A little bit of the Cannes Film Festival came to Los Angeles Tuesday night when U.S. sales rep Cinetic Media hosted the first domestic screening of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Terry Gilliam’s highly anticipated movie featuring the last performance of Heath Ledger. (The film is scheduled to have its world premiere at Cannes later this month.) All of the major independent buyers in town packed Hollywood’s DGA theater for the screening, and while most left feeling a bit befuddled (as one often does coming out of a Gilliam feature) the consensus was that the movie is better than expected.
Although Ledger died during production on Parnassus and was replaced by three actors – Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell – one source in attendance says that the late Oscar winner indeed appears throughout the film as Tony, a crooked philanthropist. His three replacements, meanwhile, only pop up in dream sequences. (Farrell’s sequence is the longest, says one person who attended the screening.) The two-hour film apparently features amazing visuals, but the storyline is rather complex, centering on Christopher Plummer as Dr. Parnassus, a man who runs a traveling sideshow with his daughter, a young barker, and a sidekick, played by Verne Troyer. Tom Waits plays the Devil, with whom Parnassus makes a Faustian bargain, and Ledger’s character joins the troupe after they find him hanging from his neck under a London bridge.
Sources tell EW.com that buyers are currently circling the film, and while The Hollywood Reporter’s Steven Zeitchik reported Tuesday that the sellers are looking for a “studio-level deal with studio-level prices,” such an opaque story might limit its commercial prospects.