Terry Gilliam on directing Heath Ledger's final film: 'It was like a member of the family had died'
Terry Gilliam‘s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote finally hits theaters this weekend after decades in development hell, but it’s not the director’s only troubled production. In the newest episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, Gilliam sat down with host Lola Ogunnaike to discuss The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus — specifically, what it was like when star Heath Ledger died in the middle of filming. He still remembers exactly where he was when he heard the tragic news.
“I was working in the art department trying to save $15,000 on a set. Amy, my daughter, came in and said ‘you’ve gotta come in the office.’ I said, ‘I’m busy.’ She said, ‘now,'” Gilliam recalls. “She got me into the office, and there it was on the BBC: Heath Ledger had died. We all just collapsed and lay on the floor all day long, not knowing what to do. It was like a member of the family had died.”
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A key concern for Gilliam and his collaborators was finding someone to replace Ledger in the remaining scenes. Gilliam recalled saying that there was “no one actor who could replace Heath and what he’s doing in the film,” so they ultimately settled on not one but three replacements: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. Once Depp was on board, Gilliam said, it helped re-secure the film’s finances.
“We’ll never know what the movie would’ve been like with Heath playing all of it, but what we have is magical,” Gilliam concludes.
Watch the video above for more.