The struggle between Terry Gilliam and Universal over the final cut of the filmmaker’s dystopian masterpiece Brazil is the stuff of cinematic legend. Although Gilliam’s original, 142-minute version of the film debuted intact around the world via 20th Century Fox in February 1985, it took nearly a year for it to premiere stateside because its US distributor, Universal, thought the movie’s resolution was too dark for American audiences. The studio cut its own, 94-minute “Love Conquers All” version of Brazil, and Gilliam eventually retaliated by lobbying critics with secret screenings and taking out a full-page ad in Variety demanding of Universal chairman Sid Sheinberg, “When are you going to release my film, ‘BRAZIL’?”
This may seem a bit dramatic, but the filmmaker had already been going back and forth with Sheinberg for months. In a heart-wrenching personal message, Gilliam wrote to the studio head, “I am not sure you are aware of just how much pain you are inflicting, but I don’t believe ‘responsibility to the company’ in any way absolves you from crimes against even this small branch of humanity. As long as my name is on the film, what is done to it is done to me — there is no way of separating these two entities. I feel every cut, especially the ones that sever the balls.” Visit Letters of Note read the entire painful missive and rejoice that, thanks to the Criterion Collection, you no longer have to be a film critic or a European to watch Brazil just as Gilliam intended.