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Losing the Light: Terry Gilliam and the Munchausen Saga [Kindle Edition]

Andrew Yule
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

(Applause Books). Mix one American director with a German producer on a period extravaganza, set the locations in Italy and Spain and start the cameras rolling without enough money to do the job. Then sit back and watch disaster strike. That is the scenario Andrew Yule has painstakingly reconstructed. The more problems and reverses, the greater our interest: costly postponements, overwhelming language difficulties, elephants and tigers turning on their trainers, illnesses, sets not being ready, special effects breaking down and cameo stars (from Marlon Brando to Sean Connery) backing out of the project. You name it, Andrew Yule reports it!

Product Description


Mix one American director with a German producer on a period extravaganza, set the locations in Italy and Spain and start the cameras rolling without enough money to do the job. Then sit back to watch disaster strike. That is the scenario Andrew Yule has recounted in this text.


Terry Gilliam's dream of breathing cinematic life into the Baron's ancient tale led to real-life vendettas, political feuds and jealousy. Anrew |Yule, celebrated Hollywood chronicler, goes behind t scenes of "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" to unravl , twist by agonizing twist the contorted dr which saw an original budget of $23.5 million balloon to $46 million, the most expensive film to be produced in Europe since "Cleopatra".

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4879 KB
  • Print Length: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books (1 April 2000)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001CHNT7Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #681,354 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbeliebable. Imposible. And true. 17 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everything you always wanted to know about the Munchhausen debacle, but were afraid to ask!
Is always heartbreaking and painful to read about the efforts of Terry Gilliam to realize his dreams onscreen, but also completely the man himself said:

"I think my priorities are right. I will sacrifice myself or anyone else for the movie. It will last. We'll all be dust"

Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars great book 10 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
a great insite in to Gilliams fight against the studio's and the conflicting ideas in his own head. great read
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 8 Nov. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Brilliant read interesting insightful
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A darn good book about the troubles with Munchausen 9 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on
If you happen to like this movie or just Gilliam in general then I would suggest finding this book. The author, Andrew Yule, takes around thirty interviews from people related to the movie and encompasses all of the delays and pitfalls associated with it. From trying to cast Marlon Brando as the King of the Moon to the self centered producers (Thomas Schuly) total lack of concern for the crew or anyone in general this book shows how one of the most over-budgeted films of its time($20 million over) became a flop.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Surely this time there is no escape...." for Terry Gilliam 30 Dec. 2002
By Rae Schwarz - Published on
Terry Gilliam is the first to acknowledge that for each of his movies, he becomes the main character and their struggle in the story becomes part of his struggle to make the film. This overlap set an ominous tone that then went from bad to worse, from the frying pan to the fire and somehow a film came out the other side.
The making of the movie "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" is told via Andrew Yule's interviews and research, almost a post-mortem after the near-death experience of the filmmaking process. Director and producer fought, crews walked or were fired, accountants and accusations flew, and tigers and elephants literally got out of control. Compared to "The Battle of Brazil" that was a skirmish and this was a world war.
For Gilliam fans, join the director in all his pain as he attempts to surmount and juggle language barriers, lethargic crews, bad weather, financial disputes, mysterious accidents, casts of characters fictional and real, and his own visions.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Battle of Film Creativity versus Financing in Three Simple Steps (and through one director's experiences) 9 Aug. 2012
By G. Pike - Published on
Are Mathews' "The Battle of Brazil: Terry Gilliam v. Universal Pictures in the Fight to the Final Cut (The Applause Screenplay Series)" and Sammon's "Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner" better books about the struggles to make impressive films helmed by visionary directors? Yes. But the tale of producing "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen [Blu-ray]" is so extaordinary and such a pivot point in the career of the brilliant Terry Gilliam that Yule's telling, however dry, is worth the read. Recognized by Hollywood for his remarkable talent and unique vision, Gilliam chose a difficult topic by selecting the Munchausen stories to film - difficult both in terms of bringing that vision to the screen, and, more importantly, difficult to sell to Hollywood studio executives, who were both unfamiliar with the stories (better known in Europe) and not prone to financing films that don't boil down to a simple premise. If you want a deep understanding of Gilliam as a cinematic force and how the business of filmmaking can stifle, limit or impede such a vision, I recommend starting with the Mathews book, then reading this, and finishing off with the documentary "Lost in La Mancha."
4.0 out of 5 stars How not to shoot a film. 5 Sept. 2014
By Raisuli the Magnificent - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Andrew Yule's book focuses a good portion of the film's story on the financial woes and personalities that plauged this film from its very genesis. As I read the book I was stunned how anyone could let a production spiral so out of control, particularly given the option of shooting in a country that, on occasion, had problems with sucking up money for production (Italy in this case), or a place where even though things would be expensive, could create a film given a specific budget.

Given all the woes and ramifications of this production, it's a wonder anyone was kept at all. As I read the book I was convinced that it was all an act to drive away potential film makers to cut down on competition on content and jobs in the film industry. Then I thought maybe it was a giant sting to nab every small time mafioso in Italy, and that there was a whole law enforcement aspect going on behind-BEHIND the scenes that were weren't privy to.

But, in the end, it came down to an over excuberrant personality who was not adequate for the task at hand, even though the book correctly points out that without Tom Schuley, a man who can be described as certifiably insane (not a joke), the film might not have gotten made in the first place, or, if it did, then it certainly would not have been the vision Terry Gilliam eventually put up on screen for audiences to enjoy. He was the driving force to get the movie started, but unfortunately, due to his "stuff bills in the desk drawer" approach to book keeping, and inability to assume the producer's role after key personnel left and walked out on him, nearly drove the film into ruin.

Or so it appeared. My guess is that Schuley had more connections than anyone else was letting on, but that his role as a functional producer is probably more a manufacture than a matter of honest assessment.

For all that, for all the fighting that went on over budgets, scheduling, and other paper work, and work regarding the paper infrastructure, there was little emphasis on looking at the shooting style, little on the selection of art direction, though a strong emphasis on meshing personalities, and adorning the book with anecdotes regarding personalities, what they did, how outrageous it was, and ultimately what a circus had been generated of the movie's very production.

The book is more or less a look at the interpersonal struggle of director Terry Gilliam to shoot a film with a seemingly heartfelt desire to create something really magnificent for his children and other children, using some of the best talent in Europe, and to bring it in at a cut rate by shooting in a nation whose currency is prone to mercurial like behavior. Whatever promise a weak Lire and cheap but artistically sound and skilled Italian crew and sound stage facilities, the decision eventually blew up the cost of the film to twice its promised cost.

The book reveals the potential roles Marlon Brando and Sean Connery might have contributed to the film, but does little to give us insight to the larger concept of the film. How and why shots were selected, or the genesis of the story itself (the story is actually a conglomeration of a Russian folk tale; "The Fool of the World" and Raspe's German character). The book also tries to be somewhat historical by stating that Baron Munchausen fought against the Turks. The truth be told Baron Munchausen was a German mercenary who actually fought for the Turks, and was prone to telling tall tales, which is part of how he got his reputation, even to the point of a psychological disorder being named after him. The book focuses on "star power", which is disappointing, and how "star power" gears meshes (or ground) against the shooting schedule, cost over runs, and budgetary limitations.

If you're looking for a book on the making of the film, then there's not much else out there. If you're a film student who like the movie, and wondered how it was made, then all I can say is let this tome be a civil warning to your aspirations on how not to shoot a film. If someone promises you you can shoot a film cheaper in Mexico, Tunisia, Turkey, France, the Philippines, or Country-X, then demand to hire an accountant, and have him run some projected figures. ALSO, make sure you get some kind of lay of the land of what previous films were shot there, how they were shot, and why they were successes or failures.

Look, I love this film. Even for all of its cinematic flaws (the models in the ballroom dancing scene, the minis looking like miniatures, and some borderline blue-screen work), the film is good, but only because Terry Gilliam knows how to direct actors and knows how to get a shot (the whole shot with a horse on a rowboat with a little girl and explosions going off around it, not withstanding).

Buy it, read it, take notes on how NOT to shoot a major feature film.
2.0 out of 5 stars Almost as painful as the film's production 28 Nov. 2010
By Johnny Walker - Published on
While the sheer mess surrounding the production of "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" might massively overshadow the troubles Gilliam had during "Brazil", this book is nowhere near as entertaining its "Brazil" counterpart. While this book is undoubtedly accurate and unquestionably in-depth, it is also written in an incredibly dry and uninteresting way. It reads almost like a series of dry facts, with little or nothing to help lighten it or make it more readable.

The readability of this book might have something with "Baron Munchausen's" production difficulties: Whereas "Brazil's" struggle for life gradually built up to a crescendo, "Baron Munchausen's" started off badly, and spent the rest of its time trying cope. It was, by all accounts, a slow and painful slog. Unfortunately, this book captures that feeling far too well.

There are some occassional anecdotes, but mostly it feels like a long list of lawyers coming in, being replaced, arguments, memos, and much passing of the buck.

The short version is: Gilliam was looking for a producer for his new film. Enter young ambitious German producer, Thomas Schühly. He's the type of guy who claims he's done everything and can sweet talk those who hear what they want to hear. Gilliam wants to hear certain things, like the fact that his next film, "Baron Munchausen" is possible to make for $23 million... the absolute maximum that Columbia Pictures is prepared to pay for it. Everyone thinks it's impossible, but Schühly insists it's possible... if they shoot in Italy. Columbia is sceptical, but eventually buys into it, provided there's a bond company guaranteeing the production. Gilliam claps his hands merrily and gets ready to make another film.

Except Schühly's estimates were as off as everyone thought they were. The film goes massively over-budget and Gilliam is left fighting the studio and bonds company every step of the way. Thomas Schühly is nowhere to be found, and when he is found, it's most definitely not his fault.

Eventually the film gets made, but not without ruining Gilliam's reputation and scarring everyone involved. Final cost (thanks to many stops and starts) $46 million.

By the time the film is released, a new regime is in place at Columbia. The new regime apparently has no faith in the film and decides to bury it as an embarrassment of the old order, despite the fact that it tests well, is reviewed well, and earns a huge amount of money in the few cinemas it opens in.
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