The footage in this documentary was originally intended to be the making-of for director Terry Gilliam’s movie, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. It was Gilliam’s own adaptation of the story of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and would have been shot mostly in Spain, as this is where the story originated. Jean Rochefort was impeccably cast to play Don Quixote, and in careful preparation spent seven months learning English. The role of Toby was to be played by Johnny Depp, and Vanessa Paradis was to be the love interest.
Terry Gilliam had been ecstatic about making this film, as he had spent close to 20 years on its conception. No doubt every scene had played out in his mind again and again. Gilliam and the fictional Don Quixote, each legends in their own rite, share some uncanny parallels. Gilliam strongly identifies with the character, an individual which held up against society presents a hard look at the concept of sanity. This has been a running theme throughout Gilliam’s life and is present in his work, forming his narratives and distinctive visual stylings.
Sadly, the footage taken of this unmade film became documentation of the unrelenting string of odd occurrences that prevented Gilliam from what was to be his most personal work to date. He instead stars in this rogue documentary in which an infuriating lineup of setbacks becomes the piece. His visions still on storyboards, captured instead the process of navigating his own doomed venture. Eventually, Gilliam’s battle ceased as his nightmare was realized.
No rain or wind in the forecast, in scorching afternoon heat, a storm gathered darkness and blew stinging sand until hard rain hit the desert floor for the first time in a long long while. Thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of film equipment, and what little they had accomplished so far was destroyed. The sudden hospitalization of Jean Rochefort was project crippling and heartbreaking. Don Quixote was missing. Deafening jets would appear in the sky just as the camera rolled each day, only to stick around for hours practicing flight maneuvers. Eventually, the crew began to thin out. Investors fearful of losing millions retracted and funding was finally lost altogether.
It’s such an eerie course of events that kept Gilliam from making his movie. It’s definitely a “see it to believe it” documentary about just how indiscriminate nature can be and the little to no control we ultimately have, despite our big plans.
The documentary, Lost in La Mancha, was released independently.