It Took 17 Years and a Documentary’s Worth of Production Catastrophes, But Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote Movie Has Finally Finished Shooting

Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was so plagued by production issues as to have an entire documentary made about it. 2002 saw the release of Lost in La Mancha, a doc that began as a making-of for the film loosely based on Miguel de Cervantes’ 1605/1615 novel, and morphed into a separate portrait of the Sisyphean production. The obstacles ranged from filming near a noisy NATO aircraft base, to a flash flood, to star Jean Rochefort getting a herniated disk — the latter problem leading the production to halt for the time being. Yes, in 2002, there was already a doc’s worth of crises surrounding this film; after that, it’d still take 15 years to get it shot. In 2008, production began again, then it stopped — such was the case, continually, until it finally seemed to get enough momentum not to halt in 2016. Now, the most recent attempt to make this thing has wrapped production, according to Deadline.

The original cast of the film included Rochefort as Quixote, Johnny Depp as Toby, and Vanessa Paradis; those roles have now been played by Jonathan Pryce as Quixote, Adam Driver as Toby (massive improvement), and Olga Kurylenko (as a character named Jacqui).

A clearly very relieved Terry Gilliam announced the news of the shoot’s conclusion on Facebook:

He further wrote:

Don Quixote is a dreamer, an idealist, and a romantic, determined not to accept the limitations of reality, marching on regardless of setbacks, as we have done. We’ve been at it so long that the idea of actually finishing shooting this ‘clandestine’ film, is pretty surreal. Any sensible person would have given up years ago but sometimes pig-headed dreamers win in the end, so thank you to all of the ill paid fantasists and believers who have joined to make this longstanding dream a reality!

The story is a modern day meta-adaptation of the novel, following an old man who thinks he’s a titular character; he also thinks an ad executive named Toby is Sancho Panza, his squire. But this is a Terry Gilliam movie, so delineating delusion from “reality” will likely be just as difficult for audiences as it is for the characters. The film sees Toby becoming increasingly immersed in new-Quixote’s perception of reality, and the two time travel between the current day and the 17th century together. The script was co-written by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni, who also co-adapted Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. 

Variety recalls that last year at Cannes the director told them, “I want to get this film out of my life so I can get on with the rest of my life.” You’re so close, Terry!