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The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Produced by Adrián Guerra
Screenplay by Terry Gilliam
Tony Grisoni
Based on Don Quixote 
by Miguel de Cervantes
Distributed by Amazon Studios
Language English

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is an unfinished feature film project directed and co-written by Terry Gilliam, based on the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. A very personal project for Gilliam, Don Quixote is famous for being a long development hell for him, with seven unsuccessful attempts between 1998 and 2014.[1]

Pre-production of the first attempt to make the film started in 1998, with a script written by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni. Gilliam's version contains big changes from the book; in particular, Sancho Panza would only have appeared very early on in the film, before being replaced by Toby Grisoni, a 21st-century marketing executive thrown back through time.

After Gilliam's team succeeded in obtaining a budget of $32.1 million without any American financing, the film began shooting in Navarre province, Spain, in 2000, with Jean Rochefort as Quixote, Johnny Depp as Toby Grisoni, and Jeremy Thomas as producer. After a significant number of difficulties after only a few days, such as set and equipment destroyed by flooding, the departure of Rochefort due to illness, problems obtaining insurance for the production, and other financial difficulties, the production was suspended after some scenes with Rochefort and Depp had already been shot. The production was subsequently cancelled. The original production was the subject of the acclaimed documentary film Lost in La Mancha (2002), which was intended to be the making-of the film, but after the failure of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote the footage was expanded into a full-length film.

Gilliam has attempted unsuccessfully to relaunch production several times since 2005. He restarted preliminary work in 2008 with Robert Duvall as Quixote.[2] Depp was still attached to play Grisoni, but because of his tight schedule he had to leave the project and was replaced by Ewan McGregor. In 2010, Gilliam announced that the funding had collapsed.[3]

In November 2014, it was reported that Don Quixote was in full pre-production once again, with John Hurt as Quixote and Jack O'Connell as Grisoni. The filming will start on August 2015 with the release date of May 2016.[4]


  • Plot 1
    • 2000 version 1.1
    • 2016 version 1.2
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Aborted production (2000) 3.1
      • Development 3.1.1
      • Filming and cancellation 3.1.2
    • After the abandonment 3.2
    • Revived production 3.3
      • Development 3.3.1
  • References 4
  • External links 5


2000 version

The story combines the literary world of Miguel de Cervantes with a 21st-century satire. An advertising executive, who finds himself unstuck in time, unwittingly travels between modern-day London and 17th-century La Mancha, where he participates in the adventures of Don Quixote, who himself mistakes said executive for Sancho Panza.

2016 version

As Toby is shooting a new commercial in Spain, he comes across a copy of his old student film, which was a re-telling of the famous Don Quixote story. He then goes back to the little Spanish village where he shot it back in the days, only to get embroiled in a series of adventures and catastrophes.


In 2005, Gilliam voiced his interest in re-casting the role of Don Quixote with Gérard Depardieu.[5] In 2008, Michael Palin reportedly entered talks with Gilliam to step in for Rochefort and play Don Quixote.[6] In November 2009, Terry Gilliam said he had finished re-casting the role, but he refused to disclose the actor's identity.[7] In a December 2009 interview with, Robert Duvall claimed on-camera to be Gilliam's new choice for Don Quixote,[8] which was confirmed by Gilliam himself a few days afterwards.[9]

For the role of the advertising executive Toby Grisoni, Johnny Depp was at times connected to the project,[10] but it remains unclear if Depp's filming schedule will allow for his participation and if he wants to join the production at all. During a press junket for his film Public Enemies, Depp stated:

[Gilliam and I] have talked about it. But to be honest, the thing about Terry... I love Terry, and I'd do anything the guy wants to do. But with Quixote... my dance card is pretty nutty for the next couple of years. So I'd hate to put him in a position—or ask to be in a position—where he'd have to wait for me. That would be wrong. But also, I feel like we went there and tried something, and whatever it was—the elements and all the things that got up underneath us—were there and happened and were documented well in that film Lost in La Mancha. So I don't know if it's right for me to go back there. I don't know if it's right for Terry too, but if he wants to...[11]


Aborted production (2000)

Terry Gilliam was very excited to direct this film, since Don Quixote embodies many of the themes that run through his own work—such as the individual versus society, and the concept of sanity. Quixote was set to have been one of the biggest continental European films ever made, with a budget of $32.1 million that had been scaled back from an original $40 million. It was to have been one of Gilliam's most ambitious films, produced without any American financing.


Finding the source material by Cervantes too vast, Gilliam and his co-writer Tony Grisoni decided to create their own version of the Quixote story, including a major change inspired by A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The character of Sancho Panza would appear only very early in the film, to be replaced by Toby Grisoni, a 21st-century marketing executive thrown back through time. The entire film would have been filmed in Spain and throughout Europe. Jean Rochefort was picked to play Don Quixote, in preparation for which he spent seven months learning English. Toby Grisoni was to be played by Johnny Depp, and Vanessa Paradis would have been his love interest. Other actors who were to appear in the film included Miranda Richardson, Christopher Eccleston, Bill Paterson, Rossy de Palma, Jonathan Pryce, Ian Holm, Eva Basteiro-Bertoli, and Peter Vaughan.

Filming and cancellation

With Nicola Pecorini as director of photography, shooting started in September 2000. The first location shoot was at Bardenas Reales, a scenic, barren area north of Madrid, Spain, near a military base. Military fighter jets flew overhead repeatedly, ruining the audio recording and mandating a later re-dubbing in post-production. A flash flood on the second day of filming washed away equipment and changed the color of the barren cliffs, making the previous filming unusable. Rochefort, an able horseman, attempted to ride and act, but was obviously wincing in pain, and required assistance dismounting and walking. He then flew to his doctor in Paris, where he was diagnosed with a double herniated disc. For several days the crew attempted to shoot scenes that did not involve Rochefort - including a scene with Depp at Monasterio de Piedra – but as time passed, it became apparent that Rochefort would not be able to return. Gilliam decided this was a fatal wound to his project: he had spent two years casting the role of Don Quixote, and Rochefort had then spent seven months learning the English language for the part. The production was finally cancelled in November 2000, and the only result that was ever officially released was included in the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha, a film that chronicles the attempts to make this "film that didn't want to be made".

After the abandonment

After the production had been cancelled, an insurance claim was filed on behalf of the film's investors. US$15 million were reportedly paid, and the rights to the screenplay passed on to the insurance companies. Since 2003, rumors had occasionally claimed that Gilliam and his producers were lining up support to restart production. At the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, there was at last some conclusive news. After working with British producer Jeremy Thomas on Tideland, it was announced that Thomas was interested in getting the project up and running again. In July 2006, after nearly six years of legalities between the French producers and German insurers, the issue over the rights was settled. Terry Gilliam announced this at the Munich International Documentary Film Festival, saying that the production company was willing to give Gilliam the rights, and that Jeremy Thomas was still interested in producing. In August 2006, Gilliam indicated at a post-screening Q & A for Tideland that the complex legal case concerning the film's collapse was finally being wrapped up, and that the rights to the script would hopefully be given back to Gilliam and co-writer Grisoni in the near future.

Revived production

In 2008, Gilliam restarted preliminary work on a new version of the film. The film will be reshot completely, and Rochefort's role has been recast. On Robert Duvall would play the role of Don Quixote. Johnny Depp remained attached to the project.[12] Since Depp was signed for two Disney films, further production delays were suspected,[13] but commencement of shooting was scheduled for early 2010.[14] Whether the production timetable would have been maintained is unknown, because Depp stated that he would not make room in his tight schedule for Gilliam's film.[15] Depp even noted that he is not sure if he wants to revisit the revived film project at all.[16] The film will be produced by Jeremy Thomas for Recorded Picture Company. International sales will be handled by HanWay Films. On 17 May 2010, it was announced Ewan McGregor had been cast in the film.[17]


Gilliam entered main pre-production in 2009. After finally retrieving the rights to the screenplay, Gilliam and Grisoni started to rewrite the plot in January 2009 and hoped to be finished within a month.[18]

Variety reported on 5 September 2010 that Terry Gilliam had revealed funding had collapsed a month and half earlier and as a result shooting had not yet started. He stated that primary casting was finalised with Robert Duvall as the title character as well as Ewan McGregor being on board.[3]

In January 2014, Gilliam published on his Facebook page that "Dreams of Don Quixote have begun again. [...] Will we get the old bastard back on his horse this year?"[19] In an interview with Empire‍ '​s website, Gilliam stated that production will start up again 29 September 2014 in the Canary Islands. Spanish producer Adrián Guerra is on board to fund the project. Gilliam said of Guerra, "He's really smart, loves movies. He's young enough to still love movies, but we've still got to cast it and get the money but other than that, that's the deal."[20][21] New concept art by Gilliam collaborator Dave Warren was also released.[22] In August 2014, in an interview with The Wrap, Gilliam revealed that he had received funding, and that the plot of the film has changed: "Our main character actually made a Don Quixote movie a lot earlier in his history, and the effect it had on many people wasn't very nice. Some people go mad, some people turn to drink, some people become whores."[23]

In an interview with Rolling Stone promoting The Zero Theorem, he said that making the film next "[...] is my plan, but plans have nothing to do with reality. We shall see what happens. I really can't say anything at the moment, because there's been a little hiccup — once again. The Sisyphean rock that keeps rolling back. Just as we almost get to the top of the mountain... We'll see what happens. I'm not a happy camper at the moment." When asked why he continues to attempt making the film, Gilliam said, "Oh, I don't know, pigheadedness, stupid – I really don't know anymore. I'm beginning to actually think, "If it doesn't work this time, I'm gonna dump it." I've wasted far too much of my life doing it. If you're going to do Quixote, you have to become as mad as Quixote. [...] I've wasted how many years? Fifteen? Yeah, there's a certain point. It's kind of the determination to be crazy and unreasonable. Every intelligent person around me says, "Walk away from it." But those are reasonable people."[24]

On June 9, 2015, it was announced that Amazon Studios would release the film theatrically, followed by a streaming Amazon debut. Gilliam said of the deal, "I'm intrigued by their way of doing it. They go into the cinemas first and then a month or two afterwards they go into streaming. And I think that's good because you get a chance to see it on the big screen, and yet I know that more people have seen my films on DVD than they have in the cinemas and that's the reality of life now."[25]


  1. ^ "Weekly Ketchup: Disney Announces Toy Story 4 for June, 2017". 
  2. ^ "Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ May Still Happen". Geeks of Doom. 
  3. ^ a b Ian Mundell (2010-09-05). "Gilliam's 'Quixote' problems continue".  
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Terry Gilliam — Gilliam gets to work on Quixote disaster". Movie Hole (via Contact Music). 2005-09-13. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  6. ^ "Monty Python - Palin to act alongside Depp?". Contact Music. 2008-05-26. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  7. ^ Weintraub, Steve (2009). Exclusive: Terry Gilliam talks DON QUIXOTE, Collider, November 3rd, 2009
  8. ^ Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub (2009). Exclusive: Terry Gilliam Wants Robert Duvall to Play Don Quixote de la Mancha!,, 2009-12-02
  9. ^ Rich, Katey (2009). Terry Gilliam Confirms That Robert Duvall is His Don Quixote,, 2009-12-07
  10. ^ Terry Gilliam, interview at the 2009 Cannes film festival, quoted at
  11. ^ Quote retrieved from Ain't It Cool News, 2009-06-23.
  12. ^ Alica-Azania Jarvis (2008-08-04). "Pandora: Don Quixote rides again, says delighted Gilliam". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  13. ^ "Johnny Depp's 'Don Quixote' Film is Back On". Contact Music. 2008-11-26. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  14. ^ "Johnny Depp Confirmed for "Don Quixote" Film". Worst Previews. 2009-05-23. Retrieved 2009-05-23. 
  15. ^ "Batman 3"Johnny Depp Wants to be The Riddler in . Worst Previews. 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  16. ^ Alex Billington (2009-06-22). "Johnny Depp Not Sure About Returning to Gilliam's Don Quixote". Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  17. ^ "Gilliam's Don Quixote Bags Ewan McGregor". Empireonline. 2010-05-17. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
  18. ^ Phil de Semlyen (2009-01-16). "Gilliam Back To Work On Don Quixote. Exclusive: new script underway".  
  19. ^ "Terry Gilliam - Timeline Photos - Facebook". 
  20. ^ de Semlyen, Phil (7 February 2014). "Terry Gilliam Reveals Don Quixote Start Date".  
  21. ^ Michael Kennedy. "Terry Gilliam Finally Filming ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ This Year". Screen Rant. 
  22. ^ White, James (13 January 2014). "Terry Gilliam Shares New Don Quixote Concept Art". Empire. Bauer Media Group. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  23. ^ "Terry Gilliam's 'Don Quixote' Movie Will Shoot After Christmas With Modernized Plot (Exclusive)". TheWrap. 
  24. ^
  25. ^

External links


  • Phil Stubbs (ed.), The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (webpage with several links to articles documenting the failed 2000 production)
  • Sean O'Hagan, "My latest is a disaster movie", The Observer (February 4, 2001)
  • Bob McCabe, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote"The Death of (transcript), Empire Magazine (September 2001)
  • Ty Burr, "Quixote"The cursed unmaking of Gilliam's , The Boston Globe (February 14, 2003)


  • Lost in La ManchaTrailer of at IMDb (including footage from the film and the production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote)
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