Terry Gilliam Just Wanted Some Magic Mushrooms for His 80th Birthday

The now-octogenarian's one wish for a very happy pandemic birthday? A dose of psilocybin mushrooms.
Terry Gilliam during the filming for the Graham Norton Show at BBC Studioworks 6 Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday January 23, 2020. Photo credit should read: PA Images on behalf of So TV
Terry Gilliam

It seems hard to believe Terry Gilliam has rarely done drugs. Especially given his filmography of tripped-out movies, such as “Brazil,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “12 Monkeys,” and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” But eccentric filmmaker Gilliam, as revealed in a recent interview with La Repubblica (via The Playlist), doesn’t actually have a great deal of drug experience. And for his 80th birthday, which happens to be today, November 22, 2020, the “12 Monkeys” director said he was hoping to change that.

“For my stupid birthday I asked for only one thing: magic mushrooms,” Gilliam said of his one birthday wish, now pretty much impossible due to the pandemic. “I’ve never tried them. The idea was to load my whole family on a plane and go celebrate in the house we have in Umbria. At the moment we can’t, but I could fly all the way to Italy.” Gilliam also added that he would take a private plane “with the help of mushrooms.”

Gilliam also talked about his limited drug experience, and the fact that he was averse to acid even in Los Angeles in the 1960s “when practically everyone did it.” (Regardless, he seems to have recreated the experience of LSD well in “Fear and Loathing,” in which people turn into lizards and eels before a drugged-out Johnny Depp’s eyes.)

“I smoked marijuana once in college and didn’t like it,” Gilliam said. “LSD terrified me. When I moved to London and occasionally had to fly to Hollywood for work, I came back with a ferocious jet lag. At parties, someone was offering cocaine, because it was the ’80s and coke was everywhere, and a couple of times I said yes. I was tired, I couldn’t stand. But the hangovers were horrible and so I said to myself: never again.”

Gilliam, right now, doesn’t have a new project officially in the works, though back in July, he said he was working on fleshing out a Stanley Kubrick idea before lockdown hit. “There was a script and I had a cast, but the lockdown has ruined everything,” he said.

IndieWire spoke to Gilliam at length last awards season about his much-beleaguered last film, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” as well as his thoughts on Marvel movies and cancel culture. Check out that interview here.

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