One of my favorite websites is Shaun Usher's Letters of Note
, which runs interesting letters written by notable people. Today, Shaun posted a 1985 letter from Terry Gilliam to the head of Universal, Sid Sheinberg. Shaun says, "In August of 1985, many months after its successful release outside of North America, Terry Gilliam's iconic movie, Brazil
, was still being cut for the U.S. market. Universal head Sid Sheinberg wanted a shorter, happier film; Gilliam, on the other hand, could think of nothing worse. He wrote the following letter to Sheinberg on the 8th and pleaded for mercy."
Once upon a time you told me that you were not the one that put me in the chair at the end of "Brazil." I'm afraid that this is no longer true — unable as I am to think of anyone else who is directly responsible for my current condition. Your later offer to be the friend who becomes a torturer has more than come true. I am not sure you are aware of just how much pain you are inflicting, but I don't believe "responsibility to the company" in any way absolves you from crimes against even this small branch of humanity. As long as my name is on the film, what is done to it is done to me — there is no way of separating these two entities. I feel every cut, especially the ones that sever the balls. And I plead, whether they are done in the name of legitimate and responsible experiments or personal curiosity, if you really wish to make your version of "Brazil" then put your name on it. Then you can do what you like. "Sid Sheinberg's Brazil" has a nice ring to it. But, until that time, I shall continue to decline. Please let me know how much longer must I endure before the bleeding stops.
c.c.: Jack Lint
This letter ran in a book that I can't wait to read, called The Battle of Brazil: Terry Gilliam v. Universal Pictures in the Fight to the Final Cut.
Gilliam became so frustrated by Sheinberg's refusal to release the film that Gilliam made it public in a big way.
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