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Author Topic: The Zero Theorem : cheapest Gilliam movie ever ?
Bruttenholm Posted: 26-Nov-12 18:34
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From a lengthy romanian report (
) (roughly translated):
"We make this with less than half of the budget that was supposed to be four years ago. (...) It's a smaller budget than "Jaberwocky" or "Life of Brian" ... It's crazy. Given the subject matter, I think I'm going crazy. Every day is complicated."

I hope he's counting with the inflation...
Bruttenholm Posted: 30-Nov-12 09:08
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Another romanian interview :

btflysbaby Posted: 01-Dec-12 06:39
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can anyone translate
Bruttenholm Posted: 01-Dec-12 08:02
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I used google translate, it works quite well. I rearranged things a bit (keep in mind that I'm french, translating romanian to english using google) and the interview must go like that :

(Also I got quite mixed up in the first message -don't know how the hobbit poster went there -the inital report I wanted to point to is here :

We managed to talk a Sunday of November, after a few good hours of filming outside on Calea Victoriei [the Victory Avenue, one of the biggest avenue in Bucharest]. Extras in fancy raincoats, hats and umbrellas of all colors, a man carrying a sandwich board that reads "Batman Savior Church", electric cars from Renault Twizy, a vintage red convertible, a fire truck - plus all the crew, Terry Gilliam in boots, jeans and short leather coat, director of photography, producer, Gilliamís daughters and wife, several journalists (from France, Russia, Italy, arrived in Bucharest especially for this) and, eating a pretzel nearby, Christoph Waltz, with a red wool suit, overshoes, a conic hat and a tail made of electrical wires. The last shots in Calea Victoriei were filmed with such a deployment of colorful and cheerful elements that central Bucharest looked like a science fiction city of joy. After nearly six hours, the team moved on a street beside the Cişmigiu gardens, where they re-did a scene shot the day before. At lunchtime, Amy, Gilliam's eldest daughter, took her father's arm and told him that this was the best time for an interview. So I turned on the recorder right on the sidewalk, the noise of passing cars around us.

Journalist : Can we talk now ?

Gilliam : Yeah, right now, before everything starts to go crazy here. (laughs)

J :You said in an interview that The Zero Theorem was very influenced by Bucharest. In what way?

G :Voilŗ! (Show the patio across the street, where he will shoot the next scene.) Architecture especially. For example, I changed the Athenaeum [a concert hall in Bucharest] lobby in a place where a lot of people are working on computers. The script says that the action takes place in an ordinary company with many, many offices, but Athenaeum seemed more interesting so I created an entire set from the Athenaeum. Also, how the film shows the central server is influenced by something I saw in Calarasi [big romanian city and industrial center]. When I first got in Romania, they showed me all sorts of images of industrial landscapes, with huge factories in ruins from the Ceausescu era. The original plan was just to shoot in Calarasi, but some wise minds have said it would be better to build here a studio version of what we saw in Calarasi and do the rest with CGI. It was the best solution. Then we shot a party at Mincu house [house of the architect Ion Mincu, now open for visits], which, as you know, has a very particular architectural style. Actually, Architecture influenced everything. It's impossible to look at these wonderful places and not feel inspired to add something, to design a scene around them. When you spend a lot of time somewhere, that somewhere is starting to affect things, in one way or another. Bucharest has something that fascinates me, an odd collection of architecture, culture, influences, everyone seems to have passed through here, even Turks who wanted to go to Europe and said, "Hey, why not going through Romania? ". I find it strange that all the land that you have is not used properly. It's a little left behind, which is actually a good thing. Though the town of Victoria tries to catch up, with its chic shops and windows. Also I like it here, the people are nice, friendly, funny.

J : They smile more ...

G :Yes, they smile and then stab you in the back.

J : I promise you that I won't do that. Back to The Zero Theorem : itís a film whose action takes place in a dystopian world, right?

G : Quite the contrary. It's a utopian world, all its inhabitants are happy! Apart from one guy, theyíre all satisfied, wearing very colorful clothes. Qohen is the only one who is unhappy. He's depressed, his life goes down the drain, he has a boring job, and left some loved ones behind. He's the only man who is not connected, whereas a giant network binds all the others.

J : So it's the opposite of Brazil ...

G : In a way, yes. Theyíre all busy with iPhones and iPads. In fact, the scene that we re-shot now(I filmed it yesterday, but it was awful) is about that : Qohen sets fire to his church, dressed in a completely ridiculous suit, but no one sees it, because theyíve all their noses on their mobile screens or they have earphones. Theyíre all connected, but they donít see what's in front of them.

J : So The Zero Theorem is about us, because we already have all that stuff.

G : It's not even a futuristic movie, right? (laughs) Itís a documentary. We filmed a party where the guests come with their gadgets, a boy who was there took a picture of a couple dancing there ...

J : Who runs the world?

G : Well, who rules the world now? The system maintains itself. The Web did not exist a few years ago, it has grown in so short a time and itís like a giant brain. Everyone is "connected", some people are actually neurons, some others are only synaptic connections. But that's the situation now. When people connect, sometimes they seem to forget who they are. In fact, it's loneliness.

J : This is the first time you work with Christoph Waltz?

G : Yes, first and last. This man is a nuisance! (laughs) He canít act, barely speaks English ...

J : Did he do something that surprised or disturbed you?

G : All the time! All he does surprises me, heís uncontrollable. He's a complex, brilliant intelligence, a phenomenal actor. So the way he does things is always other than how I imagined it. Thatís whatís good with him. If it were to happen just the way I imagined it, why would I need actors ? The excellent actors are the ones who surprise you every day. Lucas Hedges, who plays Bob, said Christoph and me have a very symbiotic way to work together, which ultimately is very important because he is the main character, he's the movie.

J : You just turned 72. Arenít you bored to hear that youíre a rebel, hard to follow, still not at peace with the way things work today?

G : An "enfant terrible", yes ... I think this is problem with journalists Ė they put you in a box, stick a label on it that says rebel, troublemaker ... and it stays. As scientists of the eighteenth century, who caught a butterfly, gave it a name and put it in the insectarium. Honestly, I'm no rebel, no brawler, Iím rather a survivor. (laughs)

J : Youíre obsessed with Don Quixote, although the project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote seems increasingly unlikely.

G : Itís not true, Don Quixote is obsessed with me!

J : Well, what's his problem?

G : I donít know, but he wonít let me go. He's a seventeenth century stalker.

J : So you didnít give up the idea of making a movie about him?

G : Everyone is trying to make me give up the project. The problem is that if you want to do a film on Quixote, you must be like him.

J : Thatís right.

G : Yes, unfortunately (laughs). We'll see. Money is an increasingly delicate problem. It's also why weíre in Bucharest now. If you continue to have rates as low, they'll all come to you. Right now, Bucharest is the cheapest place in Europe with very good equipment. Talking about Quixote, maybe one day some people will give me the money I want for this project.

J : About how much money is it?

G : About 20 million dollars would make me happy. Do you know someone who has money? (laughs)

J : Not really ... Your characters have a habit of travelling in time. Where would you like to travel, or who you would like to be?

G : It's simple, I would like to be Buster Keaton.

J : Your movies are based on a fabulous power to imagine and create fictional worlds. Do you believe that your imagination is like a quarry ? Do you fear that your imagination could run dry at some point?

G : Yes, I think that it already happened last week. And, clearly, yesterday.
The truth is that it was an endless summer, a warm autumn and that winter will never come here. I was incredibly lucky. Instead of raining or snowing, the weather is OK, we can film just fine. Bucharest was very kind to us.

J : This summer, rumors surfaced that Johnny Depp could be part of the cast. Why didnít he finally come to Bucharest?

G : Heís still in Toronto filming The Lone Ranger. Those films shoot forever. Maybe next time ...

[Edited by Bruttenholm on 01-Dec-12 09:05]
Bruttenholm Posted: 01-Dec-12 09:07
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Also another romanian report :

with my approximate traduction :

Famous director, former Monty Python member and author of such films as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, is in MediaPro Studios to shoot his new, The Zero Theorem. Starring one of the hottest actors of the moment, Christoph Waltz.

The set of is a huge box of surprises. Saturday, at noon, during lunch break, when the crew is preparing the next shot, bizarre characters appear : a woman clothed with fluorescent green clothes, a dwarf with a broom in hand with a big knot on her head, a black woman with an umbrella, a hat and transparent raincoat, an old man dragging garbage bags sewn to his coat, a guy on a scooter, a firefighter, two ladies dressed with 70ís clothes and fancy makeup. We look at this circus, trying to imagine how the world looks in The Zero Theorem.

Now Christoph Waltz just arrived, in a red clown suit with a golden "Q" gold sewn on the chest. Waltz is Qohen Leth, an eccentric computer genius who spends his time in a chapel transformed into a lab, trying to find the answer to the big question "What is the meaning of life?". His search is supervised by Management, a sort of Big Brother played by Matt Damon, who filmed his scenes in just four days.

This bizarre parade is in perfect harmony with the set : the door of a chapel is next to the door of a sex shop, with a lot of graffitis and garbage between them. The wall was filled with posters ("Come to the Church of Batman the Redeemer ") and graffiti (a woman with an eye for a head, for example), with the owners, satisfied that the faÁade will be restored after the shoot. It's exactly what you'd expect to find in the world of a director fascinated by magic realism and science fiction, but weíre not allowed to show you the images, so we have to memorize the details.

The scene of saturday afternoon involves a crane, multiple cameras and a lot of patience, especially from Christoph Waltz. It seems simple: Waltz needs to leave the chapel door, shouting "Fire!" (Ö) and then talk on the phone while extras go side to side. But this sequence requires a lot of takes and the shoot last two hours. Whatís fascinating with Waltz, is that a take never looks like the one before.

"All this project is insane. I cannot wait to finish filming, because every day is very difficult, it's becoming harder to translate my ideas, and the days are short, light goes fast,"says Terry Gilliam, so energetic in the middle of the day that he seems to have just come out of his trailer. There are seven days of filming left, and the next will be even more difficult, because Waltz and Mťlanie Thierry will shoot their scenes in a huge aquarium built in Buftea Waltz and Mťlanie Thierry. "Both will have to shoot under water, which is not at all easy, because, as Melanie said," water is not my natural environment, '"Gilliam joked.

The Zero Theorem is a film made "unusually fast" in 36 days - as the U.S. producer Dean Zanuck even say Ė that Gilliam got to shoot after one of the many unlucky hiccups of the project that he tries to complete for several years : The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Because funding for Don Quixote collapsed again last spring, Terry Gilliam needed another film to shoot. "In May, I told my agent that if I didnít make a movie this year, Iíd go crazy. My last film was four years ago. So I decided to make this one with just a part of the budget I had four years ago. It's crazy. I have the same amount of money than for Jabberwocky, the first film that I made on my own! Even Life of Brian had a bigger budget, "explains filmmaker, only half amused.

A budget of only a few million dollars (Life of Brian cost around 4 million) is also one of the reasons Terry Gilliam flew to Romania immediately after agreeing to direct the screenplay from Pat Rushin. "We chose Romania because technical teams are good and because it's cheaper. They have made foreign films here for a few years and they have become very good teams, "says the director.

The suggestion to shoot in Romania came from Voltage Productions, who have worked for a while with MediaPro Studios. "It's the only place where we could go as fast as we went, as Terry wanted to have finished by the end of the year, in order to get back on Quixote next year" explains Dean Zanuck, son of the late producer Richard D. Zanuck, the man behind such films as Jaws, Road to Perdition, Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland. His father died in July this year, while the Terry Gilliam was already scouting in Bucharest.

Terry Gilliam prefers to wait years to collect money for a new movie than work with major studios. His refusal to compromise art for the sake of financing in recent years has caused many projects to collapse. The long history of failures includes The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, began in 1999 with Johnny Depp, and stopped because of a flood that destroyed the set and a herniated disc that forced Jean Rochefort, the actor playing Don Quixote, to abandon the project.

"Most of the time, I spend two or three years on a project or, in the case of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, many years. Itís very hard to find funding outside the major studios, it's a very difficult job. ď (Ö) [didnít understand]

The film is set in London, in an unspecified time in an Orwellian world controlled by management, but references to the contemporary world dominated by corporations and information are obvious from the synopsis. "The film talks about the overdose of today's information. We exist because we are on twitter and part of a network, "director details. "Now the computer thinks for me, which worries me."

Romanian audience will have much to discover when The Zero Theorem gets released : in addition to streets and former factory converted by Gilliam's vision, the Romanian Athenaeum received the most unusual use. "I turned the Athenaeum, very elaborate and decorative, into a computer center. Why not? All SF movies and computers look alike. Let's make it different, colorful and baroque ! " said the director.

(Ö) [didnít understand]Producer Dean Zanuck is delighted: "In the last decade, several directors were interested in directing this movie, but if I look at the scenery and what happens here, you canít believe someone else would be more appropriate than Terry Gilliam ".

Small budget did not prevent big names to come on the set, because who wouldnít want to work with Terry Gilliam? Four years ago, when The Zero Theorem started for the first time it would have starred Billy Bob Thornton and Ewan McGregor. It was rumored that Johnny Depp would work again with Gilliam on this film after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), but the role went to Christoph Waltz (Oscar ģ winner for his role in Inglourious Basterds) . He joined Tilda Swinton, Matt Damon, Melanie Thierry, David Thewlis and Ben Wishaw (Q in Skyfall). "When we got Terry Gilliam, it became very easy to get famous actors, even for very little money, which is fine by me," admits Dean Zanuck.

"We had several names in mind. But Christoph Waltz showed interest when I met him a few years ago at BAFTA. And I think he looks better bald, without eyebrows! I made him look great! "Gilliam laughs. About Waltz, people on the team say that "he speaks to everyone, no matter what job the person has" and that he is "very nice", which seems quite normal from the outside, but unusual for technicians, who compare foreign actors to the Romanian people. Attitude is apparently incomparable.

[Edited by Bruttenholm on 01-Dec-12 09:56]
Bruttenholm Posted: 01-Dec-12 20:03
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And the clunky traduction from the last one (
A Saturday afternoon near Cismigiu can mean short walks, selling cleaning machines door to door or, if youíre one of the most imaginative and courageous filmmakers who came to town, it can mean shooting 30 takes of Christoph Waltz dressed in a suit half Superman and half clown. With a shaved head and a glorious "Q" printed on the chest, Waltz is the one who has just finished filming his latest feature film Quentin Tarantino - "Django Unchained". The one you're afraid to look in the eyes on the big screen because he plays tough roles is trying for the sake of Terry Gilliam to be a computer genius, hit by madness when he comes out of a smoking cathedral covered with graffiti. From time to time, Gilliam gives directions with gestures to the joyful Waltz.

The corridor leading to the post-apocalyptic looking cathedral is lined up with posters selling illusions over illusions: "Feed your curiosity", "Cannot find the light? Search your soul in the Church of the Redeemer Batman" and "Why pay less? Let the world know how rich you are" are just some of the slogans on the posters pasted on the walls.

The extras range from colorful characters on pink bikes, an old beggar dressed in garbage bags and a mini-sweeper dressed as colorfully as the others. With this kind of absurd-loving director, if an elephant came on set it would even not surprise anyone. For now, the scene filmed Saturday in "The Zero Theorem" includes stained glass, fire, a sex shop, and many pilgrims doubles.

The props and objects also include a beautiful red vintage Jaguar car, a disused factory, rebuilt in MediaPro Studios, and a huge bowl of water for the protagonists of the film to swim in, a sequence should take place in space.

Terry Gilliam told AFP that the film "The Zero Theorem" has been his shortest shoot since "The Life of Brian" - 36 days - but also the lowest budget, lower even than for his first independent film - "Jabberwocky" (1977).

"Here (in Romania, nr) there is good teams and itís very cheap. It's an interesting city and its architecture inspires me a lot," said director. Loving Bucharest, Gilliam said he felt inspired by many places in the capital. Thus, the giant computer that will be seen in the film is based on a disused factory outside town.

"Computers are a boring thing, but we wanted something else. Initially, I wanted to shoot there, but we figured it would be smarter to build it in the studio.Also, the Atheneum in downtown, which was built in 1888 and designed by a French architect and which is really a complex building with its circular foyer and its pink marble columns. Well, I made this ... an Athenaeum center with computer issues, "said the director.

While all computer science and science-related images are quite boring, Terry Gilliam said: "No, we want to make it colorful and baroque".

Inspired by the architecture of Bucharest, the director said that his walks gave a unique film. "It couldnít be anywhere else in the world. I pretend it's London, but this is not London," said Gilliam, recognizing that ultimately, " inspiration and madness are the same thing."

Gilliam first met Christoph Waltz during the BAFTA ceremony. "I think he looks better bald, without eyebrows," he joked about the new look of the actor.

Also, the director said that "The Zero Theorem" was "an exercise in low-budget filmmaking."

" This movie is different. In general, for the rest of my films, I have two to three years to obtain funding. All fell apart this time. Besides large studios, funding is very fragile. In May, when my project "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" collapsed, I told my agent, "if I donít make a film this year, Iíll go crazy." So I made this movie for less than half the budget it was supposed to be four years ago. There's a price to pay. It has a smaller budget than "Jabberwocky" or "Life of Brian" ... Itís crazy. Given the project, I think I will go crazy. Each day is complicated, "said the director.

Late last week, Gilliam finished shooting outdoors then heíll shoot in studio underwater with Mťlanie Thierry and Christoph Waltz. "We will shoot under water. It should be a sequence in space, but because they are naked, we canít use harnesses and so they'll have to learn how to play underwater. Itís going to be hard because Mťlanie said that water was not her environment, "Gilliam told, excited.

Regarding the theme of "The Zero Theorem," Gilliam said that it is more about "information overdose" than a critique of capitalism.

"Everyone is connected now. But who are you? Who I am as an individual I donít know, I just know that Iím part of a network. It's more about that than about capitalism. I donít know what capitalism is now. It could be a new form of mania, with the consumerism as the driving force. And as some people are encouraged to buy some others become incredibly wealthy, "says director, known for his conflicts with the major movie studios. "Now the computers think for me, which worries me," said Gilliam.

The project "The Zero Theorem" stayed in a drawer for almost 10 years, during which various names have been circulated to star in - from Billy Bob Thornton to Ewan McGregor to Christoph Waltz Ė and some other directors circled the project.

"We fooled ourselves thinking that another director could do that. We are fortunate that Terry said 'yes'," Dean Zanuck - producer Richard D. Zanuck famous son - who was in charge of the project realization, told AFP "He has a great cast, with people working for him for very little money," he added, while a few meters away, Waltz continued his takes, surrounded by smoke. (Ö) "Romania is a great option to make the film." "If we build London here, I think we can make any other city," said Zanuck.
Peter B Posted: 02-Dec-12 21:46
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It's amazing (and a little sad) that Terry's able to make a movie for so cheap. If Quixote is only 20 million, I wonder what Defective Detective would take.
Bruttenholm Posted: 23-Apr-13 12:50
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The CNC report of french co-productions in 2012 states that the budget of the film is 10,34 million euros :
(so, yes, it is the cheapest Gilliam movie ever but in constant money -counting with the inflation)
Bruttenholm Posted: 23-Apr-13 18:22
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Well, Gilliam talks about 8,5 million DOLLARS, which would be a lot less :

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