Curse of Don Quixote returns as Terry Gilliam loses rights on new movie

Pryce and Gilliam in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Credit: Kinology)
Pryce and Gilliam in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Credit: Kinology)

Terry Gilliam’s beleaguered Don Quixote movie has not so much hit another bump in the road as it has careered off the carriageway entirely, and is now on its roof in a ditch. And probably on fire too.

The director has just lost a court case in France over who owns the rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a movie which has been in development since 1989.

The Paris Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the film’s former producer Paulo Brancho and his company Alfama, was was suing Gilliam over the film’s ownership.

Speaking to Screen Daily, he said: “The ruling means that the rights to the film belong to Alfama. Any exploitation of the film up until now has been completely illegal and without the authorization of Alfama.

“We will be seeking damages with interest from all the people involved in this illegal production and above all, all those who were complicit in its illegal exploitation. We’re holding everyone responsible.

“The film belongs in its entirety to Alfama. The film was made illegally. It’s the first time, I’ve ever seen so many people embark on a mission to produce and exploit a film, without holding the rights. It’s a unique case.”

The decision means that Gilliam now has to pay Alfama Films €10,000 towards the costs of its appeal.

Branco claimed that a contract signed by both Alfama and Gilliam in 2016 in which Gilliam gave up the rights for the movie in exchange for funding to make it, remains valid.

However, Gilliam claims that Branco never came up with any money, so instead he found other funding and continued making the movie regardless.

Branco claimed that this act constituted a violation of their agreement, and this is the claim that has now been upheld in court.

It means that both the film’s release in France and its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last month were done so illegally.

As such, Branco is seeking damages from Gilliam, Kinology, the French company which went on to fund the film, Ocean Films, and the organisers of the Cannes Films Festival.

The High Court in the UK also found in favour of Branco in an appeal which was heard in April.

The final movie finds Jonathan Pryce as a Spanish shoemaker who believes himself to be the insane nobleman Don Quixotie, and Adam Driver as an advertising executive whom Pryce’s character mistakes for his squire Sancho Panza.

Stellan Skarsgard, Olga Kurylenko and Jason Watkins also star.

But it has been plagued with bad luck from the outset, leading many to believe that it was cursed, a school of thought bolstered by this latest turn of events.

Lost In La Mancha (Credit: Low Key Productions)
Lost In La Mancha (Credit: Low Key Productions)

The original shoot happened in 2000, just north of Madrid, with Johnny Depp playing Driver’s character, and French actor Jean Rochefort as Quixote.

But the production was plagued with bad luck.

Flash flooding swept away camera equipment, and made the footage they had shot useless, due to the changing colour of the arid environment.

NATO jets from a nearby base also repeatedly buzzed the area, ruining the audio tracks.

Then Rochefort fell ill, and was rushed back to Paris, which eventually led to the shoot being abandoned.

A documentary being shot about the movie, called Lost In La Mancha, was released in 2002, detailing the film’s woes.

Its directors, Louis Pepe and Keith Fulton, have also making a movie about this latest debacle too, called He Dreamed of Giants, which will no doubt detail Gilliam’s latest set-back.

What now becomes of the movie is unknown.

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