Yes, Terry Gilliam is finally at work on a new film that is actually greenlit, has funding, is in pre-production and looking at a scheduled shooting start date. Announced last week, "The Zero Theorem" will star Christoph Waltz as Qohen in a futuristic story about a computer hacker whose work to find the reason for human existence is constantly diverted and interrupted thanks to the Management, who send a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him. If anything, Gilliam must be glad to be talking about a project that isn't "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," and indeed he's spilled a few details about what we can expect from his next effort.
Comparing the film to "12 Monkeys," Gilliam says the logline for the movie makes it sound heavier than it will likely turn out. "It's very funny. That synopsis sounds much darker and broodier than it is," he told Dreams, a fansite for the director, as he gave his own summation of the story. "The main character is literally living in this burnt-out chapel which one could take as a metaphor for old beliefs and old systems. He's a computer genius but he's just sitting there waiting for a phone call, which he's hoping will give meaning to his life….It really is about relationships, and discovering what's really important in life."
And at least at the script stage, there is some nudity, but how much makes it into the final movie, Gilliam is still sorting out. "There is a bit of nudity in the script, whether it will be that nude in the film I don't know. When you've got people flying around through space, sucked into black holes naked… that can be very difficult to do," he said, revealing even more curious elements that perhaps make the film sound like some kind of sci-fi epic. But Gilliam elaborates that the setting is rather contained.
"Two-thirds of it — if not more — take place in a ruined chapel," he said, while adding that fact will make it particularly intriguing to shoot. "The interesting thing about it is because it takes place in this one place, this chapel — that's going to be the challenge, because I have never shot like that before, in that limited space. So to keep it interesting is what I'm going to have to master. The acting is crucial to it — there is no car chase nor a shootout — none of those things you can fall back upon to keep the film going. It's about the acting and that is why Christoph is so incredible."
And speaking of casting, Gilliam says, "There are only four main characters in this thing." So it truly will be a performance driven movie so it will be interesting to see who comes along for the ride when shooting starts on October 22nd for 36 days (his shortest schedule since "Monty Python & The Holy Grail"). Gilliam notes that casting is underway with more news to come soon.
It's truly a blend of ingredients that can be described as Gilliam-esque, and his usual team of collaborators will be on board as well, including designer Dave Warrren, costume designer Carlo Pogiolli and more. We'll see how this develops, but until then, hit Dreams to read more from Gilliam about the movie and his upcoming opera work.