The Man Who Killed Don Quixote PRODUCTION STORY – CHAPTER TWO

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TERRY AND THE CAST

“Working with the actors is the most pleasurable part of making a film,” says Gilliam. “I know how to do all the technical and effects stuff, and it doesn’t surprise me anymore. Yet the actors always surprise me.”

He was delighted that Adam Driver agreed to play Toby, the lead character. Toby is arrogant, duplicitous and unlikeable. The perfect hero. The director says, “Adam is an extraordinary actor. We had a meeting at the outset, and it was one of those immediate, instinctive reactions when I thought: this is the guy. There’s a unique quality about him. Adam is a great reactor, and his timing is brilliant. He’s different from most actors – there’s something that isn’t actorish about him. He is a genuine, interesting character. He just gave himself up totally to the role.” Driver was keen to work with Gilliam. “Within the script, I could tell, right away, there were so many layers to uncover – but I also knew it was very funny. An original way to tell the story of Don Quixote. Coming at it from an angle, I thought was ingenious.”

Jonathan Pryce is Javier, an old shoemaker who believes himself to be the knight Don Quixote. Is he the Knight of the Mournful Countenance, the last upholder of Chivalry and true knightly conduct – or an insane old man? The director and actor have worked together several times and are old friends. Gilliam says, “Jonathan has been waiting to play this part ever since our first collapse. He was never right, I felt. He was too young and then he was too busy. Finally, he was nearly 70 years of age and he was available! I keep thinking that every Shakespearean character he’s played is in this Quixote, from King Lear to Hamlet and Shylock. And the great thing with Jonathan, he is a great comedian. He’s incredibly funny. And I’ve never seen him have so much fun on a set.” Pryce jokes, “I believe Terry’s plan was really to keep delaying this film until I was old enough to play Quixote. And so it has turned out to be.”

Gilliam cast Stellan Skarsgård as Toby’s boss, a businessman. A dangerous man, who jealously guards his wife, Jacqui. “Stellan is another actor I’ve always wanted to work with,” says the director. “In every film he’s in, he just stands out as being real. I never feel there’s any fakery with him, he’s just stunning whatever the character is. I asked him to play The Boss, who is a kind of a father figure to Toby and is betrayed by him in various ways.” It was the director’s distinctiveness that attracted Skarsgård. “The script was very Terry, and of course I liked it. I like Terry’s universes. He makes films that don’t look like anybody else’s. I would probably have taken the role even if I hadn’t liked the script – just because I wanted to work with Terry.”

Olga Kurylenko appears in the film as Jacqui, the boss’s wife. Tricky, mischievous, carnal, with an eye for Toby. The actress says, “Terry gave me the script and I loved it and was delighted to be a part of the film.” Gilliam was delighted with Kurylenko’s performance, saying, “I’ve never seen her be as funny as she is. Last night we were doing a night shoot and she had me in hysterics. She’s just brilliant, beyond anything I’ve seen of her.”

Gilliam cast Portuguese actress Joana Ribeiro as Angelica, a Spanish girl who appeared in Toby’s student movie, and who is now in an abusive relationship with a vodka magnate. The director says, “On my first meeting with Joana, I was convinced I had found our Angelica. She is very intelligent, Latin, beautiful and dangerous. She had the difficult task of playing Angelica as an innocent 15 year-old and an older, life-hardened woman. I think Joana will go on to be a fantastic star.” Ribeiro recalls the appeal of the project, saying, “I’m a fan of Cervantes, and how he can be so funny and sad at the same time. Don Quixote is about a man who lives in his own world. People around him make fun of him and are mean to him. Yet you see that Quixote is actually the one who is really happy, because he believes in his own world. And what Terry’s films have, in common with this, is the importance of imagination.”

Gilliam has had his eye on Jason Watkins as Rupert for a number of years. Toby’s over- attentive agent, Rupert is there to massage his back and his ego, but also gone when the going gets tough. “He looks after Toby, he’s almost like a guru to him. He knows Toby is the golden goose. And Rupert is ambitious. Jason is a wonderful actor: his timing is phenomenal and he can handle a scene, even when he’s just a small part of it. He has a way of keeping your attention, and he’s funny as hell.” Watkins says, “I’m just completely delighted to be part of this. Obviously there have been many incarnations of this film, and I was involved with the last one, which halted for a while and was then resurrected, so I stayed with it. It’s an incredibly colourful script. Sometimes you don’t know quite where you are, then you pick it up. And then it starts getting quite poetic, particularly towards the end and you care desperately for Quixote. So even though it’s a rich, crazy mix, there is this incredible power and strength. We all love someone who tries to do the right thing and has a sense of honour.”

Gilliam was thrilled to have Óscar Jaenada feature as the enigmatic Gypsy, saying, “Óscar is spectacular. I saw his performance as Cantinflas, the great Mexican comic. When I see someone being brilliant, I want them, and the fact he was happy enough to come and play with me was terrific!” Nine years after they first met at the Ibiza International Film Festival, the director called the actor, who remembers, “He called and told me he’d watched Cantinflas, and he wanted to be with me in this movie. When I read it, it blew my mind. It’s an amazing script. And the gypsy is just trying to fix problems, but we don’t know why he’s there. He’s a joker in this movie, always laughing when he has to be crying, or crying when he has to laugh.”

In his role as the farmer, Sergi López felt privileged to be asked to join the project. He said, “When this project came to me, it was a very big emotion for me. I had known Terry’s old project, and it is an honour for me to be here. When I read the script, I found the writing to be excellent. Terry is a very clever writer, and a very wonderful filmmaker. So it’s fantastic!” The director says, “Sergi is just a great actor. He’s incredibly funny and dangerous. He brought all this energy, and grabs hold of the moment. He can spin on a dime from being terrifying to being pathetic. He’s perfect for the part.”

Spanish actress Rossy de Palma was cast in the 2000 attempt to make the picture, and has returned for this new iteration, as the farmer’s wife. The actress says, “All these years later, I could not say no. I had to be here with Terry, because I know how hard he has fought to shoot this film. He deserves all our support. This is a historic film. Nowadays we need the Quixotes. With the superpowers now, we are in the moment of monsters, yet we at least have this love, this idealism that things can change. I’m going to keep this idealism strong inside me. I’m a little bit like Quixote!” Gilliam was delighted that the actress came back to the project, saying, “Rossy de Palma is a star! The camera really loves her, she has such great presence. She was funny, quick, and whatever we needed, she performed it well. Rossy and Sergi make a wonderful couple!”

Hovik Keuchkerian plays Angelica’s father Raúl, the genial owner of the village bar. A former Spanish heavyweight boxing champion, he became a stand-up comedian, writer and actor – and has received several Best Newcomer nominations, including a Goya, for his performance in Alacrán Enamorado/Scorpion In Love (2013). Gilliam says, “I needed a big strong man to be Raúl, who runs the bar and who is the father of Angelica. Hovik is big and powerful but he’s incredibly sensitive, which made him a great protective father figure. Hovik’s timing is exquisite in the film.”

The director cast Jordi Mollá as Alexei Mishkin, a cruel Russian oligarch, who enjoys power games and manipulation – the master puppeteer. “I love Jordi Mollá”, says Gilliam, “He’s dangerous and, at the same time, an incredibly sweet human being and I’ve always wanted to work with him. Alexei is an absolute monster, and Jordi is absolutely terrifying, with intensity, and focus.” Mollá recalls the enjoyable time he had with Gilliam developing his character, who assumes an unconventional outfit. “He wears a beautiful suit, but he’s wearing a fantastic Western hat and a big belt with big boots. Everyone is dressed in period costumes, but I’m dressed as a cowboy!”

Click here for Production Story, Chapter Three

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