“The new phrase that’s floating around is you need a ‘hard-bender’ if you’re doing a film of a certain size. A ‘hard-bender’ is one with either Tom Hardy or Michael Fassbender and it never stops, it always astonishes me.” During our recent two-part chat with director Terry Gilliam, he described the casting hoops required to jump through in order to get a movie made; his latest, “The Zero Theorem,” stuck him with the lowest budget he’s had for decades, and while he still ended up with an enigmatic cast led by Christoph Waltz, the film’s original cast was far more curious.
Pulled together quickly and pleasantly shot and cut with no major setbacks, “The Zero Theorem” delivered an abnormal experience for a man used to the absolute worst, and also a chance for Gilliam to collaborate with Waltz, sitting in the center of the director’s “ ‘Brazil‘ for 2013” as computer hacker Qohen Leth. But when Gilliam first came onboard the Pat Rushin-penned project in 2008, Billy Bob Thornton toplined the film as Qohen, and as a recent Empire feature (print edition) on the film revealed, he was also joined by Jessica Biel and Al Pacino in smaller roles.
Now replaced by actress Melanie Thierry, Biel was supposed to play the femme fatale Bainsley in the film, while Pacino waited to portray Qohen’s shadowy boss known only as “Management” — a role now taken over by Matt Damon with a surprising white hairdo. Together, Thornton, Biel and Pacino would’ve made quite the trio to undertake Gilliam’s vision, but when the director originally nixed the project due to scheduling issues back in ’09, their involvement likely did as well.
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Regardless, “The Zero Theorem” still features a stellar line-up, with Waltz, Thierry, and Damon joined in the science-fiction drama by Tilda Swinton and Ben Whishaw; we’re greatly anticipating its Venice premiere in just a few short days, so keep your eyes peeled for that review (and check out these new pics via EW), but as with every one of Gilliam’s efforts, it’s intriguing to ponder the unmade versions left on the pre-production floor.