Terry Gilliam finally finishes Don Quixote – and denies damaging Portuguese convent during its filming

British director’s 17-year quest to film his take on Cervantes’ deluded knight is at an end, but not without controversy as he rejects report its filming damaged Portuguese Unesco world heritage site

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2017, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2017, 4:02pm

The filmmaker Terry Gilliam has denied allegations that a famous Portuguese convent was damaged during the shooting of his long-delayed take on Don Quixote, telling people to get their facts straight “before howling hysterically”.

A report by the Portuguese public broadcaster RTP suggested recent filming for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote left behind chipped masonry, broken roof tiles and uprooted trees at the 12th-century Convent of Christ in Tomar, central Portugal.

The convent, once a stronghold of the Knights Templar, is classed as a Unesco world heritage site. The Portuguese government is investigating the claims.

But Gilliam, 76, who has been trying to film an adaptation of Cervantes’s tale of the deluded knight for 17 years, dismissed the reports as “ignorant nonsense”.

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Writing on Facebook, he said: “I think the [Convento de Cristo] is one of the most glorious buildings I have ever seen. Everything we did there was to protect the building from harm … and we succeeded. Trees were not cut down, stones were not broken.”

The former Monty Python star added: “There was not an iota of disrespect involved. People should begin by getting the facts before howling hysterically.”

His agents said they had no comment.

A spokeswoman for the government department responsible for Portugal’s cultural heritage confirmed an investigation was under way but said she had few details. “The decision was announced on Saturday so it’s still very early on in the inquiry,” she said.

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Gilliam embarked on his film in 2000, but the project was beset by a catalogue of disasters that included torrential rain and constant flyovers by military jets from a nearby Nato base. Almost two decades on, however, his quest is almost at an end.

“Sorry for the long silence,” he wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “After 17 years, we have completed the shoot of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Muchas gracias to all the team and believers. QUIXOTE VIVE! (QUIXOTE VIVE!)”

The new version features British actor Jonathan Pryce as the man driven out of his mind by tales of chivalric adventure.

Also on board is US actor Adam Driver, best known as the villainous Kylo Ren in Star Wars: the Force Awakens , and the Ukrainian-born French actress Olga Kurylenko, who starred opposite Daniel Craig in the 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace.

The history of Gilliam’s disastrous first attempt to film his Quixote project has passed into folklore: there is even a 2002 documentary, Lost in La Mancha, that chronicles the enterprise.

But Gilliam, whose other films include Time Bandits, Brazil and Twelve Monkeys, refused to give up. “Shooting my version of Don Quixote is a medical obligation,” he told El País last year. “It’s a brain tumour I have to eradicate.”