Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The fringe beneftis of fantastical films

I was happy to hear the news that Terry Gilliam, despite all the bad luck he's had with past film productions, will continue working on his latest project The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. As you may have heard, he had already begun filming scenes with Heath Ledger when he died in January. Here's the story:

Producers working on Heath Ledger's final film have vowed not to alter the tragic star's last performance, even though the actor never got the chance to complete the project before his untimely death. Work on The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus resumed on Monday after the Brokeback Mountain star's death halted filming on the project earlier this year. In his honor, Hollywood superstars Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law have signed up to feature in the film, which is due for release next year. However, the film's director Terry Gilliam and its producers have promised to preserve every detail of Ledger's final performance, and that the hiring of the three new stars will not affect his work. A statement released by the movie's producers reads, "Since the format of the story allows for the preservation of his entire performance, at no point will Heath's work be modified or altered through the use of digital technology. Each of the parts played by Johnny, Colin and Jude is representative of the many aspects of the character that Heath was playing." Gilliam adds, "I am delighted that Heath's brilliant performance can be shared with the world. We are looking forward to finishing the movie and, through the film, with a modicum of humility, being able to touch people's hearts and souls as Heath was able to do." Ledger had just finished shooting scenes for the fantasy movie in London just days before he was found dead in his New York apartment in January. Toxicology results released last month revealed Ledger was killed by an accidental overdose of prescribed medications.
The situation is very similar to what happened with the Matrix sequels five years ago. While the two movies were being filmed, Gloria Foster (who played the Oracle) passed away. She was perhaps my favorite part of the original film, so I was particularly saddened when I heard this.

The movie's way of dealing with it, however, was genius. In the second film, the Oracle is attacked and destroyed by multiple Agent Smiths. This scene and the ones that preceded it had been filmed before Foster died. When a new actress was cast for the scenes that followed, it was explained that the Oracle's efforts to rebuild herself were not perfect and, thus, she looks like a different person (though she was still an elderly black woman). I still smile at the brilliance of it.

Granted, that's about the only aspect of the Matrix sequels I smile at, but that's another post. Let's just hope that this maneuver works just as well for Gilliam and, in turn, makes for an even finer film.

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