Fear and Loathing in Virtual Reality
If you're not angry, they say, you're not paying attention. Mad hatter Terry Gilliam has been accused of a lot of thingsdirectorial self-indulgence (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), professional self-sabotage (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), creative accounting (Brazil). But one could never blame the Monty Python alum and native Minnesotan for failing to reckon with the cruel world. The cinematic equivalent of a well-timed hissy fit, Gilliam's new movie Tideland hurls every size and shape of living nightmare at its preteen heroine (Jodelle Ferland), who's left alone in the middle of nowhere (Minnesota?) following the ugly overdoses of her junkie parents. Still, like Gilliam after getting cut up by Bob and Harvey Scissorhands (The Brothers Grimm), the kid stays in the picture. Attentive as always, Gilliam says he's "not interested in opinions of people [who] don't pay to see the film." But he gamely e-mailed answers to our idle questions anyway.
City Pages: You're often described as a fabulist, but isn't Tideland a political movie for the No More Mr. Nice Guy age?
Terry Gilliam: Have people forgotten I made Brazil? George W. [Bush], [Dick] Cheney, and company haven't. I'm thinking of suing them for the illegal and unauthorized remake of Brazil.
CP: If Monty Python were working together today, how do you think it would address the current climate in satiric terms?
Gilliam: I think we would just take the money and keep quiet.
CP: What are some of the things you were thinking about before making Tideland?
Gilliam: The fact that children are sold to the world by the media primarily as victims. In fact, victimhood is what anyone who aspires to be noticed by the media clambers to achieve. I'm more interested in the resilience of people. I'm bored with the whiners.
CP: Martin Scorsese is currently enjoying his biggest commercial rewards for what strikes me (and maybe him) as his flimsiest and least personal film in roughly 35 years. Does that make you want to sell out yourself, maybe hire that cute kid from Entourage and, you know, make one for them (or Them)?
Gilliam: If "them" is the audience, I always try to appeal to them. There are just a lot of different audiences out there, many more than are credited or reached for by the other "them." I don't see why all of "them" can't have something to enjoy. I'm always available to sell out, but nobody gives me the chance—just another form of victimization that angers me.
CP: When you watch Tideland, what does it make you feel, personally speaking?
Gilliam: I think it's one of the best films I've made. It fills my heart with joy.
CP: Your films have to do with the joys and terrors of fantasy, of the imagination. So: What does Terry Gilliam himself believe? And who (or what?) do you want to believe in you?
Gilliam: I believe in everything and nothing. It's dangerous to have people believe in you; they're bound to be "disappointed," a word much used by critics in their reviews of my films.
CP: Some have talked about Tideland as a deal-breaker in terms of your entire career, which may or may not explain your cheeky decision to go out panhandling in New York with a sign saying "Will direct for food." But in Hollywood you can always make a deal. So what's your next mov(i)e?
Gilliam: I don't know. But as far as my career, I've never had one so there is nothing to worry about.
CP: If you could have dinner with one world leader, dead or alive, who would it be?
Gilliam: I'm strangely attracted to Jimmy Carter now that peanuts are deemed to be a dangerous food.
CP: You were born in Minnesota. You think Minneapolis might be a better city than most to live in once the apocalypse hits?
Gilliam: What apocalypse? Are there some problems in the world that I am unaware of that might lead to it? Gosh, now you've got me worried.
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