We could sit here and write you a long discourse on the historical tragedies that have befallen Gilliam productions, but we actually already did that just a few months ago. So go read that one if you want. What’s important now is that his latest film, and also the last film featuring Heath Ledger, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus might have some trouble finding a release in the United States.
According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Risky Business Blog, the film hasn’t had much luck securing distro in the US despite some buzz surrounding the film late last Summer (that didn’t pan out) and the presence of Heath Ledger (which may actually be a marketing hurdle).
Obviously, it seems like a no-brainer that audiences would go see Ledger, but marketing a Gilliam film is difficult enough as it is. THR points out that his style has gotten more experimental – although they mention The Brothers Grimm as an example which makes zero sense – and that might be tough to accurately get an audience to a film with Ledger as the main draw while word-of-mouth from a mainstream audience going to an obscure, trippy Gilliam film.
The difficulty in securing a buyer shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Ledger is a draw, definitely, but it’s the marketing equivalent of nitroglycerin – incredibly powerful, but dangerous and difficult to handle. There are more ways to handle it incorrectly than there are ways that work, and handling the situation poorly could be disastrous for whoever is trying to sell this thing to the public. Obviously, it’s a high-risk investment. I have no doubt that it will end up being seen in the US, that some independent house will pick it up (if not simply out of sheer respect for Gilliam), that audiences will get a chance to see Ledger in what sounds like a fantastic story and a fantastic role.
What do you think?