Adding to the troubled history of Terry Gilliam’s efforts to bring The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to fruition, Amazon Studios has dropped U.S. distribution rights to the film. IndieWire reports that Amazon, after contributing significant funding to the film, has left the domestic release in limbo just days before it is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
Amazon has thus far declined to comment, though apparently the decision is unrelated to the news that Gilliam suffered a stroke last weekend. The film, which is inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th century novel, Don Quixote, wrapped production on June 17, 2017. Gilliam first attempted to bring the story to film nearly twenty years ago, but the production was besieged by so many problems that it was abandoned.
Original star Jean Rochefort suffered a double hernia and slipped disc, flash floods decimated the set (destroying camera equipment), Nato jets swarmed overhead and ruined the soundtrack, actors failed to arrive onset (Johnny Depp was originally cast as Toby Grisoni, who is now played by Adam Driver), and the financiers determined that Rochefort’s injuries (along with the flooding) were not covered by insurance as they were Acts of God. These difficulties can be seen in the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote follows Toby (Driver), a disgruntled ad executive who gets sucked into a time traveling fantasy when a Spanish cobbler named Don Quixote (Jonathan Pryce) believes that he is a squire named Sancho Panza. Dreams merge with reality, much like the tale of Gilliam trying to bring his vision to the world.
Gilliam had the following to say about the Amazon deal prior to its dissolution: “I’m intrigued by their way of doing it. They go into the cinemas first and then a month or two afterwards they go into streaming. And I think that’s good because you get a chance to see it on the big screen, and yet I know that more people have seen my films on DVD than they have in the cinemas and that’s the reality of life now.” Hopefully a new distributor will step up and arrange a proper domestic release for the film. Gilliam has certainly suffered enough for his art.