The director Terry Gilliam has rejected claims that his production team destroyed the 12th Century Convento de Cristo in Tomar in central Portugal, during the filming of his ill-starred Don Quixote project.
Government officials in Portugal are looking into claims, made by a local TV station, that roof tiles, masonry and trees were damaged and that Gilliam disrespected one of the country’s most revered attractions, by lighting a 20 metre high bonfire in a cloister.
The allegations came to light as the 76 year old Monty Python alumnus announced that he had finally finished shooting the film that has been plagued by difficulties since its inception.
“Sorry for the long silence. I’ve been busy packing the truck and am now heading home. After 17 years, we have completed the shoot of THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE,” he proudly posted on his Facebook page.
In response to a torrent of angry comments from locals, Gilliam described the convent as “one of the most glorious buildings I have ever seen.” He insisted that “Everything we did there was to protect the building from harm … and we succeeded. Trees were not cut down, stones were not broken.” The director concluded that, “There was not an iota of disrespect involved. People should begin by getting the facts before howling hysterically.”
The earliest failed attempts to bring the epic story to the big screen were documented in the 2002 film Lost In La Mancha, in which it was revealed that the project was brought down by everything from floods, NATO warplanes flying overhead and injuries to the veteran French actor Jean Rochefort, who was the original choice to play the eponymous Don Quixote.
After buying back the rights to the film from the insurance company, Gilliam made several more efforts to shoot his passion project before announcing at Cannes 2016 that it was finally going into production with Michael Palin and Adam Driver in the two main roles. A year later, with Michael Palin replaced by Gilliam’s Brazil star Jonathan Pryce, he’s finally taking his hard-earned footage into the editing room.