Well, ain't that a kick in the head. For those with short memories, around a decade ago, Terry Gilliam went into production on a film called "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," starring his "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" star Johnny Depp as a modern day ad executive somehow transported to medieval Spain, who ends up serving as the Pancho Villa to the legendary Don Quixote (Jean Rochefort), the hero of Miguel de Cervantes' beloved tale. But the film was beset by problems, from financing to floods, and was shut down after a few weeks of filming when it emerged that Rochefort had a chronic back injury that made it almost impossible for him to ride a horse.
The whole thing is chronicled in the excellent documentary, "Lost In La Mancha," but in recent years, Gilliam has made headway in reclaiming the rights to the never-finished picture from the insurance company, nearly getting a version of the passion project set up with Robert Duvall and Ewan McGregor, before that too stalled (last we heard, he was hoping to get it going once he finishes the currently-filming "The Zero Theorem"). But Gilliam's project may have been dealt a potentially fatal blow, and at the hands of his onetime star, as Deadline report that Johnny Depp has set up a "Don Quixote" project at Disney through his Infinitum Nihil company.
Details are thin on the exact take, other than it's a "modern re-imagining" being written by Steve Pink ("Hot Tub Time Machine") and Jeff Morris (Black List script "True Memoirs Of An International Assassin"). Right now, Depp only seems to be producing the film, but given his previous association, one can certainly imagine this being a "Pirates of the Caribbean"/"The Lone Ranger"-style vehicle for him as well.
Obviously, this feels like a bit of a slap in the face for Gilliam, unless the former Monty Python member can use the heat on Depp's film (which is still only at the scripting stage) to get his own take going, as a sort of "Mirror Mirror" to Depp's "Snow White and the Huntsman." The actor has a number of other vehicles set up at the studio, including a fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean," the remake of "The Thin Man" (though that was put on the backburned by the studio), and the Edgar Wright-directed "The Night Stalker," but none will move ahead until he's shot Wally Pfister's "Transcendence" in 2013 (and 'Night Stalker' can't move forward til Wright's done with "Ant-Man" in 2015.)
Any way rate, it doesn't feel like we'll be seeing "Don Quixote" on screens until 2016 at the earliest. But there's one move that could make us feel less queasy about the whole prospect, even if it's one that Disney are unlikely to get behind — give the director's chair to Gilliam himself…