Directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, LOST IN LA MANCHA documents Terry Gilliam’s disaster-prone attempt to make THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE, a film largely based on the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes. The movie first encounters difficulties in its preproduction stage, starting with an uncomfortably small European-funded budget. Then Gilliam must wait for the lead actors, Johnny Depp and French actor Jean Rochefort, to show up on location in Spain. When Depp and Rochefort finally arrive, shooting commences, but within the first few days a torrential rainstorm hits the set, washing away much of the equipment and significantly altering the dry desert landscape. And to make matters much worse, Rochefort, who plays the central role of Don Quixote, falls ill and returns to Paris for medical treatment. As the days of the Quixote-less production go by, tensions among the crew members increase and Gilliam faces the frustratingly real prospect of scrapping the film.
LOST IN LA MANCHA provides a fascinating look into both the mind and the method of maverick director Terry Gilliam. No stranger to film production problems (most notably with BRAZIL and THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN), Gilliam sets out to make DON QUIXOTE with imagination and determination that echoes the noble delusions of its title character. As in the story, however, fantasy finds a fierce opponent in the form of reality, and Gilliam and his crew must decide what to do with a production that seemed jinxed from the start. The fly-on-the-wall footage, candidly captured by Fulton and Pepe, makes for an intriguing film within a film that combines behind-the-scenes frustration and heartbreak with genuinely funny moments.