Like many of Terry Gilliam’s films “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” almost didn’t make it to the screen, but as fate would hand it three premier actors stepped in when the production was its lowest point.
Heath Ledger’s tragic passing in the middle of filming could have forced “Parnassus” to remain unfinished or a shadow of what it was supposed to be, but thanks to a break in the shooting schedule and a lucky fantastical story element other actors could step in for the departed Oscar winner. Those gentleman turned out to be Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Out of respect for Ledger, Gilliam and perhaps because they did the work for scale, all three men have stayed away from promoting or publicizing “Parnassus,” but after a strong limited release opening on Christmas, two of them have spoken out for the first time about their involvement.
Johnny Depp begins saying, “Maestro Gilliam has made a sublime film. Wonderfully enchanting and beautiful, ‘The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus’ is a uniquely ingenious, captivating creation; by turns wild, thrilling and hilarious in all its crazed, dilapidated majesty. Pure Gilliam magic!
It was an honor to represent Heath. He was the only player out there breathing heavy down the back of every established actors neck with a thundering and ungovernable talent that came up on you quick, hissing rather mischievously with that cheeky grin, “hey… get on out of my way boys, i’m coming through…” and does he ever!!! Heath is a marvel, Christopher Plummer beyond anything he’s ever done, Waits as the Devil is a God, Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield, the very foundation, are spectacular, Verne Troyer simply kicks ass and as for my other cohorts, Colin Farrell and Jude Law, they most certainly did Master Ledger very proud, I salute them.
Though the circumstances of my involvement are extremely heart-rending and unbelievably sad, I feel privileged to have been asked aboard to stand in on behalf of dear Heath.”
Jude Law says, “I have always loved Terry Gilliam’s films. Their heart, their soul, their mind, always inventive, touching, funny and relevant. When I got the call, it was a double tug. I liked Heath very much as a man and admired him as an actor. To help finish his final piece of work was a tribute I felt compelled to make. To help Terry finish his film was an honour paid to a man I adore. I had a great time on the job. Though we were all there in remembrance, Heath’s heart pushed us with great lightness to the finish.”
In February of 2008, before production resumed, Colin Farrell was quoted as telling the Sydney Daily Telegraph, “It’s an incredibly painful honor… and an honor I wish wasn’t bestowed (on me), but an honor nonetheless. It’s about getting Heath’s work out there… He’s too good for any of his work not to be seen, you know, and I’m really keen and looking forward to doing it and just doing the best job I can do.”
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles. It opens nationwide on Jan. 8.