In September 2000, when the cameras began rolling on Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Don Quixote, the production already had a chequered past including ten years of development, a series of producers and two previous attempts to start the film. Gilliam had achieved the difficult task of financing the $32 million budget entirely within Europe — a feat that would provide him with freedom from the creative restrictions of Hollywood. The uphill joumey was not, however, inconsistent with Gilliam's career: his more than fifteen year history of battling the Hollywood machine had cast him, like Quixote, as a visionary dreamer who rages against gigantic forc,es.
Joining the Madrid based production team eight weeks before the shoot, Lost In La Mancha directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe witness the successes as well as the failures. Problems are quick to emerge: the multilingual crew struggles to communicate detailed ideas; actors remain absent as they run over schedule on other projects; and everything from untrained horses to a sound stage - that isn't sound-proof - threatens the film. But through it all, there is the palpable, mounting excitement that Gilliam's ideas will finally come to fruition: the crew watch test footage of marauding giants; puppeteers rehearse a troop of life-size marionettes; Gilliam and Johnny Depp brainstorm over the script. By the time Jean Rochefort straps on his Quixote armour, success, though far off, seems almost possible.
Not long into production disaster strikes: flash floods destroy sets and damage camera equipment; the lead actor falls seriously ill; and on the sixth day production is brought to its knees. Uniquely, after Quixote's cameras have stopped rolling, the documentary continues to record events as they unfold: the crew waits, insurance men and bondsmen scramble with calculators and interpretations of 'force majeure' and behind it Gilliam struggles to maintain both belief and momentum in his project.
In the best tradition of documentary filmmaking, Lost In La Mancha captures all the drama of this story through "fly-on-the-wall" verite footage and on-the-spot Interviews. Gilliam's plans for the non-existent film come alive in animations of his storyboards, narrated and voiced by co-writer Tony Grisoni and Gilliam himself. And with the camera tests of the leading actors and the rushes from the only six days of photography, Lost In La Mancha offers a tantalizing glimpse of the cinematic spectacle that might have been.
Lost In La Mancha is less a process piece about filmmakers at work and more a powerful drama about the inherent fragility of the creative process — a compelling study of how, even with an abundance of the best will and passion, the artistic endeavor can remain an impossible dream
In the wake of The Hamster Factor, Fulton and Pepe formed Low Key Pictures and have produced and directed numerous documentary pieces on filmmaking for Warner Bros., MGM, and Castle Rock Entertainment. Determined to prove that 'behind-the-scenes' needn't be synonymous with 'funereal celebrity hoopla,' they have applied their 'low key' sensibility on the sets of films such as Three Kings, Ghost World and Christopher Nolan's upcoming feature, lnsomnia. Their work can be found on numerous DVDs, an HBO special, and several websites.
Fulton and Pepe are currently developing a TV series with John Malkovich's company, Mr. Mudd, and a fiction film, Living and Breathing, with Jericho Entertainment. They are also collaborating on a mock documentary about their absurd clashes with the Hollywood publicity machine and a screen adaptation of a Gothic horror novel. They live and work in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles — in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, and just down the street from the old Mack Sennett Studios (now a public storage facility).
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Keith Fulton , Louis Pepe
Written by: Keith Fulton , Louis Pepe
Produced by: Lucy Darwin
Editing: Jacob Bricca
Production Design: Benjamín Fernández
Costume Design: Gabriella Pescucci
Original Score: Miriam Cutler
Main Cast: Jeff Bridges (Narrator), Johnny Depp, Tony Grisoni
Nominations and Awards
- European Documentary Award – Prix Arte 2002