A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Gilliam, the director of such films as "Brazil," "12 Monkeys" and "The Fisher King," arrived in Spain in August 2000 to begin filming a project he had been preparing for 10 years. "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" would star Johnny Depp as a modern-day hero who is transported back in time, and finds himself acting as Sancho Panza to old Don Quixote, who tilts at windmills and remains the most bravely romantic figure in Western literature.
"The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" was budgeted at $32 million, making it the most expensive production ever financed only with European money, although, as Gilliam observes, that's "far below what a film like this would usually cost." In the title role, he had cast Jean Rochefort, the tall, angular French star of more than 100 films, including "The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe" and "The Hairdresser's Husband." Rochefort arrives on the set looking suitably gaunt and romantic, and showing off the English he has learned during seven months of lessons.
The first day of the shoot begins ominously, Someone has forgotten to rehearse the extras, who are yoked to Depp in a chain gang. F-16 fighter planes roar overhead, spoiling shot after shot. Gilliam's optimism remains unchecked, and we get a notion of the film from his sketches and storyboards, and his conferences with members of the production team. There's an amusing episode when he casts three men as giants.
Day two involves a change of location and an adjustment in the shooting schedule. The actors have arrived late in Spain, but are on hand, and as Gilliam and his first assistant director, Philip Patterson, juggle the schedule, a location becomes too windy and dusty. And then all hell breaks loose.