Inside the Art direction on Terry Gilliam’s ‘Parnassus’

When Sony Pictures Classics releases "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" next month, viewers will be treated to a full-blown tour inside the head of helmer Terry Gilliam, courtesy of a mind-blowing blend of miniatures, motion control, bluescreen work and vfx.

What they'll barely glimpse is the thicket of obstacles -- technical and human -- that stood in the way of the film's completion.

The death of Heath Ledger in January 2008, midway through filming his final role, is only the best known of these. Exactly four months later, while "Imaginarium" was in post, producer William Vince also died, at 44.

Then there was Gilliam's mercurial, exacting personality. "He pulled visual references together and said, 'That's what I want,'" recalls vfx supervisor John Paul Docherty. "But later on, things would change. His mind is always wandering, and there's no such thing as a finished idea for him."

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