In the ongoing war of words and court filings over Terry Gilliam’s troubled The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, comes a new, strongly-stated missive. On behalf of French distributor Océan Films and the movie’s producers, the communiqué released today is titled “Why Paulo Branco Was Never, Is Not And Never Will Be The Producer Of Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote.”
This is a response to the latest move by Branco who, as part of a rights dispute, is seeking an injunction against the official closing night screening of the movie at the Cannes Film Festival. That matter is to be decided by a judge on May 7, one day before the festival kicks off.
To recap, Gilliam first began work on his passion project in 1989 and first started filming in 2000. After a series of ill-fated events, the movie was finally completed last year. The legal wrangle began in 2016 when Branco and Gilliam entered into a contract. But the budget did not materialize and Gilliam found new backers who got the project on track. In the intervening time, both sides have 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 June 15.
On Monday this week, Cannes released a statement responding to the legal threat to the film’s screening in Official Selection. Branco and his attorneys in turn responded publicly to the festival, also on Monday.
Today, the distributor and producers allege that Branco does not own the rights to the screenplay because he “was unable to pay” the 250K euros for the original option. They contend that Gilliam in August 2016 “realized that Mr Branco, whom he had met five months prior, had no intention to honor his contractual engagements and that he had decided to produce the film for half the agreed upon budget.”
Per the producers and distributor, Branco told Gilliam, “Either you make this film my way, or you irremediably compromise the feasibility of the project and your film is condemned. It will never see the light of day.”
Gilliam “refused to give in” and Branco allegedly responded, “Our collaboration is impossible. Good luck with another producer.”
The film was “saved,” the statement reads, by Amy Gilliam, Mariela Besuievsky, Belgium’s Entre Chien et Loup and France’s Kinology. “They are the producers of the film.”
They suggest Branco’s “interpretation” of three previous legal decisions (one in France and two in the UK) is “specious,” saying “there exists no recognition of Branco’s rights” in the cases. A court of appeals will make a final decision on the issue on June 15.
“How did we get here?,” the statement posits. “Because, on March 15, 2018, the producers refused a non-negotiable ultimatum from Mr Branco.” This “ultimatum,” they allege, was a payment of 3.5M euros. “If Mr Branco and his attorneys dispute our assertion, they should file a libel suit,” the statement reads.
Not screening the film in Cannes, the statement concludes, “would destroy the distribution of Terry Gilliam’s work and his reputation along with it.”