For “Lost in La Mancha,” how did you get such great access to Terry Gilliam?
Keith: Well, we’ve known Terry for six years now. We made a film a feature length doc in 1996 called “The Hamster Factor” when he was making “12 Monkeys” in Philadelphia. So, we’d already done that film him and by this time, that he was doing the Quixote film, we were friends. And there’s a way in which to make docs with someone that you’re really intimate with because you can–
Louis: Exploit them. (Laugh)
Keith: Get that emotional intensity that makes the film dramatic.

Now, the same thing that makes a great narrative film makes a great doc – and that’s good storytelling. This film has that.
Louis: You have to think about it the same way you would write a fiction film script. Except you only have the material that you managed to capture on camera. But you think about it the same way — who’s the main character? What scene did we capture that’s the most emotionally dramatic thing? Well, you’re going to move that to the climax and you’re going build up to it. What are the different plot strands and who are the secondary characters? You think about it very similarly.
Keith: The disturbing thing is that people don’t seem to recognize that documentaries are not that much different from fiction films – I mean, they’re based on truth, they’re based in reality, but you structure them like you structure fiction films.

And you have threads that pay off, and if you don’t, you’d leave them out.
Keith: Most likely no, unless you’re creating a red herring, like you would in a fiction film.

Well, you said you started with 80 hours of footage to edit this film, what didn’t we see?
Keith: 120 hours
Louis: We came back with 80 and did a whole bunch of additional interviews, just to find out what had happened.

What was left on the cutting room floor?
Louis: Well, the difficult part is that it’s about a film that doesn’t exist. And a lot of what we’d been documenting were a lot of great details – this set being built or these puppets – all these things that were going to be in Terry’s film, windmills being created, they didn’t even get to shoot the majority of that, so it didn’t really fit into the story, so there was a lot of that.
Keith: A lot of detail that wouldn’t mean anything to anybody.
Louis: We did a meeting where Terry met with the composer, because there’s music in the film. So he’s composing music even before they even shoot. It’s a great little scene, but it ended up slowing down the story. When Johnny Depp showed up, he and Terry sat down and discussed the whole script. Well, there isn’t the time, but just a little snippit of what was like two days of discussing every detail and nuance of the character. And all of the stuff that was about Terry’s film.

There was a great moment where Johnny Depp suggests a line and Terry seems really excited about it. Were there any other cast interactions like that maybe we didn’t get to see? Because it’s really Terry’s story.
Louis: There wasn’t too much of that because that was only a couple days before they started shooting. I think Terry was really looking forward to the types of spontaneous things that can happen when they get together. Because Johnny is really good at coming up with things on the spur of the moment and Terry likes to get him to do that. That whole scene with the fish, I mean, Johnny came up with that on the spur of the moment. Terry was really looking forward to lots of that.
Keith: You have to remember, there were only six days of production, so the cast wasn’t even around very long.

Get the rest of the interview in part three of KEITH FULTON AND LOUIS PEPE: LOST WITH GILLIAM>>>

Posted on October 30, 2002 in Interviews by


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