I have no good reason why I didn’t post this when I glimpsed it on Film Ick the other day, but there’s some serious news to report on Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus — notably that it’s actually happening, or at least is in pre-production. Gilliam knows that’s a slight stretch from a true go picture, but it’s close enough for me.

Gilliam fan site Dreams has a solid breakdown of the film, with casting and plot summaries and a super-large version of the image above. My previous report that Tom Waits would be playing the title character isn’t quite right — that’ll actually be the best old man in Hollywood, Christopher Plummer.

Waits is still on board, though, since someone has to engineer the train, dig the on-set graves and croon a work song while the grips row a canoe down the creek. He’ll be playing Mr. Nick, the film’s version of the Devil, from whom Dr. Parnassus won his immortality before trading endless life back for youth and love.

No word yet on who Heath Ledger will play, though his character is listed as ‘Tony’, presumably the guy who helps the good doctor win his latest bet with the devil, which (as shown the in synopsis below) is the film’s primary plot.

I love this entire setup; it’s pure Gilliam, but with more of an emotional hook than he’s often got built into his projects. With Ledger having come into his own as an actor and Plummer as the (hopefully) unshakable senior foundation, this might be the director’s first film I’ve really been dying to see since 12 Monkeys.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a fantastical morality tale, set in the present day.

It tells the story of Dr Parnassus and his extraordinary ‘Imaginarium’, a travelling show where members of the audience get an irresistible opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom. Blessed with the extraordinary gift of guiding the imaginations of others, Dr Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret. Long ago he made a bet with the devil, Mr Nick, in which he won immortality.

Many centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immortality for youth, on condition that when his first-born reached its 16th birthday he or she would become the property of Mr Nick. Valentina is now rapidly approaching this ‘coming of age’ milestone and Dr Parnassus is desperate to protect her from her impending fate. Mr Nick arrives to collect but, always keen to make a bet, renegotiates the wager. Now the winner of Valentina will be determined by whoever seduces the first five souls.

Enlisting a series of wild, comical and compelling characters in his journey, Dr Parnassus promises his daughter’s hand in marriage to the man that helps him win. In this captivating, explosive and wonderfully imaginative race against time, Dr Parnassus must fight to save his daughter in a never-ending landscape of surreal obstacles – and undo the mistakes of his past once and for all…