Terry Gilliam keen for studio tour

Filmmaker in town for Dubai festival honor

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DUBAI -- Day 1 at the fifth Dubai International Film Festival and Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Terry Gilliam already is looking for the underbelly of the glitzy emirate.

"Tonight, we're going to party with the Indian migrant laborers in their dormitories," said Gilliam with a broad smile and a warm chuckle. But seriously, the widely traveled Monty Python veteran who years ago shot "Life of Brian" in Tunisia, is visiting Dubai for the first time and also plans a visit its giant new studios to "check out their attitude toward funding."

His long-interrupted "Don Quixote," in rewrite come January, could be made in Dubai, he said, because "at least there are mountains here."

Gilliam said he had no idea if his films were known in the Middle East, no sense of the audience and that he had no desire to take young filmmakers under his wing.

"No, I don't encourage them. They're competition," he said, again with a chuckle, noting that the Lifetime Achievement award he'll receive Friday, is probably a ploy. "I think it's probably young filmmakers giving me these things, trying to get me out of the way, saying 'It's over, buster.'"

Gilliam will stay just a few days in Dubai before he returns to work on his next film "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," which he deftly revamped after a key actor, Heath Ledger, died earlier this year.

Wishing to set the record straight about a comment he made after Ledger's death -- on Hollywood studios' willingness to use anything, including talk of a posthumous Oscar, to market a film -- Gilliam said the press got it wrong.

"When I said that when you do small films you don't have the power of the studio behind you to get the attention of the people my comment was taken out of context. It's been used to say that I didn't think that Heath deserved to have a posthumous award, which is utter and complete nonsense," Gilliam said.

Ledger's death nearly caused Gilliam to shut "Parnassus" down, figuring he was irreplaceable. "There's great sadness that the world will never know how special Heath really was. There was nothing he couldn't do."

When colleagues on the project insisted, Gilliam and writer Charles McKeown rewrote the script about travel through a magical mirror into the imagination, for a group of actors (Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell) instead of a lone replacement. "It's utterly brilliant. God spoke to me and said 'You must do this,'" Gilliam said, noting that the deity who came to him was a woman.

Not a technophile, Gilliam said film is still better to his eyes, but he's hopeful for the development of high definition technology. "Their dream, their plan, is to be able to put colors on screen that only dogs can hear."

His films "Brazil," also written by McKeown, and "Twelve Monkeys," which was produced by DIFF Filmmaker of the Year honoree Charles Roven, will screen in Dubai starting Friday alongside films by fellow honorees Tsui Hark and Rachid Bouchareb, neither of whom he's ever heard of, he claims.

"You come to these festivals and clearly some of these people are incredibly famous in their part of the world and some of them are far more talented than most of us, and yet they're not known in the West," he said. "That, unfortunately, is the dominance of Hollywood."