Monday, April 02, 2007

Headey Disses Gilliam

Lena Headey is still doing the press rounds for 300, and she's been quoted on the subject of Terry Gilliam.

On the subject of shooting The Brothers Grimm:

The director didn't want me in the role and let's just say he wasn't too subtle about showing his dislike for me. Once the film came out and didn't do so well, he blamed me for absolutely everything. It was pretty appalling, and it made me want to not work for a while.

Well, that's not fair. At all. She clearly wasn't Gilliam's first choice for the role - that was Samantha Morton - but the truth of how Gilliam felt about Lena's uneven performance is... a lot less simple. Bob McCabe's book Dreams and Nightmares: Terry Gilliam, The Brothers Grimm & Other Cautionary Tales of Hollywood covers it all in detail.

In essence, Headey turned in a substandard performance for weeks, but Gilliam persevered. She received a lot of coaching and support. Eventually, she started to play better. Gilliam then congratulated her - immediately - and their relationship began to thaw. She was notably happier on set from this point on. All of her remaining scenes were greatly improved...

...then, in the edit, some of Headey's leaden, lumpen work came back to gaunt Gilliam and Lesley Walker. They had to work around Headey, not with her. I suppose this had echoes of Kim Greist for Gilliam.

I'd be angry at her too. But does Gilliam go around bad mouthing her to the press? No, he praises her for what she finally acheived. He saves his criticisms for the genuine villains of the piece - Bob and Harvey Weinstein. If they hadn't been involved, Samantha Morton would have been in the role, anyway.


Anonymous said...

OK, I'm a big Gilliam fan too - Brazil ranks among my favorite movies - but, Brendon, you're defending the man to a ridiculous degree.

Gilliam did interviews... there was even a book... where he talked at length about how Headey wasn't his first choice and how he didn't like her performance. And, after that, she isn't due to say she had a lousy time working with the man? I didn't care for her in the movie, but she has every right to bitch about how Gilliam has behaved.

In your interpretation, that Headey gave an "uneven" performance is a fact. No, that's an opinion, a subjective reading of her performance. In my opinion, everything about Brothers Grimm stunk, especially Gilliam's half-assed direction and juvenile attempts to blame the film's problems on anything but himself. (You cash the check for the overly commericial work-for-hire, Terry, you have to take the some of the blame too.)

You're giving Gilliam credit for "persevering" through Headey's lousy work... and yet you wonder why Headey is doing interviews saying "Yeah, Gilliam didn't like me and made my life miserable"?

And you claim that Gilliam didn't bad mouth her to the press - he "praised her for what she finally achieved"? Wow, that's a piece of spin worthy of the Bush Administration. Gilliam couldn't have been more vocal about his disdain for Headey and, just because in the end he said "well, I worked with her a lot and she got better", that doesn't make everything better.

The man criticized Headey openly, in the press, and as such, she has every right to do it right back to him.

There's hero worship and then there's massive self-delusion. Gilliam can make some great movies, but the man is just as fallible as anyone else.

Brendon said...

The only difference between what you said and what I said is... er...


Yes, he said she wasn't his first choice. I mentioned that, at least twice.

Terry is not at fault for the Weinsteins pushing bad decisions on him. How can you see him responsible for this?

Maybe if he'd selected Headey personally then you'd have more of a point.

Here are the facts: she was uneven, he commented on it and she think that she should bad mouth him for it? Well, he only called it the way everybody sees it.

And when she did good work on the film, he congratulated her.

What exactly did he do wrong?

Anonymous said...

Here's where I have a problem - you're talking about Gilliam as if he's the perpetual victim. The Weinsteins pushed bad choices on him? Fine. But he took a work-for-hire job and everybody knows about Harvey Scissor-hands reputation. Gilliam isn't a child. He should've know the risks going in. And Damon and Ledger have done so many interviews where they talk about Gilliam on-set just ranting about "Oh, this is me selling out..." Then he simply shouldn't have taken the job. But taking the job and then whining about how directing the movie is making him a sell-out... how juvenile and petulant can you get?

It's not as if he brought anything interesting or even engaging in the final product. It's a mess front start to finish and you can't blame the Weinsteins for making every frame of the movie dull and uninspired. (That's my opinion, not a fact.)

And again - "she was uneven" isn't a fact. That's an opinion. "He called it how everybody sees it." No, he didn't. It's completely subjective. If Gilliam made Headey's life miserable on set (even if he congratulated her at the end) and did interviews about how she was uneven and wasn't the first choice for the role, she has every right to say "Working with Terry was completely awful and he wasn't particularly nice to me." (Even if he tossed her some praise at the end.)

Brendon said...

Of course she can say this. Of course. I'd never say she couldn't.

But I will say it isn't fair.

She was treated the way she should have been: it made her performance better, and that was the job she as there to do.

We're all adults. She doesn't have to like Gilliam. I don't have to like her. You don't have to like the film.

The fact remains, however, all I posted, originally, was the observation that her comments weren't fair.

As I see it, she has nobody to blame bu herself and the Weinsteins.

Gilliam just did what he needed to do to make his film better than it would have been otherwise.

If you want to see Gilliam slag somebody off, see him discuss Sid Sheinberg, Bob and Harvey or Thomas Schuhly.

I feel, somehow, you've misunderstood my original tone.

And, while we're on the subject, I wouldn't cast Headey in an advert for soap.

Anonymous said...

I see your point and fully acknowledge that I may be reading your tone differently than you intended.

But I still see fault lying with Gilliam. Not all the fault - the Weinsteins, of course, had a hand - but the man needs to take responsibility for shooting his mouth off about someone else in the industry.

Yes, Headey was forced on him by the Weinsteins, but that doesn't excuse any poor treatment on his part towards Headey. (Unless you subscribe to the David O. Russell school of directing actors.) Headey shouldn't be expected to thank Gilliam for such mistreatment and ask, "Yes sir, may I please have another?"

The fact is... beyond any squabbling about the Weinsteins or what made Brothers Grimm such an underwhelming movie... Gilliam complained about Headey publicly first.

It doesn't matter that she was a scab actor or forced on him. She's a professional actor who showed up to work in a professional situation and Gilliam publicly maligned her acting ability. (Again, doing the deathbed recant of "but in the end, she was pretty good" means nothing.)

Whether his tough-love directing improved the quality of the film or her performance is irrelevant. He told tales out of school and criticized her as an actor publicly first. At the very least, she has the unquestionable right - after he drew the first blood - to respond accordingly and say, "You know what Terry? You were a bit of a bastard too."

And, yeah, I wouldn't direct Headey with Ed Wood's dick. But it's totally fair that the lady complains.

Brendon said...

This one could run and run, couldn't it?

I wouldn't criticise either for talking about the other. I guess my stance is that his comments are mitigated, hers aren't.

He didn't treat her in anything like a "David O Russell" manner, he just didn't kid glove her when she was rubbish.

If actors don't ever meet criticism what you end up with is films like The Postman.

Anonymous said...

I still don't see how her comments aren't mitigated (how being publicly criticized doesn't warrant a response) or how we're supposed to believe Gilliam's account of Headey's treatment (no kid gloves) over Headey's account (Terry was a jerk), but yes, I can see how this argument could spiral off forever.

The issue isn't "is it OK to criticize actors?". (The answer is yes.) The issue is "if someone complains about me publically, don't I have the fair right to respond and give my side?" (The answer is also yes.)

And if directors don't ever meet criticism - always blaming their woes on studios, actors, and anyone but themselves - what you end up with is films like Brothers Grimm.