Terry Gilliam and the cast of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus gathered in Cannes today ahead of the film’s premiere… but there was one notable absence
Friday morning at Cannes, the air was celebratory but mournful with the press screening of the late Heath Ledger’s last movie, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, with director Terry Gilliam telling the press how his production had to adapt to the passing of the star: “Everyone in the cast and crew was determined we would finish the film for Heath, so they worked longer and harder.” Co-star Andrew Garfield elaborated on the decision to have Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp play fantasy versions of Ledger’s character to finish the flick: “It was a very tricky situation we were only able to get through because we were all so touched and moved by Heath.”
The movie stars Heath Ledger as Tony and is joined by Christopher Plummer as the title character Dr. Parnassus, a centuries old mystical man who made a deal with the devil about his daughter, Lily Cole. Verne Troyer plays his sidekick Percy. Your first glimpse of Heath in the movie is a shocking one since he’s suspended from a London bridge with a noose around his neck. Ordinarily one wouldn’t gasp at such a scene, but the shot is eerie.
Heath Ledger was halfway through filming the movie when he died of an accidental drug overdose in January 2008, leaving Gilliam with the difficult decision over what to with the movie. In the end, three of Ledger’s pals, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law performed his part. Viewers said the actors morph in and out of the movie as Tony with effortless ease. One moment Tony’s climbing a ladder as Ledger, and a second later he morphs into Law and so on and so forth.
Doctor Parnassus’s travelling theatre has a magic mirror, go through and you achieve joyous or nightmarish things. Gilliam explained that the magic mirror gave him the solution for saving the film after Ledger’s death. ‘Heath goes through it three times and that was it, we had the solution. I was calling people who knew and loved Heath and everyone on the cast and crew was determined that this film was finished. People’s love for Heath propelled this film forward’, Gilliam explained. Andrew Garfield, who plays the Doctor’s assistant said that it was extremely difficult for the three alternate Tonys ‘because Heath’s feet were so big, not his feet, but the void he left’. Lily, who played the doctor’s daughter, expressed the same sentiment.