First the actors, then the set... now the world's unluckiest film loses its backers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In the annals of silver-screen catastrophes there can be few productions unluckier than Terry Gilliam's endeavours to make a film about Don Quixote.

The British director's previous attempts at shooting a modern take on Miguel Cervantes' hapless Spanish hero have been so beset by on-set disasters that he was forced to abandon the project altogether – leaving Johnny Depp hanging – and instead make a documentary about what he dubbed "the film that didn't want to be made".

After a decade of mishaps, in which sets were washed away by flash floods, a leading man was rushed to hospital, and the engines of swooping fighter jets ruined sound recordings, it finally looked as if Gilliam would realise his dream, having signed up Robert Duval to play the chivalry-obsessed Quixote.

After years of bitter legal wrangling and arguments with insurers following the first failed attempt to get The Man Who Killed Don Quixote off the ground, Gilliam announced earlier this year that he was finally going to start shooting a new version of the film this month. But now this latest attempt has unravelled on the eve of filming after Gilliam's financial backers pulled out.

"The financing collapsed about a month and a half ago," Gilliam told Variety. "I shouldn't be here. The plan was to be shooting Quixote right now."

The 69-year-old director is now desperately searching for new support to resurrect the fortunes of a film that is fast becoming the silver-screen equivalent of Macbeth – a production surrounded by superstitious rumours of curses and bad luck.

In true Gilliam style, the film was supposed to bend the edges of both reality and Cervantes' novel by telling the story of a 21st-century advertising executive who inadvertently travels back in time to 17th-century Spain, where he meets Don Quixote.

Alongside Duval as the lead, Ewan McGregor was set to play the advertising executive, a role that was briefly taken up by Johnny Depp the last time Gilliam tried to make the film.

The pressure to find new backers will be made all the more problematic by the announcement earlier this summer that Warner Brothers and Joel Silver are going to fast-track their own Don Quixote production.

Unlike Gilliam, who has had little luck persuading big studios to invest in his Quixote project, Silver's version has been snapped up by Warner Brothers, who are reportedly in favour of a Pirates of the Caribbean-esque swashbuckling version of Don Quixote, as opposed to Gilliam's more nuanced interpretation.

Gilliam declined to talk to The Independent, but in Lost in La Mancha, the 2002 documentary that was pulled from the ashes of the first aborted attempt to make a Quixote film, Gilliam's co-scriptwriter Tony Grisoni explained why his friend was obsessed with Cervantes' delusional Spanish hero.

"Don Quixote seems to have been at the back of Terry's work for a long time," he explained. "In the broadest sense he is a hero that appeals to Terry because the notion of someone gleefully battling in the face of all odds, logic and reality is one that appeals to him."

Few directors have battled with such persistence against the kind of odds put in the way of Gilliam's Quixote film.

After writing a script with Grisoni and struggling to find financial backing, Gilliam's team finally began shooting on a barren hillside in northern Spain in October 2000. The cameras had barely started to roll before a series of disasters struck.

Nonetheless Gilliam is determined to press on, and scoffs at the suggestion that the project is cursed.

"Don Quixote gives me something to look forward to, always," he said. "Maybe the most frightening thing is to actually make the film."

Jinxed film: the curse of Don Quixote?

Star falls ill

French actor Jean Rochefort spent a year learning English to play Quixote. He was flown back to France for emergency medical treatment after suffering back problems. Disaster rating: 4/5

Military intervention

The set was next to a military base with jets regularly flying overhead, ruining the sound. Disaster rating: 2/5

Floods wreck set

Flash floods swept through the crew's camp on day two, destroying vital equipment and changing the colour of the surrounding hills. Disaster rating: 3/5

Filming abandoned

Gilliam is forced to scrap the whole project and its stars, including Johnny Depp have to fill their work schedules elsewhere Disaster rating: 5/5

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn