Skip to main content
Select Source:

Gilliam, Terry 1940–

GILLIAM, Terry 1940–

(Jerry Gillian)

PERSONAL

Full name, Terry Vance Gilliam; born November 22, 1940, in Minneapolis, MN; immigrated to England, 1969; son of James Hall (a carpenter) and Beatrice (maiden name, Vance) Gilliam; married Maggie Weston (a makeup and hair designer), 1973; children: Amy Rainbow, Holly du Bois, Harry Thunder. Education: Occidental College, B.A., 1962. Avocational Interests: "Too busy."

Addresses: Agent—Casarotto Ramsay & Associates, National House, 60-66 Wardour St., London W1V 4ND England; William Morris Agency, One William Morris Pl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

Career: Actor, writer, producer, director, screenwriter, animator, and illustrator. Monty Python (comedy troupe), member of company (with Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin), performing in concert tours in the United States, England, and Canada in the 1970s. Help! (satirical magazine), New York City, associate editor, 1962–64; freelance cartoonist, 1964–65; Carson Roberts Advertising Agency, Los Angeles, CA, copywriter and art director, 1966–67; freelance illustrator for periodicals, including Sunday editions of the London Times, Nova, and Queen, 1967; Londoner, artistic director, 1967; British Gas Board, animator of "The Great Gas Gala" campaign, 1972; illustrator for numerous humor magazines, including Mad; directed a series of commercials for Nike, 2001–02; Cannes Film Festival, member of jury, 2001.

Member: British Film Institute (member of board of directors, 1997).

Awards, Honors: Special Award for graphics, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1970, Silver Rose Award, Montreux Television Festival, 1971, both for Monty Python's "Flying Circus"; Saturn Award nominations, best director and best writing (with Michael Palin), Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films, 1982, International Fantasy Film Award nomination, best film, Fantasporto, 1983, all for Time Bandits; Grand Prix Special du Jury, Cannes Film Festival, International Fantasy Film Award nomination, Fantasporto, 1983, for Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life"; Film Award nomination, best short film, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1984, for The Crimson Permanent Assurance; Academy Award nomination (with Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown), best screenplay, and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, best director and best screenplay (with Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown), 1985, all for Brazil; Michael Balcon Award, outstanding British contribution to cinema (with Monty Python), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1987; honorary D.F.A., Occidental College, 1987, and Royal College of Art, 1989; Silver Lion, and Golden Lion Award nomination, Venice Film Festival, 1991, People's Choice Award, Toronto Film Festival, 1991, Saturn Award nomination, best director, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, 1992, Golden Globe Award nomination, best director, 1992, all for The Fisher King; Saturn Award nomination, best directory, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, Golden Bear Award nomination and third place from the Reader Jury of the Berliner Morgenpost, Berlin International Film Festival, 1996, Empire Award, best director, 1997, all for Twelve Monkeys; Golden Palm Award nomination, Cannes Film Festival, 1998, for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Time-Machine Honorary Award, Catalonian International Film Festival, 2000; Capri Legend Award, Capri, Hollywood, 2003; Honorary D.F.A, Occidental College, 2004; Honorary doctorate, Wimbledon School of Art, 2004; Visionary Award, Stockholm Film Festival, 2005; Leopard of Honor, Lo-carno International Film Festival, 2005; FIPRESCI Prize and Golden Seashell Award nomination, San Sebastian International Film Festival, 2005, for Tideland; Golden Lion Award nomination, Venice Film Festival, 2005, for The Brothers Grimm.

CREDITS

Television Appearances; Series:

Do Not Adjust Your Set, Thames TV, 1968.

We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, 1968.

Marty, BBC, 1968.

Monty Python's "Flying Circus" (also known as Gwen Dibley's "Flying Circus" and Monty Python), BBC, 1969–74, broadcast in the United States on PBS, 1974–82.

Narrator, The Last Machine, BBC, 1995.

Himself and various characters, The Sketch Show Story, BBC, 2001.

Himself, Festival Pass with Chris Gore, Starz, 2002.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Himself, Around the World in 80 Days (documentary; also known as Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days), Arts and Entertainment, 1989.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Pythons in Deutschland, Bavaria, Atelier, 1971.

Various characters, Euroshow 71, 1971.

(Uncredited) Various roles, Monty Python's "Fliegender Zirkus," BBC1, 1972.

Monty Python & the Holy Grail Location Report (also known as On Location with the Pythons), BBC, 1974.

Himself, The Pythons: Somewhere in Tunisia, Circa A.D. 1979 (also known as The Pythons; documentary), BBC, 1979.

Himself, The Meaning of Monty Python's "Meaning of Life," 1983.

Himself, What Is Brazil? (documentary), 1985.

Himself and various roles, Life of Python (also known as Life of Python: Monty Python 20th Anniversary Omnibus), Showtime, 1990.

Himself and various roles, Twenty Years of Monty Python (Parrot Sketch Not Included) (also known as Parrot Sketch Not Included and Parrot Sketch Not Included: Twenty Years of Monty Python), Showtime, 1990.

"U.S. Comedy Arts Festival Tribute to Monty Python" (also known as "The USCAF Tribute to Monty Python" and "Monty Python's 'Flying Circus': Live at Aspen"), HBO Comedy Special, HBO, 1998.

Himself, Pythonland, BBC, 1999.

Himself, From Spam to Sperm, BBC, 1999.

Himself, BBC crew member, Gumby, Onan Vandergoy, and Gorilla, Python Night, BBC, 1999.

Himself, It's … the Monty Python Story (documentary; also known as Life of Python), BBC and Arts and Entertainment, 1999.

Himself, John Cleese & Anders Lund Madsen, TV2 Danmark, 1999.

Himself, 30 Years of Monty Python: A Revelation (also known as It's the Monty Python Show), 1999.

Himself, Forever Ealing (documentary), TCM and Channel 4, 2002.

Himself, Concert for George (documentary), 2003.

Terryho dotocna (also known as Terry's Wrap Up Party), 2004.

Ceremonia de clausura, 2005.

50 Greatest Comedy Sketches, Channel 4, 2005.

San Sebastian 2005: Croncia de Carlos Boyero, 2005.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Guest, Late Night with David Letterman, NBC, 1982, 1989, 1995.

Himself, "Terry Gilliam," The South Bank Show, ITV, 1991.

Naked Hollywood, Arts and Entertainment, 1991.

Guest, The Charlie Rose Show, PBS, 1996, 1998.

Guest, Ruby, BBC, 1999.

Trigger Happy TV, Channel 4, 2000.

Himself, "Wallace & Gromit Go Chicken," Omnibus, BBC, 2000.

Himself, "Monty Python's Flying Circus," Comedy Connections, BBC, 2005.

(Archive footage) Himself, Cinema mil, Televisio de Catalunya, 2005.

Magacine, 2005.

Guest, The Frank Skinner Show, 2005.

Himself, Film '72, BBC, 2005.

Breakfast, BBC, 2005.

Also appeared as guest, The Uncle Floyd Show; himself, "The Films of Terry Gilliam," The Directors, Encore; in Hotel Babylon.

Television Work; Series:

Animator, Do Not Adjust Your Set, Thames TV, 1968.

Animator, We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, 1968.

Animator, Marty, BBC, 1968.

Animator, director, and series creator, Monty Python's "Flying Circus" (also known as Gwen Dibley's "Flying Circus" and Monty Python), BBC, 1969 74, broadcast in the United States on PBS, 1974–82.

The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, ABC, 1971.

Creator of title sequence, William, CBS, 1972.

Television Work; Specials:

Animator, Monty Python's "Fliegender Zirkus," 1972.

(Archive footage) Animator, Parrot Sketch Not Included: Twenty Years of Monty Python, Showtime, 1989.

Title designer, "U.S. Comedy Arts Festival Tribute to Monty Python" (also known as "The USCAF Tribute to Monty Python" and "Monty Python's 'Flying Circus': Live at Aspen"), HBO Comedy Special, HBO, 1998.

Film Appearances:

Various roles, And Now for Something Completely Different (also known as Monty Python's "And Now For Something Completely Different"), Columbia, 1971.

Patsy, weird old man, and Keeper of the Bridge of Death, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Cinema 5, 1975.

Various, Pleasure at Her Majesty's (also known as Monty Python Meets Beyond the Fringe), 1976.

Man with rock, Jabberwocky, Cinema 5, 1977.

Masked Commando, prophet, jailer, Geoffrey, and revolutionary, Monty Python's "Life of Brian" (also known as Life of Brian), Warner Bros., 1979.

Various roles, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Columbia, 1982.

Various roles, Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" (also known as The Meaning of Life), Universal, 1983.

(Uncredited) Workman, The Crimson Permanent Assurance, 1983.

Himself, The Secret Policeman's Private Parts, Miramax, 1984.

Dr. Imhaus, Spies like Us, Warner Bros., 1985.

Himself, Cinematon (documentary), 1985.

(Uncredited) Smoking man at Shang-ri La Towers, Brazil, Universal, 1985.

(Uncredited) Irritating singer, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (also known as Die Abenteuer des Baron von Munchhausen), Columbia, 1988.

Himself, The Battle of Brazil: A Video History (documentary), Universal, 1996.

Himself, The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys (documentary), Universal Studios Home Video, 1997.

Himself, Lost in La Mancha (documentary), IFC Films, 2002.

Himself, Hunter Goes to Hollywood (documentary short), Criterion Collection, 2003.

Interviewee, The 29th Telluride Film Festival Aug. 30-Sept. 2, 2002: Terry Gilliam Interviewed by Salman Rushdie (documentary), Alliance Atlantis Video, 2003.

Himself, Nos Zamis Le Hyens (documentary), 2005.

Himself, Getting Gilliam (documentary), Mpix, 2005.

Enfermes dehors, 2006.

Also appeared in The Do It Yourself Animation Film.

Film Director:

Storytime, 1968.

(With others) Cry of the Banshee, American International Pictures, 1970.

And Now for Something Completely Different (also known as Monty Python's "And Now for Something Completely Different"), Columbia, 1971.

The Miracle of Flight, 1974.

(With Terry Jones) Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Cinema 5, 1975.

Jabberwocky, Cinema 5, 1977.

Time Bandits, Avco-Embassy, 1981.

"The Crimson Permanent Assurance," Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" (also known as The Meaning of Life), Universal, 1983.

Brazil, Universal, 1985.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (also known as Die Abenteuer des Baron von Munchhausen), Columbia, 1988.

The Fisher King, TriStar, 1991.

Twelve Monkeys, Universal, 1995.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Universal, 1998.

The Brothers Grimm, Miramax, 2005.

Tideland, HanWay Films, 2005.

Film Animator:

Storytime, 1968.

(Title designer only) Cry of the Banshee, American International Pictures, 1970.

And Now for Something Completely Different (also known as Monty Python's "And Now for Something Completely Different"), Columbia, 1971.

The Miracle of Flight, 1974.

(Uncredited) Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Cinema 5, 1975.

Animator designer and (uncredited) animator, Monty Python's "Life of Brian" (also known as Life of Brian), Warner Bros., 1979.

Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" (also known as The Meaning of Life), Universal, 1983.

Film Work; Other:

(Uncredited) Storyboard artist, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Cinema 5, 1975.

Production designer, Monty Python's "Life of Brian" (also known as Life of Brian), Warner Bros., 1979.

Producer, Time Bandits, Avco-Embassy, 1981.

(With others) Stage director, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Columbia, 1982.

Storyboard illustrator, Lost in La Mancha (documentary), IFC Films, 2002.

Executive producer, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, Artificial Earthquake, 2005.

Dress pattern maker, The Brothers Grimm, Miramax, 2005.

Stage Appearances:

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA, 1970.

Monty Python Live!, New York City, 1976.

RECORDINGS

Albums:

(With Monty Python) The Worst of Monty Python's Flying Circus, BBC Records, 1969.

Another Monty Python Record, Charisma, 1970.

Monty Python's Previous Record, 1972.

Monty Python's Matching Tie and Handkerchief, Charisma, 1973, Arista, 1975.

Monty Python Live at Drury Lane, Charisma, 1973.

The Album of the Sound Track of the Trailer of the Film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Arista, 1975.

Monty Python Live at City Center, Arista, 1976.

Monty Python's Instant Record Collection, 1977.

Monty Python's "Life of Brian," Warner Bros., 1979.

Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, Arista, 1980.

Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life," CBS Records, 1983.

Monty Python's The Final Ripoff, 1988.

Also recorded singles "Galaxy Song" and "Every Sperm Is Sacred."

Video Games:

Executive producer and performer, Monty Python's "Complete Waste of Time," 7th Level, 1994.

Performer (Patsy), director, and animator, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, 1996.

Animator and performer, Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life," 1997.

Taped Readings:

(With others) The Pythons, 2004.

WRITINGS

Screenplays:

Pythons in Deutschland, Bavaria Atelier, 1971.

Miracles of Flight, 1974.

(With Charles Alverson) Jabberwocky, Cinema 5, 1977.

(With Michael Palin) Time Bandits, Avco-Embassy, 1981.

The Crimson Permanent Assurance, 1983.

(With Tom Stoppard) Brazil, Universal, 1985.

(With Charles McKeown) The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (also known as Die Abenteuer des Baron von Munchhausen), Columbia, 1988.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Universal, 1998.

Education Tips No. 41: Choosing a Really Expensive School (short), 2003.

Tideland, HanWay Films, 2005.

Screenplays (with Monty Python):

And Now for Something Completely Different (also known as Monty Python's "And Now for Something Completely Different"), Columbia, 1971.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Cinema 5, 1975.

Monty Python's "Life of Brian" (also known as Life of Brian), Warner Bros., 1979.

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Columbia, 1982.

Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life" (also known as The Meaning of Life), Universal, 1983.

Television Specials:

Monty Python's "Fliegender Zirkus," BBC1, 1972.

Life of Python, Showtime, 1990.

Twenty Years of Monty Python (Parrot Sketch Not Included) (also known as Parrot Sketch Not Included: Twenty Years of Monty Python), Showtime, 1990.

It's … the Monty Python Story (documentary; also known as Life of Python), BBC and Arts and Entertainment, 1999.

Television Episodes:

Do Not Adjust Your Set, ITV, 1968.

We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, London, 1968.

Marty (also known as It's Marty), BBC, 1968.

Broaden Your Mind, BBC, 1968.

(With Monty Python) Monty Python's "Flying Circus" (also known as Gwen Dibley's "Flying Circus" and Monty Python), BBC, 1969–74, broadcast in the United States on PBS, 1974–82.

Television Composer; Episodic:

(With Monty Python) Monty Python's "Flying Circus" (also known as Gwen Dibley's "Flying Circus" and Monty Python), BBC, 1969–74, broadcast in the United States on PBS, 1974–82.

Books:

(Compiler with Harvey Kurtzman) Harvey Kurtzman's "Fun and Games," Fawcett, 1965.

(With Joel Siegel) The Cocktail People (cartoons), Pisani Press, 1966.

(With Monty Python) Monty Python's "Big Red Book," Methuen, 1972.

(As Jerry Gillian; with Peter Brookes; also illustrator) The Brand New Monty Python Bok, Methuen, 1973, later published as The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok, Methuen, 1974.

(Illustrator) Roger McGough, Sporting Relations (poems), Methuen, 1974.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Book), Methuen, 1977, also published as Monty Python's "Second Film: A First Draft," Methuen, 1977.

(With Alverson) Jabberwocky, Pan Books, 1977.

(With Lucinda Cowell) Animations of Mortality (cartoons), Methuen, 1978.

Monty Python's "Life of Brian (of Nazareth)" [and] Montypythonscrapbook, Grosset, 1979.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Monty Python (contains Monty Python's "Big Red Book" and The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok), Methuen, 1981.

(With Palin) Time Bandits, Hutchinson, 1981, also published as Time Bandits: The Movie Script, Doubleday (New York City), 1981.

Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life," Methuen, 1983.

(With McKeown) The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1989.

Gilliam on Gilliam, Faber and Faber, 1999.

(With others) The Pythons: An Autobiography, St. Martin's Press, 2003.

Video Games:

(Original screenplay) Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, 1996.

Also contributed to periodicals, including Film Comment, Cinema, Stills, Sequences, and Starburst.

ADAPTATIONS

The screenplay Monty Python and the Holy Grail served as the basis for the stage musical Spamalot, Shubert Theatre, New York City, 2005.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 59, Thomson Gale, 2005.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, 4th ed., St. James Press, 2000.

Periodicals:

American Film, March, 1989, pp. 34-42.

Movieline, June, 1998, p. 76.

People, March 17, 1986, pp. 141-43.

Time, August 8, 2005, p. 64.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gilliam, Terry 1940–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gilliam, Terry 1940–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gilliam-terry-1940

"Gilliam, Terry 1940–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved September 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/gilliam-terry-1940

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Gilliam, Terry

GILLIAM, Terry



Nationality: American. Born: Terry Vance Gilliam in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 22 November 1940. Education: Studied political science at Occidental College, Los Angeles. Family: Married make-up artist Margaret Weston; three children: Amy Rainbow, Holly du Bois, Harry Thunder. Career: Associate editor, HELP magazine, and freelance illustrator, New York, from 1962; moved to London, 1967; illustrator and animator for Marty, We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, and Do Not Adjust Your Set, for TV, 1968; member of Monty Python's Flying Circus, from 1969; directed first solo project, Jabberwocky, 1977. Awards: British Academy of Film and Television Arts Special Award for Graphics, for Monty Python's Flying Circus, 1969; Montreux Festival Silver Award, for Monty Python's Flying Circus, 1971; Best Director and Best Screenplay, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, for Brazil, 1985; Michael Balcon Award, Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, 1987; Venice Film Festival Silver Lion, for The Fisher King, 1991. Address: The Old Hall, South Grove, Highgate, London N6 6BP England.


Films as Director:

1975

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (co-d, + co-sc, anim, ro)

1977

Jabberwocky (+ co-sc, ro)

1981

Time Bandits (+ co-sc, pr, ro—uncredited)

1985

Brazil (+ co-sc)

1989

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (+ co-sc)

1991

The Fisher King

1995

Twelve Monkeys

1998

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (+ co-sc)

2001

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (+ co-sc)

2002

Good Omens (+ co-sc)



Other Films:

1971

And Now for Something Completely Different (co-sc, anim, ro)

1979

Monty Python's Life of Brian (Jones) (co-sc, design, anim, ro)




1982

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (co-sc, ro)

1983

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (Jones) (co-sc, anim, d some sequences, ro)

1984

The Secret Policeman's Private Parts (Graef, Temple) (ro)

1985

Spies like Us (Landis) (ro)

Publications


By GILLIAM: books—

Harvey Kurtzman's Fun and Games, with Harvey Kurtzman, New York, 1965.

Monty Python's Big Red Book, London, 1972.

The Brand New Monty Python Book, London, 1973.

Sporting Relations, with Roger McGough, London, 1974.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail, London, 1977.

Jabberwocky, London, 1977.

Animations of Mortality, London, 1978.

Monty Python's Life of Brian (of Nazareth), London, 1979.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Monty Python, London, 1981.

Time Bandits, with Michael Palin, London, 1981.

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, London, 1983.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, with Charles McKeown, New York and London, 1989.


By GILLIAM: articles—

Interview in Inter/View (New York), vol. 7, no. 6, 1975.

Interview in Film Comment (New York), November/December 1981.

Interview with D. Rabourdin, in Cinéma (Paris), February 1985.

Interview with Nick Roddick, in Stills (London), February 1985.

Interview with B. Howell, in Films and Filming (London), March 1985.

Interview with M. Girard and A. Caron, in Séquences (Montreal), April 1986.

Interview with D. Morgan, in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1988.

Interview in Starburst (London), April 1989.

Interview with P. Kremski, in Filmbulletin (Winterthur, Switzerland), no. 5/6, 1991.

"Terry Gilliam's Guilty Pleasures," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1991.

"Empire OneOnOne," interview with Bob McCabe, in Empire (London), December 1998.


On GILLIAM: books—

Perry, George, Life of Python, London, 1983.

Yule, Andrew, Losing the Light: Terry Gilliam and the MunchausenSaga, New York, 1991.


On GILLIAM: articles—

"Brazil Section" of Revue du Cinéma (Paris), March 1985.

"Gilliam Section" of Positif (Paris), March 1985.

Mathews, J., "Earth to Gilliam," in American Film (Los Angeles), March 1989.

Turan, Kenneth, "The Awful Adventures of Terry Gilliam," in Gentleman's Quarterly, March 1989.

"Gilliam Issue" of Cinefex (Riverside, California), May 1989.

Ellison, Harlan, "Harlan Ellison's Watching," in Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1989.

Van Gelder, L., "At the Movies," in New York Times, 1 June 1990.

Ciment, Michel, article in Positif (Paris), November 1990.

Osborn, B., "The Fisher King," in American Premiere (Beverly Hills), no. 5, 1991.

Stefancic, M., Jr., "Kraljevi ribic," in Ekran (Ljubljana, Yugoslavia), no. 8, 1991.

Panek, Richard, "A Writer's Dream," in Premiere, May 1991.

Drucker, E., "The Fisher King," in American Film (Los Angeles), September/October 1991.

Zagari, P., "Gil intoccabili," in Cinema Nuovo (Rome), November/December 1991.

Mandolini, C., "Terry Gilliam ou le triomphe de l'imaginaire postmoderne," in Sequences (Montreal), January 1992.

"Filmografie," in Segnocinema (Vicenza, Italy), January/February 1992.

Smith, G., "War Games," in The New Yorker, 25 May 1998.

Frankel, Martha, "Terry Does Vegas," in Movieline (Los Angeles), June 1998.


* * *

"A trilogy about the ages of Man and the subordination of magic to realism." So Terry Gilliam described the trio of films which stretched from Time Bandits through Brazil to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Gilliam has worked resolutely in the space between the two elements of magic and reality in all his work, hardly surprising in a man who first became widely known as the provider of brilliant, surreal animation sequences for the Monty Python comedy team in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Gilliam is very much a champion of imagination in his films in both visual and narrative terms. Despite his often surreal vision, however, the products of the imagination do not necessarily have to be fantastic. Love, for example—often a triumph of emotional imagination over reality—has been an important arena in Gilliam's battle between magic and realism—comical and childlike in Jabberwocky, bittersweet and adult in Brazil. For Gilliam, magic counterbalances what he perceives as the sterility of the rational, a view that is manifested in extreme form in the Orwellian nightmare world of Brazil. If love is perhaps the emotional expression of Gilliam's magic, then visual and narrative fantasy is the conceptual. Elements of the fantastic have been ever-present in Gilliam's work from his Monty Python days to the spectacles of Baron Munchausen (an island transformed into a giant fish, a ship gliding through a desert strewn with statues). His feature films often seem, in fact, semi-conscious attempts to recreate the world of his early animations in live-action.

Fellow director Alex Cox has described Gilliam as a "highly skilled visualist," a judgement which cannot really be disputed. (It is worth noting that Gilliam's cinematographer for the dazzling Brazil was Roger Pratt, later to give a similar gloss to the mega-buck Batman.) Gilliam is often criticized, however, for opting for visual pyrotechnics at the expense of narrative solidity. The issue is clouded by Gilliam's constant return to the fairy tale/fantasy format, where the requirement of narrative sense or continuity is arguably less strict anyway. Arthurian legend in Monty Python and The Holy Grail (co-directed with Terry Jones), Lewis Carroll's nonsense world in Jabberwocky, time travel in Time Bandits, an insane world in Brazil, eighteenth-century tall tales in Baron Munchausen, and a psychedelically garish Las Vegas in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas all exemplify Gilliam's fascination with fantasy. Is Gilliam merely an escapist with a remarkably fertile imagination? In opting to undermine the bedrock of dull rationality does he fail to offer anything in return? It is, after all, perfectly possible to make films which are funny and surreal and which have bite—satire as opposed to escapism.

Gilliam's defense against such charges is Brazil. Without Brazil, Gilliam's output smacks a little too much of clownish entertainment. But with Brazil it is clear that the clown can also wear a sadder, darker face. For here, Gilliam opts to take on board the challenging burdens of rationality rather than trying merely to escape them. His vision has weight. If he escapes here it is through facing the deadening products of rationality and triumphing over them through a combination of acid ridicule and emotional willpower. The sights which influenced his perception of the story included a Los Angeles riot, and he has half-cryptically, half-menacingly described the setting of the film as "somewhere on the Los Angeles/Belfast border."

Brazil revealed depths to Gilliam's talent which had only been glimpsed in his blackly comic Monty Python animations rather than his earlier features. Baron Munchausen, disappointingly, proved a regression back to escapism rather than a development of the inspired mood of Brazil (though the pressures of an ever-escalating budget cannot have helped). Perhaps the battle he had to fight with Warner Bros. over Brazil—first over a re-edit (read massacre), then over even releasing the film—had warned him against attempting anything with real edge.

The Fisher King, Gilliam's follow-up to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, ranks with Brazil as among his most thoughtful works. The film, a dazzlingly visual allegory that offers a profound commentary on ethics in contemporary society, ponders a tarnished soul's chance to reclaim a moral lifestyle. Its scenario (authored by Richard LaGravenese, rather than Gilliam) spotlights the plight of Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), a cold-hearted, self-centered radio talk show host who undergoes a personality crisis when one of his listeners, whom he has just crudely dismissed, promptly commits mass murder. Lucas is delivered from the brink of despair by a character who might have been concocted during Gilliam's early Monty Python days, an odd-ball street person (Robin Williams) who is consumed with finding the Holy Grail and hooking up with an evasive young woman (Amanda Plummer).

In 1995 Gilliam released Twelve Monkeys, a film set in post-apocalyptic America. Reminiscent of Brazil in its dark vision of the future, Twelve Monkeys concerns a criminal of the future (played by Bruce Willis) who is sent back in time to late twentieth-century America to gather information about a devastating plague that pushed survivors into a bleak underground existence. The film was more accessible to mainstream audiences than some of Gilliam's earlier films (in part because of its big-name cast, which also included Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt), but still featured Gilliam's signature cynicism about society's dark underbelly.

The filmmaker's follow-up, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was a complete misfire, and easily is his least-successful feature. It is an ill-advised visualization of Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 book, in which the writer's alter ego, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp), and his lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), do Las Vegas while zonked to the gills. Thompson's book may accurately capture a time and place; the film, though crammed with Gilliam's patented visual wizardry, seems sorely dated and totally unnecessary.

Gilliam's films are brilliantly imaginative, though sometimes maddeningly uneven. He remains an outstanding talent who, unfortunately, works too infrequently on screen—and one wonders if he ever will approach the depth of vision he so successfully mined in Brazil.

—Norman Miller, updated by Rob Edelman

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gilliam, Terry." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gilliam, Terry." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gilliam-terry

"Gilliam, Terry." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved September 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gilliam-terry

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Gilliam, Terry

Terry Gilliam

Personal

Full name, Terry Vance Gilliam; born November 22, 1940, in Minneapolis, MN; has taken British citizenship; son of James Hall and Beatrice (Vance) Gilliam; married Maggie Weston, 1973; children: Harry Thunder, Amy Rainbow, Holly Dubois. Education: Occidental College, B.A., 1962. Hobbies and other interests: "Sitting extremely still for indeterminate amounts of time."

Addresses

Home—Highgate Village, England. Agent—Jenne Casarotto, National House, 60-66 Wardour St., London W1V 3HP, England.

Career

Director, writer, actor, and animator. Help! (satirical magazine), New York, NY, associate editor, 1962-64; freelance cartoonist, 1964-65; Carson Roberts Advertising Agency, Los Angeles, CA, copywriter and art director, 1966-67. Worked as freelance illustrator for periodicals, including Sunday edition of London Times, Nova, and Queen, and as artistic director of Londoner Magazine; worked as sketch writer and creator of animated films for television series Do Not Adjust Your Set, 1968-69, as resident cartoonist for television series We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, 1968, and as animator for television series The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, 1971-72, and The Do-It-Yourself Film Animation, 1974; member of Monty Python's Flying Circus comedy troupe, London, England, 1969-76, 1979, serving as animator, writer, director, producer, and set designer; appeared in Monty Python's Flying Circus television series, 1969-74, in stage performances, 1970, 1976, and in Monty Python theatrical films and television specials, 1971-83; also appears in films The Secret Policeman's Private Parts, 1984, Spies Like Us, 1985, and The Do-It-Yourself Animation Film. Co-director of Cry of the Banshee, 1970; Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975; Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975; Jabberwocky, 1977; Time Bandits (and producer), 1981; Brazil, Universal, 1985; Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1989; The Fisher King, 1991; 12 Monkeys, Universal, 1995; and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998. Appears in numerous sound recordings, including Monty Python's Flying Circus, 1970, Another Monty Python Record, 1971, Monty Python's Previous Record, 1972, The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief, 1973, Monty Python Live at Drury Lane, 1974, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975, Monty Python Live at City Centre, 1976, The Monty Python Instant Record Collection, 1977, Monty Python's Life of Brian, 1979, Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, 1980, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, 1981, MontyPython's The Meaning of Life, 1983, Monty Python The Final Rip Off, 1987, Monty Python Sings, 1989, and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998. Visiting professor, Royal College of Art, 1997. Governor, BFI, 1997—. Contributor to Spellbound Haward Gallery, 1996. Executive producer and performer, Complete Waste of Time (CD-ROM), 1995; director, animator, and performer of video games Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, 1996, and animator and performer in video game Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, 1997. Host of BBC television series The Last Machine, 1995.

Awards, Honors

British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Special Award for Graphics, 1969, and Silver Rose Award, Montreaux Television Festival, 1971, both for Monty Python's Flying Circus; Saturn Award nomination, 1982, for best direction and writing (with Michael Palin) of Time Bandits; International Fantasy Film Award nomination, Fantasporto, 1983, for Time Bandits; Grand Prix Special du Jury award, Cannes Film Festival, 1983, for Monty Python's The Meaning of Life; nomination for best short film, BAFTA, 1984, for "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" (from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life); LAFCA Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, 1985, for best direction and (with Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard) best screenplay for Brazil; Academy Award nomination, best screenplay (with Tom Stoppard), 1986, for Brazil; Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema (with Monty Python), BAFTA, 1987; honorary D.F.A., Occidental College, 1987; honorary D.F.A., Royal College of Art, 1989; People's Choice Award, Toronto International Film Festival, 1991, for The Fisher King; Silver Lion Award and Golden Lion nomination, Venice Film Festival, 1991, for The Fisher King; Golden Globe Award nomination, best director, 1992, for The Fisher King; Golden Berlin Bear nomination, Berlin International Film Festival, 1996, for 12 Monkeys; Empire Award for best direction, 1997, for 12 Monkeys; Golden Palm nomination, Cannes Film Festival, 1998, for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Time-Machine Honorary Award, Catalonian International Film Festival, 2000.

Writings

(Compiler, with Harvey Kurtzman) Charles Alverson, Harvey Kurtzman's Fun and Games, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1965.

(With Joel Siegel) The Cocktail People (cartoons), Pisani Press (San Francisco, CA), 1966.

(With Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin) Monty Python's Big Red Book, Methuen (London, England), 1972.

(Illustrator) Roger McGough, Sporting Relations (poems), Methuen (London, England), 1974.

(Under pseudonym Jerry Gillian; with Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones, and Palin) The Brand New Monty Python Bok, illustrated by Gilliam and Peter Brookes, edited by Eric Idle, Methuen (London, England), 1973, published as The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok, 1974.

(With Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones, and Palin) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Book), Methuen (London, England), 1977, published as Monty Python's Second Film: A First Draft, 1977.

(With Charles Alverson) Jabberwocky (screenplay), Cinema 5, 1977.

(With Lucinda Cowell) Animations of Mortality (cartoons), Methuen (London, England), 1978.

(With Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones, and Palin) Monty Python's Life of Brian (of Nazareth) [and] Montypythonscrabook, edited by Eric Idle, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1979.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Monty Python (contains Monty Python's Big Red Book and The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok), Methuen (London, England), 1981.

(With Michael Palin) Time Bandits, Hutchinson (London, England), 1981, published as Time Bandits: The Movie Script, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981.

(With Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones, and Palin) Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Methuen (London, England), 1983.

(With Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown) Brazil (screenplay), Universal, 1985.

(With Charles McKeown) Adventures of Baron Munchausen (screenplay), Columbia, 1989, published as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The Novel, Applause Theater Book Publishers (New York, NY), 1989.

Gilliam on Gilliam, edited by Ian Christie, Faber (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Charles Alverson) Brazil: The Evolution of the 54th Best British Film Ever Made, edited and introduced by Bob McCabe, Orion Media (London, England), 2001.

Also storyboard illustrator for Lost in La Mancha (documentary film), 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including Film Comment, Stills, Starburst, Cinema, and Sequences.

SCREENPLAYS WITH MONTY PYTHON; AND ANIMATOR AND ACTOR

And Now for Something Completely Different, Columbia Pictures, 1971.

Pythons in Deutschland, Bavaria Atelier, 1971.

(And co-director) Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Cinema 5, 1974.

Monty Python's Life of Brian, Warn Bros., 1978.

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Handmade Films/Columbia Pictures, 1982.

(And director) Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Universal, 1983.

RECORDINGS; WITH MONTY PYTHON

Monty Python's Flying Circus, BBC Records, 1970.

Another Monty Python Record, Charisma, 1971.

Monty Python's Previous Record, Charisma, 1972.

Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief, Charisma, 1973, Arista, 1974.

Monty Python Live at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Charisma, 1974.

The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arista, 1975.

Monty Python Live at City Center, Arista, 1976.

The Worst of Monty Python, Kama Sutra, 1976.

The Monty Python Instant Record Collection, Charisma, 1977.

Monty Python's Life of Brian (film soundtrack), Warner Bros., 1979.

Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, Arista, 1980.

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (film soundtrack), CBS Records, 1983.

The First Monty Python's Flying Circus Laser Videodisc, Paramount Home Video, 1987.

Monty Python's the Final Ripoff (compilation), Virgin Records, 1988.

Adaptations

A Broadway version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, to be directed by Mike Nichols, is being planned for 2005.

Work in Progress

Working on films Good Omens, Mondo Beyondo, Scaramouche, and The Brothers Grimm. Planning direction of film Tideland, with expected 2006 release.

Sidelights

A veteran of the famous British comedy troupe Monty Python, Terry Gilliam is well known for his outrageous animation work for the group. His cartoons have often been cited as a sort of preview of his own unique filmmaking style. After the members of Monty Python went their separate ways in the mid-1980s, Gilliam, the only American-born member of the troupe, made a name for himself as the director of stylistically and thematically adventurous films. As Michael Wilmington remarked in the Chicago Tribune, "Wild, lavish, bursting at the seams, set in outrageously cluttered worlds where past, present and future seem to crisscross delightfully, Gilliam's films look like nobody else's." Indeed, Gilliam's cinematic efforts, which include Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, and 12 Monkeys, all bear the unmistakable stamp of a man fascinated by mythology, contemporary society, and spectacular—if often nightmarish—imagery.

Gilliam was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and raised in California's San Fernando Valley. He developed a love for drawing and movies at an early age and was particularly attracted to the more fanciful tales of adventure that he encountered in libraries and darkened movie theaters. "The movie that got me as a kid, gave me nightmares for years, was The Thief of Bagdad," he said in an interview with Jack Mathews for American Film. "They were good nightmares, filled with wondrous, inventive things. There's something about finding a bottle with a genie in it who can make anything happen."

After graduating from Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1962, Gilliam made his way to New York, where he landed an assistant editor position on a humor magazine called Help! The job proved to be an interesting one, he once said, "because, at the time, it was the only outlet for a certain kind of young cartoonist. We were the first people to publish Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton and an awful lot of the people who subsequently went on to do all the underground comics." It was during his time at Help! that Gilliam first met John Cleese, who would later be a fellow member of Monty Python.

After three years in New York, Gilliam was weary of the city, so when the magazine ceased publication, the young cartoonist caught a plane for Europe. "I just fell in love with the place," he said. "It was wonderful." After hitchhiking around the continent for several months, he reluctantly returned to the United States, his savings gone. Following a brief stay in New York, Gilliam relocated to Los Angeles, where he worked in advertising for about a year. He disliked the advertising business, though, and when his English girlfriend expressed a desire to return to Europe, he gladly tagged along.

Monty Python Days

Having little luck finding a job after arriving in England in 1967, Gilliam called Cleese for help in securing employment. "I was really low—it seemed impossible to get anywhere with magazines, so I called John Cleese and asked him how I could get into television," he told George Perry in Life of Python. Cleese directed him to Humphrey Barclay, an executive with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Barclay was interested in the young artist's cartoon design experience, but it was not until Gilliam started working with Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Eric Idle on a television show for children called Do Not Adjust Your Set that his career began to take off.

Before long the four of them, along with Graham Chapman and John Cleese, decided to create a new comedy show for television. Gilliam noted that "John was the best known of everyone. He had a standing invitation from the BBC to do a show whenever he wanted to. He took the opportunity and said, 'There's five other people and myself who want to do a show. We don't know exactly what it's going to be, but it'll be funny.'"

Monty Python's Flying Circus was launched by the BBC in 1969, and it was an immediate hit in England. (It was similarly successful in the United States, where PBS began showing episodes in 1974.) Over the course of the next decade the Monty Python comedy troupe proved an incredibly prolific and daring gang, producing countless outrageous skits and a number of popular motion pictures, including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian, and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

Monty Python humor was unlike anything that had been seen before on television. As Thomas Meehan observed in the New York Times Magazine in 1976, "unlike almost all other comedians these days, on TV or elsewhere, the Pythons are shamelessly willing to go in for absolute nonsense ... to be not only utterly silly but often in outrageously bad taste. . . . Yet part of their infinite charm is that they're willing to try almost anything and to lampoon just about anyone." The members of the group also cited their determination to please themselves as a big reason for their success. As Gilliam said in an interview with Tony DeSena in Aquarian, "We don't really care [what the fans want]. It sounds arrogant but it's also honest. We don't know or care about demographics. We write totally for ourselves, what we think is funny. We never take into consideration anyone else."

Gilliam—whom the other members of the troupe jokingly called their "token American"—made few on-screen appearances himself, content to let Cleese, Palin, and the other Pythons dominate the group's skits. Instead, Gilliam contributed bizarre, surrealistic cartoons that often served as bridges from one skit or movie segment to the next. "A lot of the cartoons I did for Python were very disturbing. There's a lot of anger, anarchy and nihilism along with the bright colors and silly pictures," he admitted to Leslie Bennetts of the New York Times. "You hope you can reach people on different levels. There's the odd dodo out there who just likes color and noise, and if people want to look at the surface, it's an entertaining surface, but if they want to look deeper there are other things going on." Other members of Monty Python recognized that a vibrant, wildly talented artist was lurking behind those alternately silly and sinister cartoons. As Palin once said, "It's the most wild and exciting part of Python, I think, the Gilliam edge. If Python was made up of six Gilliams, there would be this total explosion of creativity and bits of Pythons splattered all over the walls."

In 1977 Gilliam took his first step into the world of film direction with Jabberwocky, a medieval fantasy based on the Lewis Carroll poem of the same name. Most critics thought that the film did not measure up to Monty Python's more inspired work, but in 1981 Gilliam's second feature film, Time Bandits, received praise from both critics and moviegoers. A rollicking tale of a boy who is taken on a crazy, whirlwind tour through time by a small group of adventurous dwarves, Time Bandits is, as Newsweek's David Ansen ventured, "a teeming and original stew that stirs in many genres and moods." A mixture of both lighthearted fantasy and dark surrealism, the film was a surprise box office hit. Some people worried that its content was too intense for youngsters, but the director dismissed such concerns. "Fairy tales used to frighten kids," he told People writer Jerene Jones. "They were wonderful to experience—and come out alive. I don't like Sesame Street—too bland and nice. We're correcting the balance a little."

Brazil Brings Controversy

In 1985 Gilliam completed work on Brazil, a black comedy set in a nightmarish near-future society; the film follows a man's efforts to survive a dark world festooned in red tape, faceless administrative nonsense, awful pollution, and social isolation. Brazil is now regarded as a cult classic, but when the executives at Universal Pictures—the studio that had hired Gilliam to direct the picture—first saw the finished product, they were horrified. Universal refused to release the film unless Gilliam made some dramatic changes to it. Outraged, Gilliam refused, and the two sides became deadlocked. Gilliam finally arranged for his version of Brazil to be shown to the members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The critics were so impressed by the film that they gave it their year-end awards for best picture, best director, and best screenplay. The accolades embarrassed Universal into releasing Gilliam's original version of the picture.

Critics around the country found Brazil to be a terrifically imaginative film. New York Times critic Janet Maslin called it "a jaunty, wittily observed vision of an extremely bleak future" and considered it "a superb example of the power of comedy to underscore serious ideas, even solemn ones." Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers similarly labeled it "the most stinging comic indictment yet of the corporate mentality."

Heartened by Brazil's critical reception and its respectable box office earnings, Gilliam tackled his next assignment with characteristic enthusiasm and energy. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, released in 1989, is an adventure fantasy set in the late-eighteenth century, "a tall tale about a teller of tall tales" wrote the Washington Post's Hal Hinson. As with his earlier efforts, many critics were bowled over by the sheer power of Gilliam's imagination. Baron Munchausen "is full of moments that dazzle, just for the fun of seeing the impossible come to life on the screen," wrote New York Times critic Vincent Canby. Washington Post contributor Dess Howe called the movie a "brilliantly inventive epic of fantasy and satire."

Others, though, thought that Baron Munchausen was too chaotic and confusing for its own good. The mixed critical reception of the film, along with its disappointing ticket sales and higher-than-expected cost—budgeted for twenty-three million dollars, it cost more than forty million dollars to make—made studio executives increasingly wary of the Monty Python alumnus. As long as his movies were profitable, the executives tried to accept Gilliam's uncompromising filmmaking vision. Baron Munchausen's poor box office performance, however, made some observers wonder about Gilliam's filmmaking future.

For his part, Gilliam—who had always written the screenplays for his movies in the past—announced that he was "tired of defending his own ideas and was ready to direct someone else's work," wrote Elizabeth Drucker in American Film. A short time later, he read a screenplay by Richard LaGravenese that rekindled his excitement. "The moment I read [the screenplay], it was like, jeez, why didn't I write this?" he old Drucker. "The ideas, the characters—I understood everything."

Critical and Popular Acclaim

LaGravenese's screenplay became the basis for The Fisher King, a 1991 film starring Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams. Bridges play a callous radio disc jockey whose on-air remarks trigger an explosion of violence, while Williams portrays a man victimized by that violence. The film, which also incorporates elements of myth and legend into the story of the relationship that develops between these two wounded characters, was one of the year's most popular movies with both audiences and reviewers. Travers observed that the film "betrays a drift toward the mainstream" for Gilliam, but noted that the director "is too mad-dog ballistic to make peace with convention for long. At its most outrageously entertaining, the film sweeps you up on waves of humor, heartbreak and ravishing romance. It also bloodies itself in Gilliam's favorite battles: imagination versus logic, love versus hate, art versus commerce." Newsweek's David Ansen praised the film as well, noting that while Gilliam's "dark, prankish satirical vision pervades this story, at the end of this sometimes harrowing tunnel is a glowing romantic light. . . . The Fisher King veers with great assurance from wild comedy to feverish fantasy, robust romanticism and tough realism—with only an occasional stumble." Some reviewers were more critical of the movie, but many concluded that its strengths outweighed its weaknesses. Time critic Richard Corliss, for instance, wrote that "some big emotional moments are bungled or botched. . . . At heart [it's] a buddy movie." Yet in the end Corliss said that the film contains "pleasures galore" and admitted: "A million reservations notwithstanding, I like The Fisher King." Travers also had a few quibbles with the film, but he concluded: "So what if it's not perfect? It's magic."

In 1995, four years after the release of The Fisher King, Gilliam unveiled 12 Monkeys, a dark tale about a convict named Cole, played by Bruce Willis, who is struggling for his life in the year 2035. Cole is sent back to the end of the twentieth century to try and find the source of a deadly virus that killed off most of humanity and forced the survivors into an underground existence. Dismissed as insane by medical authorities, the convict meets two key people during his stay in a mental institution—a fellow patient played by Brad Pitt, and a psychiatrist, played by Madeleine Stowe. As the story unfolds, the psychiatrist comes to believe Cole's claims that he comes from the future; meanwhile, Cole decides that he really is delusional.

A great success at the box office, the apocalyptic thriller further cemented Gilliam's reputation in the critical community. "The pleasure of 12 Monkeys lies in the way Terry Gilliam plugs us so deeply into the moods that he creates that we find ourselves making the same hallucinatory leaps that Cole does," said Entertainment Weekly reviewer Owen Gleiberman. "Gilliam ... turns a world falling apart into a funky, dizzying spectacle." San Francisco Examiner reviewer Barbara Shulgasser added that "Gilliam applies [a] fierce visual talent to a ripping story."

From Gonzo Film to Don Quixote Fiasco

A dark world of a very different sort is the subject of Gilliam's 1998 film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the cinematic adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson book about a drugged-out trip to Las Vegas. Thompson, who is well-known for inventing the "gonzo journalism" of the late-1960s and 1970s in which fact and fiction are mixed with a "reporter"'s intrusiveness into a story, wrote in the original 1971 book of his hallucinatory trip that was a paean to the abandoned aspirations of the 1960s generation. Gillian's adaptation, however, was often excoriated as a pointless, rambling, and nauseating film starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Torro. Variety contributor Todd McCarthy wrote one of the most scathing reviews of the film, calling it "an over elaborate gross-out ... without a story or detectable point of view." Part of the problem, McCarthy felt, was that the protest nature of the film is not as relevant today as it was when Thompson wrote his book. Even so, "the picture does little to make it relevant or plausible for a modern perspective." A People writer similarly called the film "an unwatchable, pointless mess." Others, however, appreciated Gilliam's efforts, and the movie was nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. Film Comment critic Mark Olsen was one reviewer who understood what the director was trying to accomplish. "It's ... this schism between debauched freakishness and grim reality that Terry Gilliam's adaptation ... deftly crosses," Olsen asserted, "the leap between the fantastic and the ordinary being a distinguishing characteristic of Gilliam's films. In many ways, Gilliam's [Fear and Loathing]—full of bad vibes, freak-outs, and close shaves—... if nothing else, will probably stand as the last word on Gonzo and the cinema." Entertainment Weekly writer Troy Patterson praised the director's skill: "Gilliam's Las Vegas, like his Brazil, is not a place, but a full-blown mode of existence. Viva!"

It has been one of Gilliam's gifts that he has frequently been able to turn criticism, even disaster, into success. This is particularly true of his ten-year effort to produce and direct a film that was to be titled "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote." The movie, starring Johnny Depp again, along with Jean Rochefort as Quixote, was to be a fantasy in which a modern-day attorney is transported into the Miguel de Cervantes tale, where he assumes the role of Quixote's sidekick, Sancho Panza. A stream of hardships, including financial problems, a double disk hernia suffered by Rochefort, and a flood that swept away all the film equipment on the set, has left Gilliam with only a few completed scenes. "It was like a punishment for everything bad I had ever done in my life," Gilliam moaned in an Interview article by Graham Fuller. Though he has not yet given up on the project, Gilliam turned his bad luck into a remarkable success by producing Lost in La Mancha, a documentary recording the fiasco. Premiering at the Berlin Film Festival in 2002, the documentary received a warm welcome. Newsweek contributor David Ansen, for example, called it a "hilariously painful cautionary tale."

A Film Legacy Still in Progress

If one statement may be made of Gilliam's film work, it is that it has drawn strong reaction from critics. Some reviewers, such as New Republic writer Stanley Kauffmann, have felt that the director and writer's best works lie behind him in his Monty Python days. In a review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Kauffmann declared that "Gilliam's directing record since MP has been sad," concluding that, "bereft of the group that gave him his best being, he doesn't seem able to find an authentic existence on his own." On the other hand, many have praised Gilliam, with Mark Olsen declaring that the director has "for years [been] a master of visual excess." Fuller appreciated Gilliam's willingness to take risks: "A director with a taste for romanticizing self-deluding dreamers, Terry Gilliam has flown closer to the sun than most."

If you enjoy the works of Terry Gilliam

If you enjoy the works of Terry Gilliam you might want to check out the following films:

The City of Lost Children, 1995.

Blade Runner, 1982.

Dark City, 1998.

The History of the World, Part I, 1981.

It is this risk taking that has caused Gilliam's film projects to get bogged down at times. Some of the movies he is working on, including Good Omens, which is based on a humorous fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, have been in the works for years. But Gilliam attributes his success to his determination and energy. "My greatest strength is my sheer stamina to get things made," he told Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune. "My great weakness is my ability to convince myself and everyone that I can do something, which sometimes I can't do. But even that fault helps get the films made. And that's all that matters to me." Indeed, Gilliam's devotion to his profession is even reflected in his home, a restored sixteenth-century mansion north of London that was once the home of English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon. Strange souvenirs or inspirational pieces from Gilliam's films can be found throughout the house, and even the ceiling of the master bedroom has been painted to match the beautiful sky that serves as a symbol for escape in his film Brazil. When asked by Siskel about his decision to live in England, Gilliam, who is now a British citizen, replied, "I choose to live in England because I'm tired of how simple-minded everything is becoming in American culture. For example, I don't like the way you give thumbs up and thumbs down to a movie. Films are more complex than that."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Hewison, Robert, Monty Python: The Case Against, Methuen, 1981.

Joson, Kim Howard, The First 200 Years of Monty Python, St. Martin's, 1989.

Mathews, Jack, The Battle of Brazil, revised edition, Applause, 1998.

Perry, George, Life of Python, Little, Brown, 1983.

Sterritt, David, and Lucille Rhodes, editors, Terry Gilliam: Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

PERIODICALS

Advocate, February 4, 2003, Michele Kort, "Masters of Disaster: Creative and Life Partners Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton Talk about Los in La Mancha, Their Fab Documentary about a Film Gone Horribly Wrong," p. 51.

American Film, March, 1989, Jack Mathews, "Earth to Gilliam," pp. 34-39, 56-58; September/October, 1991, Elizabeth Drucker, review of The Fisher King, pp. 50-51.

Aquarian, July 21-28, 1982, Tony DeSena, "An Interview with Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam," pp. 19, 28.

Chicago Tribune, March 12, 1989, Gene Siskel, "Visual Overlord," Section 13, pp. 8-9; January 14, 1996, Michael Wilmington, "Worlds in Collision," pp. 8-9.

Entertainment Weekly, January 12, 1996, Owen Gleiberman, "Number of the Beasts"; May 8, 1998, Michael Giltz, review of 12 Monkeys, p. 82; June 12, 1998, review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p. 52; November 13, 1998, Troy Patterson, review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p. 82; May 21, 1999, Troy Patterson, "Sand People," p. 80; February 14, 2003, Owen Gleiberman, "Quix Sand: Lost in La Mancha Is a Funny and Revealing Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Terry Gilliam Movie that Goes Tilt," p. 54; February 21, 2003, "The Week," p. 130; July 11, 2003, Steve Daly, review of Lost in La Mancha, p. 67; October 17, 2003, Ken Tucker, "A Memo from the Ministry of Silly Talk," p. 85.

Film Comment, July-August, 1998, Mark Olsen, review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p. 76.

Interview, February, 2003, Graham Fuller, "Shots in the Dark: The Dream-Big, Fail-Big Visionaries Who Live Large in Moviegoers' Minds," p. 83.

Library Journal, October 15, 2003, John Skrtic, review of Lost in La Mancha, p. 110; December, 2003, Barry X. Miller, review of The Pythons: Autobiography by the Pythons, p. 120.

New Republic, June 22, 1998, Stanley Kauffman, review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p. 26.

Newsweek, September 23, 1991, David Ansen, "The Holy Grail in the Unholy City," p. 57; February 10, 2003, David Ansen, "Bring on the Windmills: On the (Un)making of Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote," p. 66.

New York Times, January 19, 1986, Leslie Bennetts, "How Terry Gilliam Found a Happy Ending for Brazil," Section 2, pp. 15-16; March 10, 1989, Vincent Canby, "How a Notorious Liar Might Have Lived,", p. C8; September 20, 1991, Janet Maslin, "A Cynic's Questor Forgiveness," p. C10; December 24, 1995, Jill Gerston, "Terry Gilliam: Going Mainstream (Sort Of),", pp. 9, 28.

New York Times Magazine, April 18, 1976, Thomas Meehan, "And Now for Something Completely Different," pp. 34-36.

People, December 21, 1981, Jerene Jones, "The Only Yank in Monty Python Stares Down Critics as his Time Bandits Steals $24 Million," p. 50; August 2, 1982, Lewis Grossberger, "Monty Python," pp. 46-48, 53-55; June 1, 1998, review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p. 31; February 17, 2003, Leah Rozen and Tom Gliatto, "Screen," p. 33; January 12, 2004, "Now Hear This: Best Books on Tape," p. 51.

Rolling Stone October 17, 1991, Peter Travers, "That Old Black Magic."

San Francisco Examiner, January 5, 1996, Barbara Shulgasser, "Grim, Gritty Story of Fatal Virus," p. C1.

Time, September 23, 1991, Richard Corliss, "Words of One Syllabus," p. 68; September 8, 1997, Belinda Luscombe, "Getting in the Way Too Depp," p. 88.

U.S. Catholic, November, 2002, review of The Fisher King, p. 30.

Variety, May 18, 1998, Todd McCarthy, review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p. 72; October 23, 2000, Adam Dawtrey, "Pic Pair a Good Omen for Brit-based Renaissance," p. 4; October 30, 2000, John Hopewell and Adam Dawtrey, "Knight Falls on 'Quixote'; Euros' Tentpole Topples," p. 16, and Adam Dawtrey, "Renaissance Sets Gilliam, Hytner Pics," p. 63; February 4, 2002, Adam Dawtrey, "Duo Documents 'Don' Disaster," p. 16; June 3, 2002, Adam Dawtrey, "Gilliam Juggles Projects," p. 10; August 12, 2002, "Gilliam Circles 'Scaramouche,'" p. 2.

Washington Post, March 24, 1989, Desson Howe, "Red-hot Baron,"; December 7, 1989, Hal Hinson, review of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, p. E7.

ONLINE

Pythonline,http://www.pythonline.com/ (June 22, 2004).

OTHER

The Pythons (sound recording), Audio Renaissance, 2003.*

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gilliam, Terry." Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 59. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gilliam, Terry." Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 59. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/gilliam-terry

"Gilliam, Terry." Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 59. . Retrieved September 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/gilliam-terry

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.