A tale of good and evil battling for souls that’s made with Gilliam’s fantastic and fantastical visual imagination, “Imaginarium” is the director’s best, most entertaining film in years. — Kenneth Turan, LATimes
Although many critics at Cannes deemed Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassusm a noble bur faulty effort, a swing and a miss, I’m not hearing the swoosh of an airball at all from this brief clip with Lily Cole and Christopher Plummer. It takes a lot to make me give up on a Terry Gilliam film — if indeed I ever do. Thanks to Noah R. for reminding me to post this tease and the one after the cut, along with a minute-long look at Heath Ledger in his final role.
Conventional wisdom is coming together to agree on what works best in the Imaginarium: Casting Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell as three different incarnations of Ledger’s character, to fill the unbearable void he left behind, works better than anybody has any right to expect:
…the structure of “Imaginarium” and the nature of what was left to shoot when the actor died made the use of those substitute actors so seamless that, Gilliam said, “the postproduction sound guy assumed it had been written that way.”
It’s no wonder, then, that Gilliam feels that he “didn’t make this film. Forces from above and below made it. It made itself. I don’t panic anymore. It’s got its own relentless momentum. It just needed some human sacrifice…”
More of Turan’s LATimes piece after the cut, where you’ll find the other two clips as well.
“People don’t know how brilliant he was. He was limitless. Anything you threw at him he could handle,” Gilliam says of the actor, still not resigned to his death. “When we heard, my first response was that it was a P.R. stunt for his role as the Joker. [His death] didn’t make any sense. Even now it doesn’t compute.”
Gilliam’s initial thought at that point was “the film’s over, we go home now. But my team, they beat me up, they wouldn’t let me give it up. But I didn’t think it was right to just get another actor.” Because it was three fantasy scenes that remained to be shot, Gilliam decided on three actors, all friends of Heath. Though some rewriting and changes of shooting plans were necessary, it all went surprisingly smoothly.
“Having a magic mirror,” the director says, “makes a lot of difference.”
The first call Gilliam made was to Depp “because Johnny’s a mate, direct and genuine. He loved Heath, and he said, ‘I’m in, whatever.’ ” Then the problem became getting schedules to mesh. “Then Michael Mann’s film (‘Public Enemy’) was delayed a week. I don’t think Johnny told Michael he was going. My guess is that he snuck out.”
Law, one of Gilliam’s early choices for the part, agreed next, and Los Angeles casting agent Margie Simkin suggested Farrell after she saw him at an L.A. memorial service. “All the actors already in the film had to change their schedules, and there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation,” Gilliam explains. “They all said, ‘We’ll do what’s necessary.’ It’s really a love letter to Heath by everybody involved. He was beloved by so many.”