Over at Mother Jones, Michael Mechanic chats with Terry Gilliam, whose new film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has just hit US cinemas.
MJ: You also have a rep as a guy who fights with studios. I read an anecdote about how J.K. Rowling wanted you to direct the first Harry Potter film and Warner Bros. said no. I gather you were pissed?
TG: No, I was relieved. I went out there because I got a free first-class British Airways flight out to L.A., which allowed me to spend some time with my lawyer dealing with problems about Don Quixote. There was no way I was ever going to get that job, despite the fact that Rowling wanted me, and also the producer, but I just knew the system was not going to be happy with someone like me.
MJ: They think you're unmanageable?
TG: I think that was basically it. The irony is that the three films I actually did in Hollywood–The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing–were the easiest films I've ever made. There were no major fights, just the normal tensions. And yet I rail against Hollywood, and they're terrified of me…
MJ: In 2006, you renounced your American citizenship to be a full-time Brit. Seems pretty extreme.
TG: Well, I don't live there. I got tired of my taxes paying for exciting little wars around the world. Then I discovered that when I died, my wife would probably have to sell our house to pay for the taxes in America. The fact that Bush was there made it easier.
MJ: Did you get any shit for your decision?
TG: Not really. It was very funny, 'cause you have to go down to the US Embassy and say, I want out, and then they counsel you and you go away for a month and think on it. And then you come back and they beg you to stay. Sorry!