Terry Gilliam: ‘I’m tired of white men being blamed for everything wrong with the world’

  
Via:  perrie-halpern  •  3 weeks ago  •  39 comments

By:   Alexandra Pollard

Terry Gilliam: ‘I’m tired of white men being blamed for everything wrong with the world’
After two decades of trying, the director and former Monty Python member has finally managed to make ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’. But he’d rather talk to Alexandra Pollard about #MeToo, the trials of being a white man, and why he’s decided to become a ‘black lesbian in transition’

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


B y his own admission,  Terry Gilliam  is offensive. But it’s not his fault, it’s yours. “People work so hard to be offended now,” he says with a grin. “I don’t know why I’m doing it. It’s not fun anymore.” He seems to be enjoying himself today, though. The more incendiary his opinion – that the  #MeToo movement  is a witch hunt; that white men are the real victims; that actually, it’s women who hold all the power – the bigger that smile.

We’re in his publicist’s London offices to discuss Gilliam’s new film,  The Man Who Killed Don Quixote . But the 79-year-old writer, director and former  Monty Python  member has other ideas. “I’m so booored of talking about the film,” he groans, rolling up the sleeves of a maroon overshirt, which has a cut not dissimilar to a posh dressing gown. With grey hair, cut short except for a long rat’s tail around the back, and a weathered face, he looks his age – just about – but he has sharp, keen eyes, and the air, energy and trainers of a man many years younger. 

You’d think, given that he’s been trying to make his magical-realist adaptation of Cervantes’ 1605 novel for nearly two decades, he’d be itching to talk about it. The film’s journey to completion has been so troubled – there were lawsuits, funding failures, collapsed distribution deals and natural disasters – that a documentary was made about it in 2002. Gilliam even started filming back in 2000, with  Johnny Depp  and  Jean Rochefort  in the lead roles, but production was abandoned on day two when a flood wiped out the set and Rochefort’s back went into spasm.

He’s had other setbacks in the meantime.  Heath Ledger , the star of his 2009 film  The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus , died midway through filming, and was replaced by a handful of A-listers. And his 2013 sci-fi film  The Zero Theorem  flopped spectacularly. But his early years were an embarrassment of riches. After starting out as an animator for Monty Python – he’s responsible for those surreal, Dali-esque collages and that famous giant foot – Gilliam soon joined the troupe full time, the only American-born member among five Brits. His directorial debut was with them, 1975’s riotous  Monty Python and the Holy Grail , and he helped write the equally adored (though not by Catholics)  Life of Brian  (1979).

And when the Pythons slithered their separate ways, he kept on going, making work that was weird and fantastical, shot through with dark comedy and dystopian undertones:  12 Monkeys  (1995) with  Brad Pitt , for example, and  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  (1998) with Johnny Depp. But his masterpiece is surely 1985’s  Brazil , an Orwellian dystopian satire starring  Jonathan Pryce  as Sam Lowry, a low-level government worker trying to find the woman of his dreams (literally).

Gilliam’s teamed up with Pryce again for  The Man Who Killed Don Quixote , which finally got off the ground thanks to a large cash injection – which he says came from a woman who identified with “my jihad, mein kampf”. It is a beguiling film. Pryce plays Javier, an elderly man who believes himself to be Don Quixote. And  Adam Driver  is Toby, an arrogant advertising director who triggered Javier’s delusion by casting him in his student film a decade ago. “Don Quixote is a mad man,” says Gilliam, who has reluctantly deigned to talk about the film for a moment, “but his view of the world is a noble one. It’s about chivalry. It’s about rescuing maidens. All these wonderful ideas.” The film flits between the 17th century and the 21st. Is it about the clash between modern masculinity and old-fashioned ideals of manhood?

“There’s no room for modern masculinity, I’m told,” says Gilliam. “‘The male gaze is over,’” he adds, letting his derisive air quotes hover for a moment. He was trying to make a point with Angelica, though. Played by Joana Ribeiro, Angelica is a young woman who was in Toby’s film when she was 15. He told her she could be a star, but hasn’t spoken to her in the years since, and her attempts to make good on his prediction have failed. Now, she works as a model and an escort.

“In the age of #MeToo, here’s a girl who takes responsibility for her state,” says Gilliam. “Whatever happened in this character’s life, she’s not accusing anybody. We’re living in a time where there’s always somebody responsible for your failures, and I don’t like this. I want people to take responsibility and not just constantly point a finger at somebody else, saying, ‘You’ve ruined my life.’”

The day we meet, Hollywood mogul  Harvey Weinstein  – who’s been accused by dozens of women of rape, assault and sexual harassment, allegations that kickstarted the entire #MeToo movement – broke his silence, to lament the fact that his work “has been forgotten”, and to boast that he is a “pioneer” of female-led films. Isn’t it a bigger problem that men are refusing to take responsibility for abusing women, and abusing their power? “No. When you have power, you don’t take responsibility for abusing others. You enjoy the power. That’s the way it works in reality.”

And then that phrase comes up. Witch hunt. “Yeah, I said #MeToo is a witch hunt,” he says. There’s a silence. “I really feel there were a lot of people, decent people, or mildly irritating people, who were getting hammered. That’s wrong. I don’t like mob mentality. These were ambitious adults.”

“There are many victims in Harvey’s life,” he adds, “and I feel sympathy for them, but then, Hollywood is full of very ambitious people who are adults and they make choices. We all make choices, and I could tell you who did make the choice and who didn’t. I hate Harvey. I had to work with him and I know the abuse, but I don’t want people saying that all men… Because on [the 1991 film]  Fisher King , two producers were women. One was a really good producer, and the other was a neurotic bitch. It wasn’t about their sex. It was about the position of power and how people use it.”

Being neurotic and being an alleged rapist are not the same thing, though. Many women have made very legitimate accusations against many powerful men. “And those are true. But the idea that this is such an important subject you cannot find anything humorous about it? Wrong!” 

Gilliam mentions a famous actor he was speaking to recently. “She has got her story of being in the room and talking her way out. She says, ‘I can tell you all the girls who didn’t, and I know who they are and I know the bumps in their careers.’ The point is, you make choices. I can tell you about a very well-known actress coming up to me and saying, ‘What do I have to do to get in your film, Terry?’ I don’t understand why people behave as if this hasn’t been going on as long as there’ve been powerful people. I understand that men have had more power longer, but I’m tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world.” He holds up his hands. “I didn’t do it!”

It is deeply frustrating to argue with Gilliam. He is both the devil and his advocate. I try to say that it’s not that white men are to blame for everything, but that they are born with certain privileges that, too often, they exploit. He interrupts.

“It’s been so simplified is what I don’t like. When I announce that I’m a black lesbian in transition, people take offence at that. Why?”

Because you’re not.

“Why am I not? How are you saying that I’m not?”

Are you?

“You’ve judged me and decided that I was making a joke.”

You can’t identify as black, though.

“OK, here it is. Go on Google. Type in the name Gilliam. Watch what comes up.”

What’s going to come up?

“The majority are black people. So maybe I’m half black. I just don’t look it.”

But earlier, he described himself as a white male.

“I don’t like the term black or white. I’m now referring to myself as a melanin-light male. I can’t stand the simplistic, tribalistic behaviour that we’re going through at the moment.” He smiles. “I’m getting myself in deeper water, so I have to trust you.” I’m not sure what he’s trusting me to do.

“I’m talking about being a man accused of all the wrong in the world because I’m white-skinned. So I better not be a man. I better not be white. OK, since I don’t find men sexually attractive, I’ve got to be a lesbian. What else can I be? I like girls. These are just logical steps.” They don’t seem logical. “I’m just trying to make you start thinking. You see, this is the world I grew up in, and with Python, we could do this stuff, and we weren’t offending people. We were giving people a lot of laughter.”

He’s right about that. But at its best, Python was silly and whimsical, its more pointed satirical moments punching up, not down. At its worst, it missed the mark, objectifying women when it wasn’t depicting them as shrill and preposterous, and using racial slurs that would rightly horrify people today. Gilliam doesn’t see the difference.

“I’m into diversity more than anybody,” he says, “but diversity in the way you think about the world, which means you can hate what I just said. That’s fine! No problem. I mean, you can believe whatever you want to believe, but fundamentalism always ends up being, ‘You have to attack other people who are not like you,’ and that’s what makes me crazy. Life is fantastic, it’s wonderful, it’s so complex. Enjoy it and play with it and have fun. That’s why I didn’t become a missionary. That was my plan. I was quite the little zealot when I was young, but when their God couldn’t take a joke, I thought, ‘This is stupid.’ Who would want to believe in a God that can’t laugh?”

His publicist comes back into the room to tell us our time is up. “We didn’t talk about the film even once!” he tells her, with the glee of a schoolboy telling on his classmate. I get up to leave. “I don’t know how you got stuck with me in this mood,” he says. “I just love arguing. And if you’ve got a point, you should be able to argue your thing.” That grin is back. “But I’m not going to hit you.” 

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Citizen Kane-473667
1  Citizen Kane-473667    3 weeks ago

Poignant points being badly expressed.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
2  sandy-2021492    3 weeks ago
I don’t want people saying that all men…

We're not.  That's your persecution complex you're hearing.  Stop being such a crybaby, Terry.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
2.1  igknorantzrulz  replied to  sandy-2021492 @2    3 weeks ago

The guy is a comedian...i assumed he was attempting to be humorous about subjects, that in this PC driven world, one is chastised if such an attempt,

is attempted, irregardless of how tempting.

i'd never even heard of him before, but i'm an uncultured youth, errh , middle aged juvenile delinquent on my dues and not my don'ts, writing my wills   but not my won'ts

cause i'm very much in favor of personal responsibility, i'm just not, responsible enough     to have had enough.

As some other Citizen might have mentioned,

in artfully drawn out like butter, from a prawn,

dishwater from   it never did dawn     on me  till dusk      

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
2.1.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  igknorantzrulz @2.1    3 weeks ago
i'd never even heard of him before, but i'm an uncultured youth, errh , middle aged juvenile delinquent on my dues and not my don'ts, writing my wills   but not my won'ts

Errrr.. you never heard of 'Monty Python"? He's one of them.

 
 
 
Split Personality
2.1.2  Split Personality  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2.1.1    3 weeks ago

The only American born Python in the lot and a pretty successful director, he renounced his US citizenship in 2006.

After that I had little interest in the raving opinions of another white male worth $50 million telling us about his feelings.

 
 
 
jungkonservativ111
3  jungkonservativ111    3 weeks ago

He is spot on. I love the guys work too. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with Johnny Depp is one of my favorites.

“In the age of #MeToo , here’s a girl who takes responsibility for her state,” says Gilliam. “Whatever happened in this character’s life, she’s not accusing anybody. We’re living in a time where there’s always somebody responsible for your failures, and I don’t like this. I want people to take responsibility and not just constantly point a finger at somebody else, saying, ‘You’ve ruined my life.’”

Best part of the article. The guy truly gets the victim culture and how bad it has been for society.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  jungkonservativ111 @3    3 weeks ago
The guy truly gets the victim culture and how bad it has been for society.

This is a case of two truths. 

Women have been abused by men in the past. Not all men and many women take on the men they don't like. Women should not have to worry about characters like Harvey Weinstein

On the other hand, there are those who cry wolf. 

One does not negate the other. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
3.1.1  JohnRussell  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1    3 weeks ago

[deleted]

 
 
 
Dismayed Patriot
3.1.2  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1    3 weeks ago
Not all men and many women take on the men they don't like. Women should not have to worry about characters like Harvey Weinstein

I agree. And when people like Harvey Weinstein make such vile misogynist comments like "When you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything", it shows what true scum men like him are. Anyone still defending such a scum bag should have their head examined.

 
 
 
jungkonservativ111
3.1.3  jungkonservativ111  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1    3 weeks ago

Obviously I don't think women should have to deal with people like Harvey Weinstein. However there are plenty of women who would do that type of stuff willingly and so they feed into why those guys think they have the ability to do that. I like how Gilliam addressed that part of it as well. It's all about power. Of course white men are in most positions of power in this country, because it is and has been majority white for a long time. Progressives seem to lose sight of the fact that it is power that corrupts, and it's not just part of toxic masculinity or being an old white male. White shaming males has been part of the left's playbook since the Obama era and I think it's good that influential people are finally calling it out. 

"The point is, you make choices. I can tell you about a very well-known actress coming up to me and saying, ‘What do I have to do to get in your film, Terry?’ I don’t understand why people behave as if this hasn’t been going on as long as there’ve been powerful people. I understand that men have had more power longer, but I’m tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world.”

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1.4  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  jungkonservativ111 @3.1.3    3 weeks ago
I like how Gilliam addressed that part of it as well. It's all about power. Of course white men are in most positions of power in this country, because it is and has been majority white for a long time.

True!

Progressives seem to lose sight of the fact that it is power that corrupts, and it's not just part of toxic masculinity or being an old white male. White shaming males has been part of the left's playbook since the Obama era and I think it's good that influential people are finally calling it out. 

I don't see any tie to Obama. As an independent, I don't understand the need to tie every social problem to a side. This isn't about shaming males (at least how I see it), as it is about trying to level the playing field. Something that has been going on since the 60's and we are just getting there now. But you are right about power... it does corrupt. 

"The point is, you make choices. I can tell you about a very well-known actress coming up to me and saying, ‘What do I have to do to get in your film, Terry?’

What follows is on her. 

I understand that men have had more power longer, but I’m tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world.”

I don't see it as "white male" thing. I see it as a male thing. Believe me, I was horrified when I saw Ray Rice beating on his wife. The odd thing is that in the black community, they will forgive their men for their bad behavior. I guess white women won't?

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1.5  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Dismayed Patriot @3.1.2    3 weeks ago
"When you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything", it shows what true scum men like him are. Anyone still defending such a scum bag should have their head examined.

Exactly.

 
 
 
MUVA
3.1.6  MUVA  replied to  Dismayed Patriot @3.1.2    3 weeks ago

It’s shows what scum he is.

 
 
 
Dismayed Patriot
3.1.7  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  MUVA @3.1.6    3 weeks ago
It’s shows what scum he is.

Yes, yes it does. Do you disagree? With over two dozen women coming forward to accuse him of sexual assault and his own damning words, do we really need physical evidence to conclude that he is a disgusting scum bag sexual predator?

 
 
 
Dulay
3.1.8  Dulay  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1.4    3 weeks ago
What follows is on her. 

Well Terry's mindset is on him. If 'a very well known actor' had asked the same question, I doubt that Terry would have assumed that he was offering to have sex for a roll.

One thing I have lived by is 'just because you can, doesn't mean that you should'. Decrying that white men shouldn't be called out on taking every advantage of white male privilege is bullshit.  All abusers and oppressors should be called out, no matter how long they and their kind have been at it. 

 
 
 
MUVA
3.1.9  MUVA  replied to  Dismayed Patriot @3.1.7    3 weeks ago

No I agree 100 %.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
3.1.10  igknorantzrulz  replied to  MUVA @3.1.9    3 weeks ago

No I agree 100 %.

you do realize,

you are now agreeing Trump is a total scumbag...correct ?

It's time you accepted it anyway, congratulations.

 
 
 
MUVA
3.1.11  MUVA  replied to  igknorantzrulz @3.1.10    3 weeks ago

No I'm agreeing that Harvey is a scumbag read the words my brother.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
3.1.12  igknorantzrulz  replied to  MUVA @3.1.11    3 weeks ago

No I'm agreeing that Harvey is a scumbag read the words my brother.

You could be correct, but that is not how i interpreted DP's posts.

We'll have to let him decide who has the clearer interpretation.

 
 
 
Dismayed Patriot
3.1.13  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  MUVA @3.1.11    3 weeks ago
No I'm agreeing that Harvey is a scumbag read the words my brother.

Yes, Harvey is a scumbag. So is the person who actually said "When you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything" and was also accused by over two dozen women of sexual assault.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1.14  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Dulay @3.1.8    3 weeks ago

Oh I totally agree Dulay

 
 
 
Dulay
3.1.15  Dulay  replied to  MUVA @3.1.11    3 weeks ago
No I'm agreeing that Harvey is a scumbag read the words my brother.

You said these words show what a scum bag he is:

"When you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything",

Those are Trump's words...

 
 
 
Kathleen
3.1.16  Kathleen  replied to  igknorantzrulz @3.1.10    3 weeks ago

I caught that too. Clever. 

 
 
 
CB
4  CB     3 weeks ago
I don’t understand why people behave as if this hasn’t been going on as long as there’ve (sic) been powerful people. I understand that men have had more power longer, but I’m tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world.” He holds up his hands. “I didn’t do it!”

As an individual he is right to be tired of sharing blame for things he has not done wrong. We all are sick and tired of being classified at times and in certain ways! 

That said, I read the link and overall I think he yet doesn't realize he is speaking from a privileged position. Men hold more power, and power corrupts itself because some men choose to wield it selfishly and dole it out as a Lord does to those who serve -in this case- his needs and whims. Moreover, there is an inherent instinct to survive which takes hold and not many (men) can fight the urge to keep power unto themselves.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
4.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  CB @4    3 weeks ago
That said, I read the link and overall I think he yet doesn't realize he is speaking from a privileged position.

Ironic, no?

Moreover, there isan inherent instinct to survivewhich takes hold and not many (men) can fight the urge to yield power to another.

An excellent point.

 
 
 
CB
4.1.1  CB   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.1    3 weeks ago

I realize you understand what I meant to convey in the second quote (above) and I appreciate a "thataboy"; I reworked its ending after rereading it! (Smile.)

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
4.1.2  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  CB @4.1.1    3 weeks ago

Thataboy CB! I did get what you were saying.

 
 
 
CB
5  CB     3 weeks ago
“There are many victims in Harvey’s life,” he adds, “and I feel sympathy for them, but then, Hollywood is full of very ambitious people who are adults and they make choices. We all make choices, and I could tell you who did make the choice and who didn’t. I hate Harvey. I had to work with him and I know the abuse, but I don’t want people saying that all men… Because on [the 1991 film] Fisher King, two producers were women. One was a really good producer, and the other was a neurotic bitch. It wasn’t about their sex. It was about the position of power and how people use it.” Being neurotic and being an alleged rapist are not the same thing, though. Many women have made very legitimate accusations against many powerful men. “And those are true. But the idea that this is such an important subject you cannot find anything humorous about it? Wrong!” 

This section is rambling and almost incoherent. That is, just about the point where I think I understand the point he is making, it evaporates into a wispful fragment.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
5.1  seeder  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  CB @5    3 weeks ago

pretty much.

 
 
 
CB
5.2  CB   replied to  CB @5    3 weeks ago
Hollywood is full of very ambitious people who are adults and they make choices. We all make choices, and I could tell you who did make the choice and who didn’t. I

Yes uh, Terry. The old saying: "You can't rape the willing!" does apply sometimes—even in Hollywood.

and I could tell you who did make the choice and who didn’t.

Spill Terry. Help 'us" out here.

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
6  Citizen Kane-473667    3 weeks ago

Having been on both the receiving and the giving of sexual favors in return for something of personal value to the giver, I can honestly say I have had regrets afterwards, but only because it wasn't as much fun for me as I thought it would be... jrSmiley_79_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Tessylo
6.1  Tessylo  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @6    3 weeks ago

Way too much information there CK

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
6.1.1  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  Tessylo @6.1    3 weeks ago
Way too much information there CK

Be honest...you want the details, lol! jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
CB
6.1.2  CB   replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @6.1.1    3 weeks ago

Well, I suppose you should 'spill it forward' and cure the titillating interest you have stirred up. BTW, is it topic-centric?

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
6.1.3  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  CB @6.1.2    3 weeks ago
BTW, is it topic-centric?

Trading sexual favors for something we want is definitely topic-centric, wouldn't you say considering the amount of discussion of the topic???

i.e; There was a time I spent some time in the company of, to say the least, a very undesirable female. While she would be considered only slightly unattractive by most people, that wasn't what made her so undesirable to me.  It also wasn't that I wanted to be with her, but I needed a place to live, and she needed a "boyfriend" that wouldn't beat the crap out of her.  She apparently enjoyed the intimate relations immensely and I'm sure half the world knew. Me, on the other hand, would have to cover my ears and think of someone else. Her banshee like shrieking at the top of her lungs during sex was enough to peel the paint off the walls!

I had to endure what I clearly did not enjoy simply because she was in the position of "power".  I was in "hiding" at the time for reasons I won't divulge, and she knew my circumstances that were keeping me there (I was honest from the beginning, and so was she as to what she expected in return), and even though we both knew it was an arrangement of convenience. I did what I had to do (sex and arm candy) in exchange for something I wanted (a place to live and food to eat). So even though this was a consensual arraignment, the fact that she knew I wasn't enjoying myself and yet still insisted on sex would be viewed by most as my being forced--or raped if you will.  That really wasn't the case though. I, and she, were merely fulfilling our agreements...

 
 
 
CB
6.1.4  CB   replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @6.1.3    3 weeks ago

You were her 'trade' and vice-versa. Something of a "kept" man, eh? Was this woman affluent? Incidentally, Los Angeles 'rocks' with sexual decadence power plays. As the whole area is 'littered' with beautiful faces and talent-less rapturous bodies wanting to discover big dreams - though many will find shattered dreams - being taken advantaged of as they try sometimes successfully or other times not so much, to ooze under the doors, windows, and through the car vents of the influential and true stars of Hollywood!

 
 
 
Citizen Kane-473667
6.1.5  Citizen Kane-473667  replied to  CB @6.1.4    3 weeks ago
Was this woman affluent?

Mope; but definitely an Opportunist; and I was desperate...

 
 
 
Tessylo
6.1.6  Tessylo  replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @6.1.1    3 weeks ago

No, I do not want the details.

No way in fucking hell 

 
 
 
CB
6.1.7  CB   replied to  Citizen Kane-473667 @6.1.5    3 weeks ago

Hmm. Opportunity meets Desperation.  You're right this consensual relationship is text book 'definition' of the old saying: "You can't rape the willing!"

Thank you for sharing. We are better informed now. Citizen Kane, I thank you for opening up and trusting us with a chunk out of your life. It is how we in the virtual world can use this 'beast' of a space to grow and learn from one another better.

"Better," being the operative word.

 
 
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