Born and raised in Minneapolis and Los Angeles, Terry Gilliam's youthful enthusiasm for drawing cartoons infused his academic life and his streak of anti-authoritarianism. His early knockabout career, as a magazine illustrator and art director in L.A. and New York City in the 1960s, allowed him to cross paths with "Cambridge Circus" star John Cleese, whom he featured in a "Help" magazine photo essay about a man's lust for a Barbie doll.
After moving to London, Gilliam continued with creating cartoons and animation for "We Have Ways of Making You Laugh," "Do Not Adjust Your Set," "Marty," and "Broaden Your Mind."
Gilliam's cut-out animations, which fused silly drawings with imagery borrowed from centuries' worth of art, architecture and photographs, were a visual counterpoint to the surreal verbal inventions of the Python writers. They provided the connective tissue for the series' stream-of-consciousness flow of sketches, while giving the series a style unlike any on TV.
Among his most memorable cartoon contributions (at least those that can be cogently described): Rodin's statue "The Kiss" as a musical instrument; a body builder's course for bulking up muscles; Conrad Poohs and His Dancing Teeth; a giant cat prowling London for man-eating cars; American democracy sold like toothpaste; Cartoon Religions, in which the devil lurks within a smiling clergyman; figures from famous paintings walking out on strike; and a television that really IS bad for the viewer's eyes.
He also made the odd foray into performing, as the original nude organist in "Blackmail"; Cardinal Fang of the Spanish Inquisition; and an obscenely obese man with the single-minded pursuit of consuming beans.
Gilliam also provided visual flair to the Python films, as co-director of "Holy Grail," and production designer of "Life of Brian," as well as creating the accompanying and invasive short to “The Meaning of Life”, “The Crimson Permanent Assurance”.
He branched out into solo directing with the medieval satire "Jabberwocky," starring Michael Palin. His later films include "Time Bandits"; "Brazil" (for which he shared an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay); "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen"; "The Fisher King"; "Twelve Monkeys"; "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"; "Tideland"; "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"; and "The Zero Theorem."
By David Morgan, 2014