Terry Gilliam was the unseen member of the Monty Python TV-series, in charge of all the animation (and accompanying funny voices, which embarrassed him so much he put a towel over his head while doing the voicetracks for Monty Python). After Python, he became a movie director starting with two Python features: And Now For Something Completely Different (1972) and Monty Python & the Holy Grail (1975). Then he tried non-Python films with some of the cast members: Jabberwocky (1977, Michael Palin vs. a medieval dragon, with Eric Idle & Terry Jones), and Time Bandits (with Sean Connery and John Cleese). Next was Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life (1983), and then "Brazil."
The studio didn't know what to make of Brazil (a spoof of George Orwell's 1984) and decided not to promote or release it. Gilliam sued and wrote an open letter in Variety demanding they give him back his movie. A copy was given to the Academy and it was nominated for Best Art/Set Direction and Best Original Screenplay. Never wide-released, the studio finally grudgingly released it to some theaters.
All-star cast including Katherine Helmond (as a woman addicted to constant plastic surgery), Robert DeNiro, Jonathan Pryce (as the office drone who gets unwanted attention from the authorities), Michael Palin, Bob Hoskins of Roger Rabbit, Ian Holm, Peter Vaughn, Ian Richardson. 142 minutes rated R, edited to 131 minutes. His following movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989) had an uneven script but stunning sets and special effects, as well as some of the same cast (plus Uma Thurman, Eric Idle, Sting and Oliver Reed. After Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) he didn't direct any more feature films until The Brothers Grimm (2005) and Tideland (same year). He also appears in The Making of Tideland (2007)
Born Eric Blair, "George Orwell" died in 1950 at age 46 largely unknown and with virtually no royalties yet for his most famous works. And what books they were: "1984" (finished in 1948 and titled simply by switching the last two numbers) has become a synonym for totaltarianism. The seemingly benign dictator calls himself "Big Brother," while his government watches and intrudes on the life of every person. Unending wars between the world's three superpowers sap the economy, but no one dares object. Hollywood made a movie version in 1956 starring Edmmond O'Brien of DOA, with a young Donald Pleasance as a friend who is also arrested; and a version in 1984 starring John Hurt as Winston Smith, with the villain played by Richard Burton (he died before it's release). BBC made one in 1954 starring Peter Cushing. While the type of government is never specified in "1984," it appears to be a satirical combination of British/French socialism and Soviet Russia. Orwell's other book left no doubt.
"Animal Farm" is a thinly disguised "Fairy Tale" (the original subtitle) about the Russian Revolution. The evil oppressor (the Czar is replaced by a drunken farmer) is overthrown by the farm's animals. The other farms are alarmed by this and isolate the farm, leaving the animals to run the farm entirely on their own as a communist utopia. But the pigs decide they like to rule, and do so with an iron hand. The farmer's dark dogs and their offspring become secret police, making those who displease the government disappear. The utopian farm now gets a new rule, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." The best movie version of "Animal Farm" was a British animated feature (1952) made just two years after Orwell's death. Sadly, it never runs on American TV. The only version I've seen broadcast here was a politically-correct version on Turner's network from the producers of "Babe, Pig In The City," with a happy ending. I don't know if the fact that a 1990s version of his story was sanitized would have made Orwell laugh or cry...and even the 1955 version ends with the animals rising up and overthrowing the drunken pigs.
George Orwell was a socialist who believed that those in charge of Russia (especially Stalin) had betrayed the Revolution. Like Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), Orwell was born in India, and educated in England. He eventually became a police officer in colonial Burma then became a drifter in Europe (recounted in hhis autobiography "Down & Out in Paris & London"). His politics underwent a radical change after serving in the Spanish Civil War on the losing side against fascist Franco (recounted in his "Homage to Catalonia"). Still anti-fascist, he was now also cynical about Communism. A brilliant yet baffling writer, his life is recounted in depth in "Orwell, Wintry Conscience of a Generation" by Jeffrey Meyers. Orwell never lost the courage of his convictions, even to the end. Dying of TB, he insisted on moving to the damp Scottish island of Jura. Meyers writes that Orwell felt some kind of "inner need to sabotage his chance for a happy life."
"Brazil" trivia courtesy Internet Movie Database
* Robert DeNiro wanted to play the role of Jack, but Gilliam had already promised this to Michael Palin. De Niro still wanted to be in the film, so he was cast as Tuttle instead.
* Terry Gilliam tested more than half a dozen actors to play the part of Jill, interviewing or testing Jamie Lee Curtis, Rebecca De Mornay, Rae Dawn Chong, Joanna Pacula, Rosanna Arquette, Kelly McGillis, Ellen Barkin, and he even considered Madonna. Gilliam's personal favorite was Barkin.
* Jonathan Pryce's role as Sam was written years earlier with him in mind. The character was originally designed to be in his mid twenties (Pryce was only about 30 when Gilliam was developing the script), but after many years in limbo, Gilliam changed the character's age to mid-to-late thirties so that then-37-year-old Pryce could still play the role.
* Director Terry Gilliam was reported to have been rather unhappy with Kim Greist's performance, and as a result many of her scenes were drastically cut and/or trimmed down. Some of these were added for the Sid Sheinberg "Love Conquers All" studio version. Kim Greist is mistakenly billed as "Kim Griest" in various locations, including the DVD packaging.
* Gilliam had trouble with studio producers over the black ending he wanted on the film. The producers wanted a "happy Hollywood" film which eliminated (among other things) the final transition and a critical line of dialogue which reveals the fate of Jill. These changes were made, and this "butchered" version was shown on US television at least once. Gilliam threatened to disown the film, and consequently the cinematic release and all videotape versions show the film essentially as he intended it to be seen (although the US cinematic release still omitted the line about Jill).
* When Mr. Helpman spells out the code that Sam's father used to get to Helpman's floor on the elevator, the letters are ERE I AM JH. When you rearrange those letters it spells JEREMIAH, Sam's father's name.
* Lots of significant names:
Mr. Kurtzman (German for "short man"): small in stature and success. Named after the editor of "Help" (Harvey Kurtzman), a magazine that director Terry Gilliam worked for in the mid-60s. It was at a photo shoot for this magazine that Gilliam met John Cleese, who would later invite him to join the Monty Python team.
Mr. Helpman: "helped" Sam
Mr. Warrenn: works in a rabbit-warren style place: a maze of corridors Harvey Lime, possibly a reference to Harry Lime in The Third Man (1949).
* The "young Mrs. Lowry" was played by both Kim Greist and Katherine Helmond.
* The samurai warrior's suit was covered in electronic components such as resistors and volume knobs. In an early version of the film, all of the samurai warrior's scenes were in one block.
* The theme song (which Sam listens to in his car) was also featured in Brazil (1944, a light musical).
* The technician who, right at the start of the film, swats the fly which falls into the printer causing the fatal misprint is Ray Cooper, the percussionist who, among other things, accompanied Elton John on his famous Russian concerts in 1979.
* Director Cameo: [Terry Gilliam] the smoker in the Shangri-La tower who bumps into Sam.
* Director Trademark: [burst: often features people/animals bursting through walls or ceilings] SWAT teams enter through ceiling.
* Director Trademark: [burst] at the diner.
* Director Trademark: [Television monitors] They were in Brazil (1985), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Fisher King (1991), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and Time Bandits (1981).
* During the climactic shootout at Information Retrieval, the janitor is killed and her vacuum cleaner rolls down the steps as the storm troopers walk and fire their weapons in a skirmish line formation. This is a reference to Sergei M. Eisenstein's film, Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925), when the Cossacks march down the steps of the Port of Odessa, firing away as a baby carriage rolls by.
* This was River Phoenix's favorite movie, and he had been filming Dark Blood (1993) with Jonathan Pryce. As a gift, Pryce arranged for Phoenix to meet Terry Gilliam, his hero. The meeting was set to happen the day he died outside the Viper Room. Phoenix never met him.
* Charles McKeown, who shared the co-credit in writing the film, wrote most of the propaganda slogans that can be seen in the background throughout the film.
* Jack's daughter Holly is played by Terry Gilliam's daughter, Holly Gilliam.
* In the autumn of 1985, Terry Gilliam and Robert De Niro appeared on "Good Morning America" to help promote, and talk about, this film, which was finished but not yet released. Terry Gilliam was struggling with the studio and the studio head (Sid Sheinberg) quite publicly. De Niro never usually makes television appearances to promote his films, but helped Gilliam out and made his first and only television appearance promoting a film. According to Gilliam "Bobby [De Niro] said very little, he was talkative that day so we might have gotten him to ten words." Then, Joan Lunden asked Terry Gilliam, "I hear your having trouble with the studio, is this correct?" Gilliam responded with "No, I'm having trouble with Sid Sheinberg, here is an 8x10 photo of him," and showed the entire nation his photograph. Sheinberg was reportedly furious with this incident, and it helped Gilliam get the release of the film done the way he wanted.
* Terry Gilliam was asked to do a film class during the battle of this film at USC. Terry agreed, and took advantage of the situation by preparing to bring an "audio visual aid", which was his cut of the film, which would have been allowed. Unfortunately, two days before the event, students advertised a free screening of the film. When he arrived it was announced that Universal would not allow him to show the film. During his speech to the class, he was interrupted by studio executives' phone calls. They eventually allowed him to show a clip of the film. He showed the entire film, and repeated the screenings for over two weeks. It was during one of these screenings that Los Angeles film critics saw the film, and awarded it the Best Picture of the Year award, which was responsible for getting the film released the way Gilliam wanted it.
* During his trouble with a studio, Terry Gilliam asked daily variety for a full page ad, which cost around $1,500 at the time. He had it bordered like a funeral invitation and it said: "Dear Sid Sheinberg, when are you going to release my film? Signed: Terry Gilliam."
* According to Terry Gilliam in the book "The Battle of Brazil", the toolbelt worn by Tuttle and all of its gadgets were supplied by Robert De Niro himself
* In one of the final scenes of the movie, among Jack Lint's instruments of torture can clearly be seen a rubber bouncy ball and a pacifier.
* Almost all of the soundtrack music is a variation on the main melody in the song "Brazil"
* The title song (actually named "Aquarela do Brasil" by Ary Barroso) was used in a movie for the first time in Walt Disney's 6th full length animation Saludos Amigos (1943)
* According to Maxim magazine, director Terry Gilliam was reportedly so stressed during filming that he lost all feeling in his legs for a week.
* Early title for Brazil was "1984 and a 1/2", an ode to Federico Fellini and as a tribute to George Orwell's book "1984", a major inspiration behind the film, but was prevented by Orwell's estate as the film Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) was already being released and the idea was scrapped.
* When Sam types "Ere I am JH" into the secret elevator's control panel, it plays the first eight notes of "Brazil". This is also what he hums when he sends the refund check up the pneumatic tube at Mr. Kurtzmann's office.
* The very first sound in the film is the Telecaster of famous guitarist Amos Garrett.
* Jack Purvis, a regular in the films of Terry Gilliam appears as "Dr. Chapman", a reference to fellow Python Graham Chapman, who had a medical degree.
* The samurai sequence was originally conceived to reflect Terry Gilliam's love for Akira Kurosawa films.
* Archibald Buttle's wife's name is Veronica. A reference to Archie and Veronica of Archie Comics.
* Terry Gilliam and his crew were excited to have Robert De Niro on board at first, but as time wore on they found De Niro's need for "research" and obsession with details increasingly irritating, saying that he "wanted to strangle him".
* During the time when the studio was blocking the release of the film and were re-editing it for the infamous "Love conquers all" version copies of the directors cut were circulating on video around Hollywood. At one point a number of critics began asking if a film that had been completed, but not released, could be eligible for a Best Picture Oscar, it's said that the potential embarrassment of this happening forced the studio to release the original version instead of their new one.
* Mrs. Buttle never blinks during the extended monologue Sam gives when he comes over to her apartment.
* The dream scenes were initially meant to form just one long sequence in the middle of the film, but technical difficulties made this impossible. The most important part of the dream sequence was intended to be a scene where Sam flies over a field of eyes, which then start slowly moving to follow his descent on a pillar. The eyes were made of snooker balls with false irises added; the eye symbol is also seen in other Terry Gilliam films including 12 Monkeys. The decision was later made to split the remaining dream scenes to fill the "empty" spaces between chapters.
* Body count: 25
* Gilliam started to direct "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" in 2001 (in Spain) with Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis and Jean Rochefort but the shooting was unfortunately stopped a couple of days after it started because of Jean Rochefort's health problems (he couldn't ride a horse any more). But Terry Gilliam said that he won't give up and that he will try again later because he dreams about making this movie!
* The only American-born member of Monty Python, Gilliam has since taken British citizenship instead (January 2006).
* J.K. Rowling, creator of the "Harry Potter" book series, originally wanted Gilliam to direct Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001), but Warner Brothers studios wanted a more family friendly film and eventually settled for Chris Columbus.
* He has been off and on to write and direct a movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's graphic novel "Watchmen." Gilliam has said he attempted to write an accurate screenplay but it would be unfilmable, but he would consider directing it if it were made into 10 or 12-part cable television series. Was also slated to direct an adaptation of the novel "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The project languished in development for three years before finally being abandoned. Also turned down directing Braveheart (1995), when briefly solicited by Mel Gibson to direct an abandoned film version of Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities".
* He did not originally intend to cast Sean Connery as King Agamemnon in Time Bandits (1981), he merely wrote in the screenplay that when Agamemnon took off his helmet that he looked "exactly like Sean Connery." To Gilliam's surprise, the script found its way into Connery's hands and Connery subsequently expressed interest in doing the film.
* Gilliam is credited with writing "Education Tips No. 41: Choosing a Really Expensive School" (2003)
* In 1976 Jonathan Pryce made his big screen debut in Voyage of the Damned (1976). But it wasn't until 1983 that he made a strong impression with his scary performance as a freaky manipulative Mr. Dark in Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). Pryce shot to fame with Brazil (1985) and his best known role, Sam Lowry, a technocrat trying to correct an error caused by a bug and himself becomes entangled in psychopathic bureaucracy eventually becoming an enemy of the state. He also filled such strong and authoritative roles, as dictator Juan Peron opposite Madonna in Evita (1996), then co-starred opposite Pierce Brosnan as Elliot Carver, the evil megalomaniac media mogul in the 18th Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).
He also originated the role of "The Engineer" in the live musical, Miss Saigon. Pryce was at the center of a racially-charged controversy regarding his role in the mid-1980s musical because he played a half-French Caucasian/half-Vietnamese Asian pimp, in the original London cast, but when producer Cameron Mackintosh wanted to transfer the UK cast to the original Broadway opening, the US performers' union Actors' Equity objected on the grounds that Pryce, a Welsh Caucasian, should not have been allowed to play an Asian person. Their arguments against Pryce's casting were that a White person playing an Asian one amounted to minstrelsy, denied already-scarce roles to Asian actors, and was an "affront to the Asian community." In response, Mackintosh canceled the Broadway production (despite having sold advance tickets), so Actor's Equity reversed its decision on a technicality in their bylaws that exempts producers from having to audition domestic actors for a transplanted production if the original star is deemed famous enough. The policies regarding racial casting issues that Actor's Equity set in place in response to this incident still govern Broadway casting as of 2006.
* Scenes for the movie "1984" (1984 version) were shot on the actual days noted in Winston Smith's diary (The scene where Smith writes in his diary, dating the entry April 4, 1984, was shot on April 4, 1984).
* "1984" Executive Producer Marvin J. Rosenblum, a Chicago lawyer, secured the film rights to the novel from Orwell's widow, Sonia Brownell, shortly before she died in 1980. It took a lot of persuading on Mr. Rosenblum's part before Mrs. Orwell eventually agreed to allow him to produce the film only under the stipulation that no futuristic sci-fi special effects be used to tell the story. Mrs. Orwell was said to have hated the 1956 version of "Nineteen Eighty-four" starring Edmond O'Brien and Jan Sterling. She was also appalled when David Bowie proposed turning "Nineteen Eighty-four" into a rock musical in the mid-1970s.
* Richard Branson's Virgin Films, the production company bankrolling the 1984 "1984" movie, had wanted a commercially viable pop act to compose the music for the film to increase its market potential. Originally they approached David Bowie, who had used Orwell's novel as inspiration for some songs on his 1974 album, "Diamond Dogs", but he demanded too much money for the job. They opted instead for Eurythmics, who had initially turned down the offer but later accepted. The director Michael Radford was unaware of this plan and had already hired Dominic Muldowney to compose the entirety of the film's musical score. Virgin Films exercised their right of final cut and dubbed in some of the Eurythmics score for the film's theatrical release. Radford was displeased with this development and retaliated by withdrawing the film for consideration for BAFTA award for Best Picture. When the film did win the Evening Standard award for Best Film of the Year, Radford took the opportunity to denounce the Eurythmics involvement in his acceptance speech at the nationally televised ceremony.
* The Oceanian Soldiers in the film "1984" are wearing Soviet Red Army helmets, painted black.
In 1984, Apple Computer introduced its new computer with a spoof of "1984" that ran only once on TV That ad has now itself been spoofed with a political ad on YouTube (click twice to play clip)