Director & Monty Python Terry Gilliam

150 150 Rob McGibbon

subject photo

Published: 1 October 2011

Director & Monty Python Terry Gilliam:

The prized possession that you value above all others...Our house in north London, which my wife Maggie and I bought 26 years ago. It was built in 1694 and I feel like the temporary custodian. I can’t
imagine living anywhere else.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...I like the idea of launching myself off Mont Blanc on a hang-glider and floating over Europe all day.

The temptation you wish you could resist...The computer. I spend up to seven hours a day on it. Even when I stop working, the screen saver plays a random slide show of my photos and I sit there reliving my life in slow motion.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I read it on a subway train in New York in 1961 and laughed so hard I fell off my seat. I loved its weird fatalism.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day...It’d be pretty interesting to hang out with Colonel Gaddafi and see what he’s up to.

The way fame and fortune has changed you, for better and worse...Life is easy because I have no debts so can afford my three children and pursue work I want to do. The downside is you get isolated and find it hard to understand everyone else’s frustrations.

The film you can watch time and time again...Walt Disney’s Pinocchio blew me away when I was eight. It has the most exquisitely detailed drawings. I saw it again 15 years ago and was amazed how it had held up.

The person who has influenced you most...Cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman. I was his assistant in the 60s and he taught
me about satire and the craftsmanship of cartooning. Because of him I was able to free my mind and create crazy cartoons – like the big foot – that later became such emblems of Monty Python. Harvey was a godfather of Python.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... Pythagoras. I’d like to ask him if he really did invent everything he is
credited with, or if, like many of us suspect, he got it all from Egypt.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...When it comes to a job, have the courage to do what makes you happy.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...Etymology. I’m intrigued by the origin of words and how they interconnect history. It’s a challenging subject for someone like me, who has a pitifully limited vocabulary.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A full-length sheepskin coat I bought in Turkey and hand-painted in 1964. I was wearing it when I first met Eric Idle and Terry Jones of Monty Python in the late 1960s. They were blown away by the coat and it kickstarted the friendship. They thought I was pretty cool because of that coat. I’ve no idea how I lost it.

The unending quest that drives you on...To find the energy and inspiration each day to be surprised in life.

The poem that touches your soul...I love the intensity of The Tyger by William Blake. It is so dark and reminds me that nature is waiting to devour us.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...Hollywood studios think I’m out of control, but I’m not. I’m very controlled. I like being an outsider and a rebel, but the image makes it harder for me to get money for my films. The Baron Munchausen movie went completely over budget, but I can’t take credit for that!

The event that altered the course of your life and character...When I left the US to hitchhike around Europe aged 24 – the world opened up. There was no going home after that and I came to live in England as soon as I could.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d blow up the London Stock Exchange because the financial systems that drive the world are obscene.

The song that means most to you...Maggie May by Rod Stewart from 1971. Around this time, I met my wife who was doing make-up on Python and I associate it with her. Liking that song is also one of the few things we agree on!

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...I’m sorry but I have to be indefinite on this one. I am convinced everything good will suddenly disappear. I’m just grateful for little happy moments in each day and cannot classify any one time as the happiest.

The saddest time that shook your world...That’s easy: when Heath Ledger died while filming The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus in 2008. He was a close friend and a wonderful person.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. I started 22 years ago but it keeps eluding me. Sheer pig-headedness drives me on.

The order of service at your funeral...I’m not sentimental and being dead means I’ll be the lucky guy. It’s over, finito. It’s the living who’ll be having a rough time, so I want music, dancing and laughter. And no Bibles in sight.

The way you want to be remembered...That I left the place a bit more interesting than before I arrived and that my
cartooning got other people looking at this outrageous world with new eyes.

The plug...Terry has his portrait painted in Fame In The Frame, Tuesday, 8.30pm,
Sky Arts1.