What you may need to know
1. Look up the term “development hell” and Terry Gilliam‘s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will be at the top of the list. The former Python’s adaptation of the influential 17th century novel Don Quixote looks to be finally complete, 20 years and countless delays, setbacks, bad-luck runs and downright curses later.
2. Along the way Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor and, er, Jack O’Connell have been attached to star, as have Michael Palin, Robert Duvall and John Hurt. As you can see from the international poster (above), the director’s eventual good luck charms are Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce.
3. The novel’s plot follows the adventures of nobleman Alonso Quixano, whose obsession with literary romance leads him to set out on a surreal adventure bringing justice and chivalry to the world, with farmer Sancho Panza at his side.
4. Rather than a straight retelling of the story, the film is about an eldery man in the modern era (Pryce) who becomes convinced he is Don Quixote, who mistakes a young advertising exec for the character of Panza. The pair embark on a bizarre journey which may or may not involve time travel between the 21st and 17th century, with the pair becoming “consumed by the illusory world, unable to determine dreams from reality.”
5. As if the film itself wasn’t meta enough, Gilliam’s noble failure originally led to the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha, which contrasted Quixano’s adventures with Gilliam’s own mythical quest.
6. It sounds a little bit like Michael Winterbottom’s excellent A Cock & Bull Story (2005), a similarly surreal and metafictional adaptation of The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which starred Steve Coogan as Steve Coogan…as Tristram Shandy.
7. The somewhat ramshackle trailer (possibly intentional) features lots of Gilliam-esque production design, and Driver and Pryce look to be having the time of their lives. He’s a director whose films don’t really exist on a spectrum of good to bad like others, more a spectrum of weirdness. How ready for that you are will dictate whether the film is successful.
8. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is expected to premiere at Cannes next month.
Verdict: Gillers never Quix