Staging Principles: Casting Advice from Terry Gilliam

An extra quickie from the AV Club interview. The best casting philosophy I’ve ever heard:

Terry Gilliam: […] I think Johnny [Depp] is interesting, because he has kind of become the great clown, and the one everybody loves. Because nobody does what he does. He dances on high wires when he does it. [Laughs.]
AV Club: This is something the two of you share.
TG: That’s why it’s a joy working with him for me, because we just start on each other’s shoulders.
AVC: Is that a criterion for you as far as working with people? That they’re willing to be up there on the wire with you and not look down?
TG: That’s exactly it. I want brave people. Fearless ones. A good actor just goes out and leaps off the edge and develops wings on his way down, hopefully. That’s the kind of people I really enjoy working with. Playing safe isn’t much fun. I like danger. It’s controlled danger, always, and that’s why I hope I don’t lure too many good actors down into the pits with me, because I hope they maintain their own unique talents. That’s what’s important with someone like Parnassus, like Chris Plummer. No mater how much I tried to lure him into my world of silliness, he maintained his dignity—which is important. [Laughs.] So I cast knowing that these people will be strong and they’re not going to be too easily seduced by me.
AVC: You can put ridiculous makeup on him, and it will still be Christopher Plummer underneath.
TG: That’s it. That’s the key to it. That’s what was interesting about Heath. He always managed to keep his feet on the ground, no matter what he was doing. That’s why I like working with good actors.

In short, says Gilliam, you need to trust me when I do this to you:

Got that, Johnny?

And no complaining about your costume!


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