THE LOOK OF GRIMM: ABOUT THE FILM'S DESIGN
To forge a look that would combine a riveting realism with the fantastical and frightening, Terry Gilliam brought the production of THE BROTHERS GRIMM to the fanciful city of Prague and the medieval countryside of the Czech Republic. Yet, even here, he could not find the exact right village to forge the utterly enchanted realm of Marbaden. Gilliam wanted a cavalcade of imagery - mirrors, labyrinths, beastly apparitions and chiaroscuro effects - to make Marbaden a village with a definite difference from any other.
So Gilliam recruited up-and-coming production designer Guy Dyas - who previously tackled the complex and critically acclaimed designs for "X2: X-Men United" -- to construct the entire 25-building village from scratch. Together, the two developed a contemporary design aesthetic inspired by the shadowy whimsy of 19th century expressionism and the classical, lavishly detailed, black--and-white ink illustrations that often accompany fairy tale books. Gilliam also wanted to take full advantage of the oddities of the natural world. "Look at the real world, at what trees are like," he observes. "They're strange and often terrifying. You don't have to always invent - sometimes you can just look to nature. The look of this film was a balancing act between the artistic and the natural all squished together."
The task faced by Dyas was enormous - building an entire 19th century German town complete with a church, bakery, bridges, stables and pathways; and an enchanted forest replete with rocks, a brook and towering trees all on a Czech soundstage - but he quickly realized there was no other choice. "We could never have found a village like the one we created," he notes. "And building from the ground up really allowed us to push all the boundaries."
For Dyas, working with Gilliam was the culmination of a long-held dream. "I'll always remember the impact of seeing 'Brazil' for the first time because it was such a visual masterpiece and really opened my eyes to the possibilities for production design," he recalls. "I knew working with him was going to be an incredible experience."
The production designer spent more than a year developing endless ideas, sketches and preliminary designs. He began by immersing himself in Grimm fairy tales - reading tale after tale and perusing the work of numerous artists from the Golden Age of fairy tale illustrations - when artists used light, shadow and sheer imagination to create unforgettable images of the fantastical. Inspired by these emotional and beautiful drawings from the past, Dyas began to draw the most important locales in THE BROTHERS GRIMM. In addition to the village of Marbaden, Dyas also began to sketch such unusual locations as Delatombe's Torture Chamber, the Rapunzel-like Tower of Charot and Cavaldi's elaborate luxury Chariot.
Prior to construction, he and Gilliam scoured the Czech countryside for old timbers ridden with worm-rot to build the village houses. The production also hauled in more than 700 trees to replant in a concrete backlot - creating an astonishingly real fake forest that could be manipulated with lights and cameras in a way no real forest ever could. "I'm obsessive about textures and finishes and things like that and Guy is brilliant with that," says Gilliam.
The village and forest were then built in intense weeks of rapid-fire construction on the Barrandov studio backlot. Hearkening back to traditional building methods, Dyas and Gilliam brought in traditional stonemasons, carpenters, thatchers and wood carvers to add to the feeling of an authentic setting. Outside of the soundstages, the production utilized several authentic locales in the Czech Republic, most notably Krivoklat Castle in central Bohemia - a regal and imposing 12th century tower considered one of the oldest and most historically significant castles in the castle-lined Czech Republic. Other Czech "castle towns" utilized include Kacina, Kutna Hora and Ledec.
"You couldn't ask for a more perfect location for this film than the Czech Republic," says Dyas. "It wasn't even the locations themselves so much as the constant inspiration they provided. Walking through Prague in the snow with all its original architecture we had the sense of going back in time to another world and that was very influential."
For the actors, the sets became a treasure trove that sparked their imaginations further. Says Matt Damon: "When you walked onto Guy Dyas' sets, you were immediately pulled into an entirely alternate world. They were just massive in scope and amazing in their feeling - and transported you in wonderful ways."
Seamlessly woven into this supernatural world are the extravagantly detailed costumes of Academy Award winner Gabriella Pescucci ("Age of Innocence," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Van Helsing") and Carlo Poggioli ("Van Helsing") - a duo who previously collaborated with Terry Gilliam on the Oscar- nominated costumes for "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen." Their designs for THE BROTHERS GRIMM run the gamut from authentic 19th century German menswear and peasant garb to darkly whimsical fantasy creations, including the lavish, heart-red dress Monica Bellucci dons as the Mirror Queen. Meanwhile capturing all the film's visuals - real and surreal -- is innovative director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel, who previously lent his distinctive eye to such acclaimed contemporary films as "The Usual Suspects" and "Three Kings," among others. Adding further touches of magic and mystery to THE BROTHERS GRIMM is the folk-inspired musical score by Dario Marianelli ("Pride and Prejudice," "I Capture The Castle").
Yet even as his team worked tirelessly to create an aesthetic, visual and musical sense of dreams, nightmares and enchantment on the screen, Gilliam still hoped to leave much of the film's excitement to the imagination - the audience's imagination, that is. "I always believe when I am making a film that 90 percent of what is seen should be in the shadows so that the audience is doing the imagining," explains Gilliam. "The work of the cast and crew is to provide the hints and let them fill in the rest. I want the audience to be put through their paces, to be truly frightened and moved. The less we show and the more we imply, the better it is."
This same philosophy also came to bear on the film's special effects, which ultimately number some 750 shots. "The visual effects team's job was to bring to life all the ideas that couldn't be accomplished practically - making the trees walk, turning wolves into woodsmen, manipulating ravens, depicting a horse swallowing a child and aging Monica Bellucci backwards from 500 to 25, for example," explains visual effects supervisor Kent Houston.
Perhaps the most difficult effect to achieve was that of the film's fairy-tale-inspired wolf - yet it was one central to the film's design. "In a movie about enchanted forests, there has to be wolf!" proclaims Terry Gilliam. Kent Houston adds: "Our wolf is not necessarily a wolf as you know it, but a very unusual beast with its own very specific characteristics and details that took a lot of ingenuity to bring to life."
Houston collaborated closely with Gilliam throughout the film, trying to stay inside the director's notoriously facile mind. As he puts it: "Our main mission was to realize as completely as possible the wild images that Terry has in his head, using all available technologies to create his world for the audience."
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
TERRY GILLIAM (Director)
Terry Gilliam first came to recognition in 1969 as the only American member of the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" TV Series, part of collaboration with Terry Jones, Mike Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Gilliam was responsible for writing, crafting the animated sequences and occasionally performing for what became a wildly popular television show. His first feature film "Monty Python And The Holy Grail" was co-directed with Terry Jones and was soon followed by his solo directorial debut, "Jabberwocky." Gilliam then went on to direct "Time Bandits," a surreal journey through history led by a small boy and several dwarves, featuring John Cleese.
After directing the "Crimson Permanent Assurance" opening sequence of "Monty Python's Meaning of Life," he made what many consider his masterpiece: "Brazil," starring Robert De Niro. In addition to critical praise and a Los Angeles Film Critics' award for Best Film, Gilliam received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Screenplay. It was four years before he directed "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," a return to historical fantasy. This was followed by "The Fisher King" starring Jeff Bridges, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director. The film also won the Silver Lion at the Venice International Film Festival.
In 1995 Gilliam returned to the director's chair with the star-studded science fiction epic "12 Monkeys," which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. He went on to make "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 novel, for which he also wrote the screenplay. The film starred Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro and was invited to screen in competition at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. In 2000, Gilliam started production on his lifelong dream, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," collaborating with Depp for a second time. Unfortunately, severe problems led to the production being shut down within the first weeks of filming, against his wishes. He most recently completed the children's fantasy "Tideland."
EHREN KRUGER (Writer)
Ehren Kruger is a native of Alexandria, Virginia and a 1993 graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting in 1996 for his original screenplay "Arlington Road," which was produced by Sony Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment, directed by Mark Pellington, and starred Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins.
His other credits include "The Skeleton Key," directed by Iain Softley and starring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands and Peter Sarsgaard; "The Ring," directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Naomi Watts; "The Ring Two," directed by Hideo Nakata; "Reindeer Games," directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron; "Scream 3," directed by Wes Craven and starring Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox and "Impostor," which he co-wrote, directed by Gary Fleder and starring Gary Sinise.
He is a resident of San Francisco and is presently in pre-production on his adaptation of Annette Curtis Klause's novel "Blood and Chocolate" for Lakeshore Entertainment and director Katja von Garnier.
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