Terry Gilliam Explains Why He’s a Hollywood ‘Terrorist’
Terry Gilliam has always been a bit of a revolutionary — when the only American-born member of the iconic English comedy troupe left his native country in the late 1960s amid massive civil unrest, he did so out of a fear that “I was going to be a full-time, bomb-throwing terrorist if I stayed.” After the members Monty Python branched off to build their own solo careers, Gilliam would return to America to terrorize Hollywood with his unflinching devotion to his stories in the face of studio idiocy — including Universal’s attempts to ruin the ending of Brazil.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday, Gilliam reflected on his uncompromising attitude toward show business and why “you don’t fuck with the stories.”
“It’s always been kind of a conflictual relationship,” Gilliam said of his tenuous partnership with the entertainment industry. “I became known as a bit of a terrorist. I never compromised. I always fought for my stories. Because storytelling is what it’s all about, you don’t fuck with the stories.” Gilliam’s public clashes with the suits upstairs were most notable during the contentious release of Brazil, but he says that the friction between himself and the non-creatives has been a constant theme throughout his filmmaking career.
“There’s always a moment at the end of every film where the executives, who are basically panicky people being paid a fortune to supposedly know what they’re doing, even though they don’t, where they get nervous,” he explained. “Always at the end, they say: ‘Oh, change this or cut this, blah, blah, blah, and then it’ll work.’ I always fight that.”
Gilliam claims that his biggest weapon against the powers that be in the business has always been star power. “The only way I win these arguments is by making sure that the leading actors are on my side,” he said. “Because I don’t have the power. The stars have the power. That’s how I was able to make my movies.”
“The people who put up the money must always believe that you know exactly what you’re doing, even if you don’t have a clue. It’s all about make-believe, pretending,” Gilliam continued. “I’ll tell you a secret: I seem to be all jolly, a bit of a clown. That’s just make-believe. The truth is, in real life, I am a big jerk.”
Yeah, we figured that out when you threw Eric Idle off a bridge because he didn’t know the capital of Syria.