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#TBT: The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus


by new contributor Maggy Torres-Rodriguez


Today’s special #TBT goes to the magnificently odd Terry Gilliam picture The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 10 years ago this week. Lush with extravagant dreamscape sets, innovations in CGI, and an all-star cast, it still holds its own today.

Minus that one scene with Verne Troyer in blackface that was meant as a joke, but generated more of an uneasy murmuring of “oh no, baby what is u doin?” from the audience. But... problematic decisions in Hollywood are made on the daily, so everyone kind of just ignored that and focused on the fact that it was Heath Ledger’s last film... 

Perhaps most recognized as the film whose production was stunted due to the sudden tragic death of the beloved Heath Ledger, it sort of fell through the cracks with the audience as a widely popular film. It is a very specific pill to swallow - eccentric and faustian, dreamy yet nightmarish, but still so damn entertaining with tongue-in-cheek performances from the legendary Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits.  Tom Waits was made for the role of the devil, and that’s a compliment I think.

You will either love the film or leave disturbed, but you’ll have been seduced somehow.


The story follows a janky travelling show called “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” that invites members of the audience to walk through a mirror and into their imaginations, where they are presented with the opportunity to choose the “right” path of enlightenment, or the “evil” path of temptation. Doctor Parnassus, the head of the troupe, has been making bets with the devil for a thousand years, and his current plight involves losing his teenage daughter unless he garners five souls that choose enlightenment, while the Devil vies for their draw to temptation.




Replacing Ledger in the scenes he was unable to complete were Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell -- the early 2000s heartthrobs that masterfully embodied Heath’s mannerisms and persona so well, it was chilling. Terry Gilliam stated once that Tom Cruise was also interested in the role but was turned down since he wasn’t a close friend of Ledger’s, and the production wanted to keep it in the family. Sorry, Tom Cruise.

Another sweet detail of this moving picture was the film debut of this grand actress, who had the show-stopping role of  “Classy Shopper #2.” Look familiar?


It's Brienne of freakin' Tarth, Gwendoline Christie! What do you think the imaginarium of Ser Brienne would look like? How would she have ended Game of Thrones?

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is on Netflix, so go catch it before it vanishes into the evanescent realms of expiring licensing contracts.

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Reader Comments (5)

Mid-tier Gilliam but his best of the 21st Century - mostly because of the stellar performances, especially Depp. Love him or hate him you can't deny - when he's on, he's on.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Not just Gwendolyn Christie but Andrew Garfield before he was famous, too! (Not his first film though)

May 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I really enjoyed this film as I think it was Gilliam's best film since Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas as the 2000s was a very difficult decade for him from the troubled attempt in making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, the chaos of The Brothers Grimm, and the poor distributor that was ThinKfilm and how they treated Tideland (which I did like).

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

What is #TBT?

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

@Travis C throwback thursday. Also ummm...this piece of shit has blackface? It could have Paul Newman and the ghost of Brando and I still want them to light this crap on fire. Where the hell were the SJWs when they were actually needed!?

May 24, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkris01

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