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Terry Gilliam, The Zero Theorem

Jeremy Kay talks to Terry Gilliam about his latest feature The Zero Theorem, which just wrapped production in Romania.

Terry Gilliam recently wrapped production in Romania on drama The Zero Theorem, which Voltage Pictures sells internationally. He is in Cannes to meet buyers.

So what’s The Zero Theorem about?

Christoph Waltz plays a computer wizard who works at home because he cannot stand people or the modern world. He isolates himself trying to prove the ‘zero theorem,’ which basically says all is for nothing.

He is positively trying to prove a negative, but life intervenes and he may or may not discover his soul by the end of the movie. He’s waiting for a phone call that’s going to give meaning to his life, which applies to many of us, especially those of in the film industry who often wait to hear if we’ve got a piece of casting or financing.

Waltz needs no introduction. How is he in this film?

We hit pay dirt with Christoph. He is never off the screen - he is the movie. I told him when we met that he would be the guide through the story.

His performance is incredible and quite unlike anything he has done before. It’s a lonely, internalised character. He’s like an everyman for the modern world.

You brought together a fine cast.

Oh they’re all great, we’re so lucky. We have Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, David Thewlis, Ben Whishaw and Lukas Hedges, the son of Peter Hedges. They’re all so good. Melanie Thierry as the female lead is just extraordinary.

I was over at my friend George Fenton’s house and he’s composing this beautiful score - it’s like a ghost, this other character we never see.

How long did the production last and how was it shooting in Romania?

It’s been one year from start to finish. Most of my movies take three years but this was a fast shoot and it was good to be in Bucharest. I loved the crews and Romanians work very hard and they’re very skilled. Because we had limited funds we were flying people in for the day and back out again. I was knackered by the end it.

How do you view the indie space today?

This was a more modest budget than some of the big effects movies I’ve worked on but it’s going to look so good on the screen.

What’s happened is the industry has become very much like society - there are the rich [films] and the cheap ones and the middle-budget films have been squeezed out of existence.

You’ve got to get clever and take advantage of your friends who work for scale and work in great places with great crews where you get a bigger bang for your buck.

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