US President Donald Trump / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN
Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam could be forgiven for thinking the whole Donald Trump presidency is a joke on him.
This is a man after all who renounced his American citizenship in protest at George W. Bush.
“For years I was saying we are getting to the point of having a complete conman for a president,” the film director and animator told AFP, “And now here we are…
“For somebody who likes turning things upside down, I should be enjoying this — but Trump is an idiot,” said the maker of “Brazil” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”.
And humour is no defence. Not even the Pythons in their 1960s pomp could match the surreal madcap nature of the presidency, he insisted: “It’s absurd.”
“The reality is funnier than anything one can do,” Gilliam laughed.
“The Life of Brian”, their classic satirical take on a false messiah, now seems all too prophetic, he said, “completely relevant to the world we are living in.
“It makes me feel like I’ve gotten very old and I am living through a nightmare,” he added.
John Cleese ‘is an idiot’
“It’s so crazy and there is no way you can do anything. So I have become apolitical, I am Candide,” he said, referring to Voltaire’s naively optimistic hero. “I am going to be tending my garden, that’s what I am going to do.”
Yet the madness of it all still gets Gilliam’s famously “brilliant brain” going.
“Look at America under Trump, look at England under the Conservatives — it is just a joke. Britain is part of Europe and to think it can be Great Britain again is utterly foolish.”
Nor is Gilliam, now a British citizen, afraid to call out his old friend and fellow Python John Cleese for supporting Brexit, telling AFP bluntly: “He is an idiot!”
But even the political climate cannot curb Gilliam’s boundless optimism and creative fire for long.
At 77 he is still fizzing with ideas, with a stack of projects in his sights including a musical.
In fact, the maker of “Time Bandits”, “The Fisher King” and “12 Monkeys” is on a high having finally finished “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” after nearly two decades of “development hell”.
The movie has gone down in Hollywood history as one of the most cursed projects ever, beset by such a string of disasters that the saga spawned an acclaimed documentary.
“I’m free!” Gilliam declared, “I was the prisoner of Don Quixote for 26 years.
“The best thing about it being finished is that I like it, because I thought for all those years I would only disappoint myself. But it’s great, Adam Driver (of “Star Wars” fame) and Jonathan Price are extraordinary, the whole cast is wonderful,” he said.
#MeToo ‘mob rule’
Gilliam has dedicated the movie to the actors Jean Rochefort and John Hurt, neither of whom lived long enough to play Don Quixote.
Ever the mischief maker, the director said the film includes scenes of “women behaving inappropriately”.
It is his little jab at the #MeToo movement which he claims has morphed into something ugly and dangerous.
“It’s like when mob rule takes over, the mob is out there they are carrying their torches and they are going to burn down Frankenstein’s castle.
“It’s crazy how simplified things are becoming. There is no intelligence anymore and people seem to be frightened to say what they really think. Now I am told even by my wife to keep my head a bit low,” he said, ignoring her advice.
While Gilliam condemned Harvey Weinstein as “a monster”, he claimed that he was not alone. The mogul was exposed because he is such “asshole”, he said.
“I think some people did very well out of meeting with Harvey and others didn’t. The ones who did knew what they were doing. These are adults, we are talking about adults with a lot of ambition.
“Harvey opened the door for a few people, a night with Harvey — that’s the price you pay,” said Gilliam, who is in Paris to direct an opera, “Benvenuto Cellini” next week.
He said power had always been abused in the film world and “I don’t think Hollywood will change. Power takes advantage, it always does”.
The great irony, he said, was that while #MeToo has been in full flow “a self-confessed pussy-grabber is the president of the US and is just walking around” unchallenged, he added.