Terry Gilliam's $32m The Man Who Killed Don Quixote looks set to become one of European cinema's most costly insurance cases, now that some insurers have decided to no longer cover the troubled production.
Quixote, which started shooting September 26 in Navarra and Aragon in the North of Spain, has been on hold for several weeks after its star, Jean Rochefort, suffered a double disk hernia.
According to its French producer Hachette Premiere, at least one insurance company decided to pull the plug once it became clear that Rochefort's co-stars - including Johnny Depp and his real-life partner Vanessa Paradis - have other commitments and can't wait for him to recover. Paradis is due to start touring in March to support her new album and Depp, who is on a pay-or-play deal, is committed to other films.
Hachette wouldn't reveal the identity of the film's insurers or the completion bond guarantor but at least one French and one German company are understood to be involved.
Complicating Rochefort's injury was the fact that the film required him to spend several hours each day on horseback. And the project relied heavily on the participation of the 70-year-old actor who Gilliam had always wanted to play Don Quixote.
"Finding the right Quixote took years and Rochefort was Gilliam's ideal," explained a Hachette spokesperson. "But nobody knows when he will be able to ride again for six to seven hours a day."
Quixote's many financiers can now file insurance claims to cover their losses. But as the project has a complicated financial structure, involving four European territories, the process is expected to take up to a year. The film was one of the largest to be financed out of Europe without prior US commitment, and it's a cruel blow to both film-makers and backers that it was hit by factors completely out of their control. Apart from Rochefort's injury, the short-lived production also endured bad weather, including flash floods and heavy rains.
Gilliam had spent years struggling to finance his time-travelling update of the Cervantes classic. Apart from Hachette, the project also involves France's StudioCanal, Pathe in France and the UK, Germany's KC Medien and Spanish companies Mate Productions, Impala, Anola Films and Sogepaq.
But despite the current setbacks, Hachette stressed that the film could still be made, albeit with different cast and financing: "[Producer] Rene Cleitman will certainly try to set up the project again, but it will not exist as it was," the spokesperson said. "It will have to be re-cast and the financial set-up put together from the ground up again."
Quixote's UK co-producer Pathe Entertainment, is also hoping that the film can be resurrected: "We are as behind the project as we've ever been, but some components will have to change," said Pathe managing director Francois Ivernel.