Madrid Court Rules Against Terry Gilliam in Fight Over 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote'

Alan Amato
'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote'

The director's long-gestating passion project lost another court battle this week when a Spanish court ruled in favor of the film’s Portuguese producer Paolo Branco, finding he still owns rights to the pic.

Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and its Spanish producer Tornasol Films lost a court battle this week when a Madrid court ruled in favor of the film’s former Portuguese producer Paolo Branco, finding he still owns rights to the pic.

The court, citing previous cases in England and France, confirmed the validity of the co-production contract signed on May 9, 2016, between Tornasol Films and Branco's Alfama Filmes and Leopardo Filmes, stating there was no basis to allege the Portuguese producer Branco did not fulfill his obligations.

The two sides have battled their case in European courts for months, as Branco sued for breach of contract and sought an injunction to block the release of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as well as its screening in Cannes. That motion was denied, allowing the film, which stars Jonathan Pryce, Adam Driver and Olga Kurlyenko, to premiere at the festival, where it received mixed reviews.

The Spanish decision comes a month after a French court ruled that Gilliam will have to pay €10,000 ($11,600) in damages to Branco.

Unlike the French case, in which Branco claimed legal rights to the film based on a 2016 contract signed with Gilliam, the Spanish case was brought to court by Tornasol, which sued Branco for monies earned on the film amounting to $121,000.

Gilliam and Branco had a falling out when Branco stopped payments and Gilliam moved forward on production. Branco said Gilliam was in breach of contract; Gilliam contended that the agreement was for production and he didn't own copyright over the script.

"[This decision] confirms the nullity of any contract subsequently established and proves that Alfama Films is the sole owner of all rights to exploit the film, regardless of the medium of exhibition, and 60 percent of worldwide revenues, as  Alfama Films is legally the only international seller of the film,” Branco’s Leopoardo Filmes said in a statement to Portuguese news agency Lusa.

Perhaps now the film, which has been Gilliam's passion projects for decades, can move forward with U.S. distribution. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote's original distributor, Amazon, got cold feet amid the legal turmoil and pulled out on May 9. But the legal fight might not be entirely over yet — the Spanish judgment can be appealed in the next 20 days.