SDCC 2013: First Look At Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Zero Theorem’
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Auteur Terry Gilliam isn’t by anybody’s standards what would be considered a prolific director, so when he chooses to present a new project at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, it’s something to take note of. The official description of his next project, the science fiction film The Zero Theorem, describes the plot as being about an eccentric and reclusive computer genius, plagued with existential angst, who works on a mysterious project aimed at discovering the purpose of existence ­or the lack thereof­ once and for all – “The Zero Theorem.” However, it is only once he experiences the power of love and desire that he is able to understand his very reason for being.

At the panel, the audience was shown the film’s first trailer (which had leaked online back in June), as well as the first 10 minutes of the movie. Also, just after the panel, Voltage Pictures released two images for The Zero Theorem, giving us a first public look at the movie. You can see these images here below.

The panelists were producers Zev Foreman and Dean Zanuck, and Terry’s daughter Amy Gilliam, who worked on the film. The panel was moderated by Gina McIntyre of the LA Times’ Hero Complex. Terry Gilliam himself could not make the event, but he did send a video message explaining that the film’s producers have hijacked him to finish the movie, and he hoped the NSA could get this message out to all of us at Hall H. A trailer followed which carried all of Gilliam’s trademark panache, looking very much like a cross between Brazil and 12 Monkeys.

Zanuck was originally looking for a great story to tell, and came across writer Pat Russian’s script, which Russian admitted lifted tonally from Gilliam’s Brazil, so Zanuck pursued Gilliam to direct. Amy Gilliam said working with her dad was a lot like his films: tricky, non-stop, and unexpected.

McIntyre quoted Johnny Depp as saying Gilliam is “a madman, in the finest possible way,” and Foreman concurred that that’s true, but those types of madmen change the world. Amy Gilliam said that working on her father’s films is like trying to get a big family together, with magical results. She said her mother thinks Gilliam is always trying to recreate the same movie over and over, but Gilliam himself feels he’s always coming up with something new, and Amy has a hard time keeping up with his imagination.

An audience member noted that Gilliam explores themes of paranoia, that the world is out to get them, and wondered if The Zero Theorem conveyed the same themes. Foreman noted that movie-making itself reflects those same feelings, and Amy Gilliam said she felt Terry loves to be tortured.

Amy Gilliam said Terry was thankful to his fans and supporters, and this led into a screening of the first ten minutes, which revealed star Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds) inhabiting a world that evoked an absurdist Gilliam-esque take on a Children of Men-style future.

The trailer shown centered on Christoph Waltz’s character, a man named Qohen Leth, and focused a lot on his interactions with a beautiful young woman named Bainsley, played by French actress Mélanie Thierry (Babylon A.D.). We see from the first 10 minutes of the film shown that Qohen is waiting for an important phone call and that particular call can only be accepted when he’s home. What this call is, we don’t know yet, but it means a lot to him, so much so that he’s trying every to either be granted disability leave or the right to work from home, seemingly so he’ll be there to accept that phone call. It’s obvious that what Qohen does for a living can indeed be done from home, but this futuristic society lives under the watchful Big Brother-like eye of what’s referred to as “Management.”

In his video message, Gilliam mentioned the appearance of Matt Damon (who’ll soon be seen headlining the scifi flick Elysium), and sure enough, he can be glimpsed in the opening footage. According to the film’s message, Damon plays the role of Management, possible being the figurehead.

The Zero Theorem also stars Lucas Hedges, David Thewlis, and Mélanie Thierry, and is scheduled for release on December 20, 2013, but will premiere a few months prior at the Venice Film Festival.

The Zero Theorem Movie Stills

The Zero Theorem Panel Photos

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Additional contributions by Empress Eve.

[Photo Credit: ©Voltage Pictures, used with permission.]

[Panel photos by Dave3 for Geeks of Doom.]

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