computer hacker desperately searching for meaning in a world run by merciless corporations.
This week I had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Terry Gilliam, who is only allowed in the U.S. for 30 days a year (more on that later). Over the course of ten minutes, we discussed The Zero Theorem, its ties to his past dystopian epics, how he sees the U.S. and his own legacy, what he has coming up, and what he believes the new world religion really is. You can watch the entirety of the interview below. We've also broken out his most interesting quotes:
Gilliam believes superheroes are the new deities. In The Zero Theorem, there's a religious sect called The Church of Batman The Redeemer. It makes for a great visual gag, but Gilliam admits this is more a comment on our modern obsession with superheroes, which he believes is on the level of devotion. "As I was walking in New York yesterday on the way to another interview," he told me, "There on the streets were all these comic book covers and images for sale. It's taken over. I mean the Church is a dying thing. But comics and Marvel are everything now, aren't they? Don't they have all the answers to our lives? Aren' they the figures that we want to copy and be like and aspire to? Don't they relieve us when we're in trouble?...I like Batman. But you don't want to believe in him!"
He went on to cite the intense fandom of Comic Cons and cosplayers, saying "This is madness! It's fun for about two seconds, but when it takes over your life: look out!"
No more superhero movies for Terry Gilliam. Considering his admitted love of Batman, I asked Gilliam if he'd ever consider making a superhero movie of his own. Of course fans will remember he had sought to transform Watchmen into a movie, which eventually was made instead by Zack Snyder. But Gilliam won't be looking to reboot or carve out some corner of Marvel. He admitted, "No, I don't think (I) can now. They like hiring directors who are more amenable." (Emphasis his.)