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Terry Gilliam’s ‘Imaginarium’ Arrives on Disc

9 Mar, 2010 By: Billy Gil

Heath Ledger and Lily Cole in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Terry Gilliam is not one for restraint, and his latest film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, is a flight of fancy of the highest order. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the DVD ($28.95) and Blu-ray Disc ($34.95) April 27 (order date March 25).

The film stars the late Heath Ledger in his final performance, as a man named Tony who is saved by a mysterious band of gypsy performers seemingly removed from modern-day time. He discovers he can help the struggling circus by allowing visitors inside the mind of Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), taking them to a sometimes nightmarish dreamscape. Meanwhile Parnassus’ beautiful daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), has been betrothed to the devil (Tom Waits) upon her sixteenth birthday.

lily cole

Lily Cole

With Ledger’s passing, actors Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stepped up to play Ledger’s part in various sequences taking place within Parnassus’ mind.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, or imagination,” Gilliam said. Once we decided yes, we were going to try to finish this thing, which was not the first attitude I had when Heath died, but once we agreed, ‘let’s go for it,’ it was actually amazingly easy. … The character goes through the mirror [into Parnassus’ mind] three times, so, three guys.”

For Cole, acting alongside Farrell after Ledger died did not come easily.

“It was still such a sad time for everybody, and I hadn’t really thought about how strange it would be to play Valentina and then be playing against Tony and pretending that nothing had happened, and I myself know that something devastating has happened,” Cole said. “I know the reason that Tony no longer looks like Heath and he looks like Colin.”

Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger

Despite how trying making the film was, when all seemed lost, Gilliam said it ended up also being a joyous thing, and that the resulting film is “full of life. It’s wonderful, and it’s seamless.”

“It takes unreasonable people to continue a film [after its lead actor dies], and luckily I was surrounded by unreasonable people,” Gilliam said.

“We were trying to finish the film out of love and respect for him,” Cole said.

Gilliam phoned several actors he knew before getting Farrell, Law and Depp, the latter of who worked with Gilliam in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in which Depp played gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

Although it did not win, Imaginarium was nominated for two Academy Awards, for art direction and costume design.
The DVD includes a deleted scene with optional commentary, a Heath Ledger wardrobe test with optional commentary by Gilliam, an introduction and commentary by Gilliam, an interview with Ledger and four more featurettes on the making of the film.

“I’m so tired of looking at all these puff pieces about the joy of filmmaking and how we’re all happy together and it’s so beautiful and each day it’s wonderful,” Gilliam said. “Filmmaking is really hard and anybody who makes films knows that. … I’m very happy, and it started years ago, just trying to have people recording the process and showing the truth of filmmaking.”

Exclusive to the Blu-ray (which is equipped with movieIQ, making it compatible with an iPhone) are the featurette “The Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam,” a featurette in which the cast and crew remember Ledger, a featurette on “The Drunk” multiangle progression sequence, and movieIQ/BD-Live information on the cast and music as well as trivia.

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