The name of Don Quixote is known around the world, even if the story behind the name is perhaps not so familiar. Written 400 years ago by Miguel de Cervantes, the novel describes the colorful adventures of Don Quixote of La Mancha, a retired country gentleman from the western La Mancha region of Spain, who lives out a fantasy life based on the many romantic books he has spent his years reading. He battles imaginary enemies (famously including the windmills of La Mancha) and fights for the honor of Dulcinea, a neighbouring farm girl who is completely unaware of her role as Quixote’s lady love.
Taking Don Quixote to the big screen
Such a marvelous story was always going to appeal to movie makers and it was no surprise when in 2000 Terry Gilliam chose to make a movie about Don Quixote but with a modern twist. In Gilliam’s modern adaptation an advertising executive, trapped in another time, is mistaken for Quixote’s sidekick and has to take his place in his fantasy world.
Little did Gilliam realise how much his own vision of a movie spectacular would resemble Quixote’s departure from reality. He started off with grand plans that would cost $40 million to produce. Even when this was scaled back to $32 it was still slated to become one of Europe’s biggest ever blockbusters. He chose a famous cast list that would be headed by Jean Rochefort, one of France’s leading movie stars. Rochefort spent seven months learning English in preparation for the project.
A real disaster movie
Yet when filming started, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. A flash flood changed the color of the rocks in the landscape, destroying any continuity between shoots. Fighter jets passing overhead constantly caused disruption to the sound recording. Worst of all, Rochefort could not ride a horse without severe pain and was soon diagnosed with a double herniated disc. In despair, Gilliam abandoned the production leading to many legal wrangles over lost investments.
During the last ten years several rumors have spread about a possible resumption of production. Things did get moving in 2009 with Robert Duvall cast as Quixote, but funding was pulled and the production collapsed again.
On the trail on Don Quixote
One day, Don Quixote may well ride across the big screen for the world to enjoy. Perhaps he will do so in 3-D. For now however, if you take a trip across the wilderness of the Andalucía interior or through the plains of La Mancha, you might stop and wonder about Don Quixote and his make-believe world. If you do see him, keep him away from the windmills!
Photo | Wikimedia Commons