UPDATE: The New York Times has a piece on Parnassus, and though the tone is hardly optimistic, it presents the possibility of the film going forward either by recasting Ledger or reworking based on the completed footage. Either direction seems highly unlikely. Then again, given the high profile of Ledger’s story, consider that the producers and bond company alike might decide that finishing the film and presenting it as both Ledger’s final work and a tribute to the actor might be commercially viable.
If this was any director other than Terry Gilliam, I’d consider that prospect crass and, well, rather awful. But Gilliam means conflicted feelings, and I really don’t know what I hope to hear next from the production office of Parnassus.
I blogged earlier today about the crisis facing Terry Gilliam’s latest film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, in part because I couldn’t bear to add front-page noise to the flurry of stories about Heath Ledger. As reported by Variety, the actor’s death cast severe doubt upon the future of the film, financing for which hinged largely on his involvement.
As many feared, it seems that the film has been shut down entirely. Us Magazine reports that blue screen shooting won’t take place in Vancouver, as planned, nor will the rest of the film. “I just got the call [Tuesday] saying everyone was being let go,” says the magazine’s source. “We were supposed to start this weekend, but obviously they fired everyone today.” What’s going to happen to the footage shot over several weeks in London? According to the source, no one knows.
This is a massive blow for Gilliam and his second film to shut down over the health of an actor. (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote ground to a halt due to the infirmity of Jean Rochefort.) Paste Magazine reported that Gilliam might be getting Don Quixote off the ground again thanks to work by producer Jeremy Thomas. But when financiers are notoriously fickle about forking over money based on any given reason, how will they respond to Gilliam’s shattering run of terrible luck?
Side note: Until there’s any real word about the cause of Ledger’s death, I’ll remain wary of anything that describes on-set photos from Parnassus, in which Ledger’s character is hanged, as ‘chilling’. He was an actor. If you want to look for portents of his death, do so outside the work. This story is terrible enough without added layers of maudlin misinterpretation.