The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus…Controversy and, well, Creepiness

Terry Gilliam and Heath Ledger

Upon first glance, I’m sure that the title above means nothing to you (unless you’re a film dork like myself). But allow your trustee DailyDale correspondent to fill you in. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is currently the most talked about and controversial film coming out of Hollywood right now. The reason for the controversy is two-fold: First, the films protagonist, Tony, is played by Heath Ledger. As we all know, Heath suffered an untimely and mysterious death last summer right around the time the Dark Knight was released, making his Joker interpretation all the more creepy. He was in the middle of filming this movie (Parnassus) when he passed. This my friends, is called a dilemma. So, wild and whacky Terry Gilliam, who’s responsible for celluloid trips (weird movies) such as Brazil, 12 Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas just happens to be Parnassus’s director and co-writer. Long story short? This pretentious bastard decided it would work to show the audience multiple sides of the character, and use a different actor for each “side”. Thus, the film employs four different actors to play the same guy. Gillaim claims this works perfectly as art and for the story’s sake, everyone else smells a dead-actor cover-up.

That my friends, is just the first reason why this movie is causing so much controversy. By the way, when I say controversy what I mean is that now that this film has been made and edited, no distributor in the United States wants to touch it. But why you ask? Wouldn’t everyone be rushing to see Heath’s final film? Won’t that be the number one selling point, that this is Heath Ledger’s last body of work, and thus every distributor should be lining up for it like they did for The Dark Knight? Normally, yes. That should be the case. But, and boy is this a big, fat, Oprah BUT, but what if i told you that the first time you see “Tony” (the Heath character) in this movie he’s hanging by his neck from a noose attached to the London Bridge? Would that be a creepy image to give audiences, perhaps a little too much, when the last time this man was making headlines it was for his death which could have been a suicide? This would be like if Michael Jackson was in the middle of recording an album when he died, and the album came out today with the title track called “If I die from too many pharmaceuticals”. Creeeeeeppppyyyyyyy.
So here’s what we have: A Terry Gillam directed movie (always a gamble to begin with) where the lead actor who died mid shoot is seen hanging from a noose in the first scene, and throughout the rest of the movie is replaced with three alter-egos played by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. So hey, at least Gillaim picked inexpensive actors!!! (Why do the alter-egos have to be sexy? Couldnt they have casted Andy Dick or Philip Seymour Hoffman? I don’t think my alter-ego is 6’3, blonde with a six-pack)

Anyway, perhaps now you can understand why no distributor in their right mind wants to touch this gamble. But, the fact remains that Heath Ledger was an unbelievably talented, dedicated and versatile actor. For that reason alone I think this movie deserves to be seen. If Parnassus never gets released, Heath’s lasting body of work would be a nut-job clown who makes me shit my pants whenever he opens his mouth. Word on the street is “Tony” in The Imaginarium is a human character with human emotions and someone to identify with. I’d like to see one more of those roles with Heath, I sure as hell identified with him in A Knight’s Tale. And Brokeback. I could do this all day…

Heath in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus


10 thoughts on “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus…Controversy and, well, Creepiness

  1. awesome article. I was curious as to when this movie was coming out. I didnt know about johnny depp and jude law and colin farrell. that makes it all the more intriguing!

  2. This text is off in so many ways I don’t even know where to begin… I guess I can just list a few facts where you got it wrong:
    1) Heath Ledger died Jan 22, 2008 – NOT last summer around the time of the release of TDK.

    2) The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus was picked up for European distribution about 6 months ago (even before the film premièred at the Cannes film festival).

    3) Since then the film has also found it’s U.S. distributor: Sony Pictures Classics. That deal has been rumoured since early August, and was made official in early September. Parnassus has even been set for opening in the U.S. on Dec 25. ( Click on dropdown menu in upper right corner and chose The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus).

    4) Yes of course the first scene with Heath Ledger in Parnassus, the hanging scene, is indeed shocking. But that scene is no news! The first pics from that scene surfaced late fall 2007, even before Heath Ledger passed away. And Terry Gilliam made it perfectly clear that he worked very hard to keep and use every second that Heath Ledger filmed in the finished film. That that scene would be the reason for the film not finding a U.S. distributor until now is pure speculation and – to be frank – B.S. In my belief (and that is all it is: my opinion) the main reason for the process taking so long in the U.S. is that most of the big distribution companies sees films as commodities, off of which they can make money – rather than works of art. When they’re presented with a work of art, they don’t quite know what to do with it, and are unsure if they can make money on it. And then it doesn’t really matter if that work of art includes Heath Ledger’s last work, and is starring Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.
    5) Gilliam picked Law, Depp and Farrell first of all because they were all friends of Heath Ledger. Parnassus is an independently produced film. In no way were Law, Depp or Farrell payed the amounts they would get for a big mainstream, studio film, and they took the job knowing that, for Heath Ledgers sake, and to help Gilliam. (What is also noteworthy is that none of them kept their salaries! The three of them gave the payment they received to Ledger’s daughter Matilda.)

    And the fact that they’re all sexy? Well – they were going to portray the character Tony’s alter ego, and that had to seem plausible. And since the actor originally playing Tony was attractive and, yeah, sexy – isn’t it quite natural to pick alter egos that have that same “quality”?…

    That’ll be all

  3. First of all, Nina, I was merely aiming to fill people in on what was happening with this film. Sure the fact that this film may have been picked up by UK distributors 6 months ago, etc. etc. may be the case, but the general public did not know about this. Maybe you did, as you seem abnormally aware of current happenings in the film industry and the life of heath ledger. As for me saying he passed away in the summer, my mistake, it was the winter. lol. And lastly, this little tidbit you have about jude law, johnny depp and Colin Farrell donating their salaries to Matilda???? Who told you that, Matilda? Or was it a combination of Entertainment Weekly, and the actors or studios personal websites? Basically, what im saying is that there is now way in hell to know if thats true. You say those three were friends with Heath Ledger? Define “friends”, seeing as how you seem so familiar with this tight-knit group of buddies. All in all, I appreciate the comment and thanks for reading. I look forward to your rebuttal.

  4. Well… If you’re trying to fill people in on what’s going on with this film – why not keep to facts? Because facts don’t serve your purpose, but speculation does? And if the general public doesn’t know that the film was already picked up in for example Europe, why enlighten them? Why diverge from the road you’d already chosen, namely speculation about the film being too controversial to ever find the way into theatres?
    Too bad Sony made sure to prove you wrong about a week b e f o r e you published this “article”. In the murky world of speculation, timing is everything…

    As for Law, Farrell and Depp being friends with Ledger, and them donating their salaries to Ledger’s daughter, well that comes from Terry Gilliam himself:
    If you just do a simple search, you’ll find that he has on more than one occasion specifically pointed out that he chose to contact these three actors b e c a u s e they were friends of Ledger’s.

    Hereby I rest my case. As for my interest for this movie being an abnormal obsession… Who wants to be normal?

    1. Nina, thanks for checking out our blog, we appreciate your comments…but there’s no need to insult the credibility or creativity of one of our authors. If you disagree with his post, thats perfectly fine, and I’m sure you understand there is always more than one point of view on any given subject, but insults are unnecessary and unwelcome. You seem to know what you’re talking about when it comes to this subject, so why not try to offer constructive criticism rather than pretentious, mightier than thou film geek insults. Keep visiting for your daily dose, and don’t forget to tell your friends!

  5. I’d like to point out that if you read my first comment, you’ll find that it was wordy but specific and very to the point. I simply stated the factual mistakes I reacted to when reading the article.

    The answer I got to that comment was nothing of the sort. This author obviously wasn’t able to take very well the fact that I had f a c t u a l objections to the content of his text. How did he answer me? “Maybe you did, as you seem abnormally aware of current happenings in the film industry and the life of heath ledger.” Ok… That comment – as well as a few others set the tone for my next reply – which made it a lot more confrontational.

    I have no idea what it is in my reply that is deemed “insulting”. The author brought the discussion down to a personal level – and I subsequently questioned why one would chose to disregard facts and keep to speculation. And I did it in a tone that was the direct result of the tone used in the reply I got from the author.

    Best regards


    1. ok. im not particularly in the mood for intellectual ping pong. you obviously feel an incessant need to advertise how clever you are, and just by reading your posts I’m able to gauge exactly what type of person you are.
      So you know alot about film. Great. Unfortunately thats not going to get you anywhere in life. Thats why you continuously feel the need to comment on this post. You desire fulfillment, which you obviously do not get in other facets of life, so you get your kicks for the day by coming on to our blog and exercising your intellectual superiority. Unfortunately, you are by no means intellectually superior to me or my fellow authors. You are, in fact, ignorant, as you seem to think your opinion is more important and more valid than anyone else’s. A key concept in developing intelligence is learning to accept and absorb other’s opinions, even if you do think they are flawed.
      You are so caught up in being a self righteous film geek that you feel no one has the right to disagree with you. Well, NINA, you are no longer welcome here at the Dale. Your comments are no longer welcome, and if you haven’t noticed yet, this is not a FILM ENTHUSIASTS BLOG. This is a blog written by a couple of college kids about anything we goddamn please. My associate, the handsome RM Franks, enjoys film and knows quite a bit about it. But he also makes time to have a social life. Perhaps if you did the same, you wouldnt be so bothered by someone disagreeing with your point of view.
      This happens to be one of the most viewed posts on the the blog. So why dont you get over yourself, enrich your life with other things aside from heath ledger facts and move on. Before we have to get one of our chipmunk bouncers to escort you off the Dale’s premises.
      the Dale.
      Just can’t let it go, can you…

  6. I will. You’re proven wrong on your homeground so you beef up your superiority through the fact that you control the site…. its really sad. Take your own advice and open up your mind to what Nina is doing… detecting flaws and correcting them with well made arguments… maybe YOU will learn something that you can use in those lives YOU seem to have… teach your kids something valuable one day about cross checking facts… try that.

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