In Terry Gilliam's fertile imagination, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were more than fairy-tale collectors. They actually lived a fairy tale, complete with curses, monsters and an evil hag in a tower.
Gilliam and Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein showed off about 20 minutes of "The Brothers Grimm" to reporters at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, looking to give their movie a publicity boost for its release amid the crowded summer blockbuster season.
"The Brothers Grimm" stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the 19th century folklorists who gathered tales that have enchanted and terrorized generations of children.
The movie casts the Grimm siblings as hucksters who travel from town to town with a bag of tricks and a reputation as fearless monster slayers, spinning tall tales of supernatural terrors that they will exorcise - for a fee.
The Grimm boys get a dose of fairy-tale reality when they encounter a true curse, complete with a forest of trees that can move on its own, a horse that swallows a child and races off with it in its belly and a 500-year-old queen in a tower (Monica Bellucci) abducting young girls to steal their life energy and preserve her beauty.
The Cannes footage revealed a blend of gritty 19th century reality and the wild, surreal visuals Gilliam ("Brazil," "The Fisher King," "Twelve Monkeys") is known for.
"I tried to bring it down to a real fairy-tale level," Gilliam said. "I want the ground to be below us, because when it disappears, it's a longer fall."
The film, Gilliam's first since 1998's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," has had a longer run to the finish line than most movies, with Gilliam laboring on it for two years and Miramax shuffling the release date repeatedly.
A year ago at Cannes, when the movie still was scheduled for release in late 2004, Miramax showed off a few minutes of "The Brothers Grimm." The release later switched to early this year, then late this year, and finally shifted back to this August.
"Last year, we showed three minutes, this year, 20 minutes. This way, about four or five years from how, you'll see the finished film," Gilliam joked.
Gilliam has had epic battles with studios and financial backers on such films as "Brazil" and "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," and his uncompleted "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" with Johnny Depp shut down after just six days of shooting in 2000 because of a series of freak troubles.
Weinstein and Gilliam reportedly clashed on "The Brothers Grimm," but they appeared chummy at Cannes, and Weinstein said Miramax was releasing the film with a huge marketing blitz.
Delays on "The Brothers Grimm" resulted because Gilliam and his collaborators had to inject top-of-the-line effects and production values essentially at half-price, Weinstein said.
"It takes so long when the movie should cost $150 million and it only costs $75 million," Weinstein said.
This morning I flew from interviews, to press conferences, to my computer, and back again - one highlight being a 20-minute sneak preview of Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, which is out later this year.
The film, starring Matt Damon and Monica Bellucci, looks amazing.
Brother Grimm which interweaves their dark fairy tales was full of special effects, including Monica Bellucci as a queen who ages 500 years before your eyes. Matt Damon and Heath Ledge play the brothers.
The Grimm tale is typical Gilliam country, an ambitious fable boasting a whopping 750 special effects shots. But it’s not a sugar-coated Grimm:
"It does have moments that will stick in people's heads for a long time, some very disturbing things," says Gilliam of his story, which brings the fairy-tale writers face-to-face with a real sorceress.
And, added Gilliam, although this Dimension production uses the latest gadgetry, it won’t let the technology lead the drama.
"Grimm tries to avoid going down the route of Van Helsing. Those kinds of movies are visually spectacular, but there's no gut. I think I tried to keep 'Grimm' smaller in that sense, so that the magic or enchantment is much more grounded."