We here at the Project Room love epic projects. And as much as we love it when epic projects succeed, there’s something almost equally fascinating in watching the grandiosity of their failures when they don’t work out. Back in 2000, Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python and various-film-projects fame) began filming The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, an adaptation of Cervantes’ sprawling classic. It didn’t go well.
From the onset, the film was plagued by problems, and the list of things that went wrong on the production makes you wonder if Don Quixote is perhaps as cursed as that them there Scottish play that theater people won’t mention by name.
The first thing to go wrong involved the location that was to be the main backdrop of the film: the beautifully sweeping Spanish desert that Gilliam had selected turned out to be located next to a military base, and it was home to near-constant jet traffic that necessitated redoing all the sound in post production.
Then, on the second day of filming, a flash flood swept away much of their film equipment, taking with it the top layers of sediment and leaving the hills an entirely different color in its wake.
And then the actor Jean Rochefort—Gilliam’s painstakingly hand-picked Quixote who was selected for the role after a two year search, and who spent seven months learning english specifically for the film—suffered a herniated disk in his back, and had to withdraw from the film.
This is only the tip of the iceberg in the comedy of errors that went into this production. There are two silver linings to the story, though:
–These failures were all recorded for posterity in an amazing documentary called Lost in La Mancha. Watch it. You won’t be sorry.
–There are rumors afoot that Terry Gilliam is trying again! Since 2008, there have been various announcements of restarting the project, and it seems like maybe at some point in the future it might actually happen? We certainly hope so.