August 10, 2006

Gilliam out to disturb with film about childhood

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Terry Gilliam tends not to make life
easy for audiences, and his new film about a 10-year-old girl
who prepares heroin for her father to inject and seeks to
seduce an older simpleton is out to make them squirm some more.

The 65-year-old filmmaker is unapologetic for the
provocative scenes in "Tideland," which follows Jeliza-Rose and
her addict father on their journey to an isolated farm house
where her imagination is let loose.

"I just felt we are constricting the way we look at the
world and the way we think, particularly about children," said
the Monty Python veteran, who has directed such critically
acclaimed films as "Brazil" and "Twelve Monkeys."

"I knew full well when we were making it there would be a
lot of adults who would really squirm and be very
uncomfortable, but that's because of what goes on in their
heads, not because of what children are about," he told Reuters
by telephone.

Jeliza-Rose's down-and-out father, played by Jeff Bridges,
spends much of his life "on vacation," under the influence of
heroin that he injects after it is prepared for him by his

Her companions are four dolls' heads removed from their
bodies, and she wants to have a baby with Dickens, a deranged
20-year-old who mistakes passing trains for giant sharks.

Gilliam also throws stuffed animals, a rotting corpse and
warped religious beliefs into the mix.

"Tideland," based on a novel by Mitch Cullin, seeks to
explore children's budding sexuality, a topic Gilliam believes
has become taboo because of associations with pedophilia.

"What's going on is clearly a sexuality that's bubbling
under the surface. That's the way children have always been.
But somehow we're not allowed to talk about that any more
because the next leap is into what the newspapers are selling."


Gilliam is increasingly cast as the maverick genius and
Hollywood outsider.

His last film, "The Brothers Grimm," cost an estimated $90
million and fared poorly with critics and at the box office. In
2000 "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" was ditched due to
illness and floods.

"I have a foot in both camps," Gilliam said, when asked if
he considered himself estranged from Hollywood. "I need to,
because some of the things I want to do demand Hollywood

"Tideland" was not among them. It cost $12 million, but
Hollywood was "too nervous" to back it.

"We went out to talk to people initially and they all ran
away so those doors were closed to us."

Its performance at the box office may be affected by the
controversial content.

As well as drugs and children's desires, the character Dell
clings to fervent religious beliefs when her life falls apart,
reflecting, Gilliam argues, the trend toward conservative
Christianity among some Americans.

"I just find, in particular in America, it's getting so
crazed, the fact that church-going is so high and it's not just
the old, relaxed church-going. It's much more intense."

But Gilliam's next projects may require him to convince the
big studio bosses that he can land them a commercial hit.

He plans to adapt fantasy writer Terry Pratchett's "Good
Omens," which would cost around $80 million, and is also
hopeful of resurrecting the ill-fated Don Quixote project if he
can persuade Johnny Depp to commit.