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Terry Gilliam is not dead yet, regardless of what you may have read. At the same time, however, the filmmaker has continued to have trouble bringing life to his passion project. Gilliam has been trying to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote for, literally, decades, and now it looks like he’s going to have to delay it again, as one of his leads can’t be insured.
The current iteration of Gilliam’s windmill tilting epic is set to star Jack O’Connell and John Hurt. However, Hurt was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While the actor’s prognosis is actually quite good, the larger issue, according to The Times, is that there’s no insurance company in the world that will cover a 75 year old man with pancreatic cancer. Hurt says that Gilliam is "optimistic" about starting to film soon, although it’s unclear if the optimism comes from an actual belief they’ll be able to get Hurt insured or if it’s more the positive thinking of a man at his wits end.
Illness is not new to Gilliam’s attempt to make this film. On the first go round, when Johnny Depp was on board to play Sancho Panza, actor Jean Rochefort, was injured. It’s exceptionally difficult to sit atop a horse with a herniated disc, and eventually he just could not continue. That was far from the only issue, though, as that production also suffered through floods, hail storms that damaged equipment, and NATO aircraft that flew over the location messing with the audio. The failed attempt to make the film was epic that they were able to turn it into a documentary, Lost in La Mancha.
Gilliam returned for a second attempt to make the film, this time with Ewan McGregor in the role that would have been Depp’s, (Colin Farrell turned it down, which also caused a fair share of problems) and also included Robert Duvall. That film fell apart due to a lack of funding. Gilliam was ready to give the film a third try, with Jack O’Connell as his lead, and John Hurt in the role that was previously Duvall’s.
It’s terrible that John Hurt has cancer, and regardless of how positive the outlook may be, that is unfortunate. If it weren’t for the depressing disease, and the fact that many movie fans really want to see The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, this entire thing would be comical. It would be fantastic fodder for a movie if they hadn’t already made one. You also get the distinct impression that if somebody tried to make a dramatic film about Gilliam’s attempts to make Don Quixote then that film would end up getting delayed and cancelled, just because fate decided that’s just what’s going to happen.
We wish John Hurt the best; we hope Terry Gilliam hasn’t hurt himself beating his head against the wall; and, finally, we hope that if the movie is ever finished, it was worth the wait.