From the idea to the cinema, the first and closest attempt he came to achieving it was in 2000 where Jean Rochefort, would’ve played Don Quixote, alongisde Johnny Depp. However, Rochefort dropped out after suffering from a double-herniated disc, after taking seven months to learn English for the role. Then, a flash flood hit the set on day two, washed away a ton of equipment, changing the colour of the barren cliffs, so anything already in the can was now unusable.
In 2010, the names of Robert Duvall and Ewan McGregor were mooted for the roles, and then in 2015, John Hurt and Jack O’Connell, but neither of these productions came to be. If there’s one thing that’s perfect for this film, it’s Jonathan Pryce (Dough) as the titular character, who was also due to have a different role in the 2000 production.
Taking the other role in this final version is Adam Driver (Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker, Paterson) as Toby, the director who’s trying to make a commercial about Don Quixote, after he once made the student film, also called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
Back then, he made his movie with locals rather than actors, and it starred a cobbler called Javier (Pryce) in the lead role, but with the advert’s lead not working out, he wants to recapture the old magic again, and heads off to seek out his man… and when he does, he finds Javier is still rather into the role as it’s completely taken over his life and mental state.
The rest of the main cast is made up of Stellan Skarsgård (Chernobyl) as the commercial company’s boss, Olga Kurylenko (Momentum) as Jacqui – who wants to have her wicked way with Toby, Joana Ribeiro as Angelica – a teenage Dulcinea in the student film and for whom Toby wants in his latest version, and the omnipotent Jason Watkins (Des, the Dennis Nilsen drama), working on the production set as Rupert, camping it up as ever.
It brilliantly breaks the fourth wall in a scene with subtitles, during which Toby says, “Hey, we don’t need these!” and brushes them off the screen, followed by the sound of bullet shells dropping to the ground as the subtitles clatter to the ground offscreen.
As I mentioned, Pryce is brilliant as the old man who’s rather lost his marbles and now believes he IS Don Quixote; Driver is perfectly fine, and is the only newcomer from the latest Star Wars films who, for me, I ever want to see in anything again.
As for the film, the first 1/3 is great, but then it rather goes a bit mad, random and rather off the rails. I know Terry Gilliam films aren’t always meant to make sense, but a bit of continuity wouldn’t go amiss; and even though this stems from a novel, it ends up feeling like the director is just making it up as he goes along.
In fact, in the last 1/3, it seems to divert from reality altogether as Toby is drawn more into Quixote’s skewed version of the world – with the film attempting to emulate that, and I lost track of anything that was happening, for the most part until it reached the last ten minutes – before the closing credits – bringing a brilliant conclusion, so it’s worth sticking around.
Given that my overall score is a 6/10, the first third is 8/10, second third is 6/10 and the final third is 4/10, hence the average. I don’t normally rate films that way, but then Gilliam films are never normal.
You also can’t beat the locations on display, as it was shot in Spain, Portugal and Furteventura.
Having been shot digitally, for all the film’s faults, it looks as fantastic as the locations.
Sadly, while almost 30 years has been spent in the making of this film, about 30 minutes effort was put into the extras, since it’s all tiny featurettes, each mixing clips from the film with chat from the cast and crew, focusing on the Locations (2:23), Quixote’s Nose (1:42) (because Pryce’s own nose is too small), Art (2:34) (the windmills, the big head and hand, and so on), Make up (3:38), and Working with Terry (1:27), where they blow smoke up Gilliam’s backside.
A much better extra would’ve been the interview from Build Series, which i’ve linked below.
Finally, there’s a Trailer (2:05) in the theatrical 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio.
The menu features music from the film with a static menu, there are subtitles in English and the bog-standard 12 chapters.
Running time: 133 minutes
Distributor: Sparky Pictures
Released: September 21st 2020
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH
Widescreen: 2.39:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Terry Gilliam
Producers: Mariela Besuievsky, Amy Gilliam, Gerardo Herrero, Pablo Iraola, Grégoire Melin
Screenplay: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni
Novel: Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra
Music: Roque Baños
Toby: Adam Driver
Javier/Don Quixote: Jonathan Pryce
Angelica: Joana Ribeiro
The Boss: Stellan Skarsgård
Jacqui: Olga Kurylenko
Rupert: Jason Watkins
Don Quixote (commercial): José Luis Ferrer
Sancho Panza (commercial): Ismael Fritzi
Spanish Propman: Juan López Tagle
Melissa: Paloma Bloyd
Gypsy: Óscar Jaenada
Alexei Miiskin: Jordi Mollá
1st AD – Bill: William Miller
Producer: Will Keen
Sancho Panza (B&W Film): Jorge Calvo
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.