Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is facing yet another hurdle on its decades-long journey to the screen. A legal challenge filed this week could see the movie pulled from its May 19 closing night berth in Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the latest salvo, this time lodged by Paulo Branco and his Alfama Films Productions, in an ongoing back-and-forth over rights to the movie. Branco and Alfama claim the film cannot be shown without the company’s approval.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has been termed one of the most cursed projects in history. It’s also been the subject of an ongoing wrangle between Branco and Gilliam who signed a contract in August 2016 giving the producer the rights. But the budget did not materialize and Gilliam found new backers who got the project on track after the director originally started work on it in 1989, and 17 years after shooting first began in 2000.
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Both sides had lodged complaints. Last May a French court ruled in favor of Branco, but said he could not stop the film from shooting. Then earlier this month, an appeals court heard from the parties with the final decision to be delivered on June 15.
Alfama said in a statement on Wednesday that it had obtained permission to seek a writ to stop the Cannes Film Festival from screening it. The court will hear arguments on May 7, the day before the festival begins.
“I want my place as a producer to be recognized,” Branco told France 2 on Monday, saying of Gilliam, “This sort of arrogance from a great English filmmaker against a small Portuguese producer, it has to stop.” Branco has produced some 300+ films.
In the same program, Gilliam said, “Paulo Branco claims to be the producer of this film… But he worked on this film for four months.”
The program further detailed a heated exchange of emails from 2016 between Branco and Gilliam in which the producer threatens to shut down the film. “It became more and more threats. You either do it this way, or I stop everything. I had 24 hours to accept those conditions,” Gilliam said. He told France 2 he wondered “what happened to the contract we signed six months ago? Mine said I would have a look in on the budget and choose the team and would know everything of the financial plan and dealings. None of those things happened. He broke the contract on a weekly basis during the four months we worked together.”
Branco separately noted, “Sometimes one has to take a strong position.”
The status of the film’s French theatrical release is currently unknown. It is due to go out via Ocean Films on May 19, but it is still awaiting a visa certificate from national film body the CNC. Ocean recently told AFP that the “contract between Gilliam and Branco had been terminated.”
Deadline has reached out to the Cannes Film Festival for comment.
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