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Brazil (1985) Poster

(1985)

Trivia

Jump to: Cameo (2) | Spoilers (11)
Terry Gilliam was asked to do a film class during the battle of this film at the University of Southern California. Terry agreed, and took advantage of the situation by preparing to bring an "audio visual aid", which was his cut of the film, which would have been allowed. Unfortunately, two days before the event, students advertised a free screening of the film. When he arrived, it was announced that Universal would not allow him to show the film. During his speech to the class, he was interrupted by studio executives' phone calls. They eventually allowed him to show a clip of the film. He showed the entire film, and repeated the screenings for over two weeks. It was during one of these screenings, that Los Angeles film critics saw the film, and awarded it the Best Picture of the Year award, which was responsible for getting the film released the way Gilliam wanted it.
Terry Gilliam and his crew were excited to have Robert De Niro on-board at first, but as time wore on, they found De Niro's need for "research", and obsession with details, increasingly irritating, with Gilliam saying that he "wanted to strangle him".
Robert De Niro wanted to play the role of Jack, but Terry Gilliam had already promised this to Michael Palin. De Niro still wanted to be in the film, so he was cast as Tuttle instead.
The second in Terry Gilliam's "Trilogy of Imagination". The first was Time Bandits (1981), and the third was The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). All three films are about escapes from an awkward, ordered society, seen through the eyes of a child, a man in his 30s, and an elderly man.
The myth behind the name of the film relates to Terry Gilliam being at a beach in the UK one day. Apparently, the weather wasn't particularly great, but a man was sitting on the beach alone listening to the famous song (on a stereo) that we hear in the film. Gilliam was fascinated by the man sitting there, despite all the "adversity", and this became the theme and name for the film.
The samurai sequence was originally conceived to reflect Terry Gilliam's love for Akira Kurosawa films.
While most of the actors and actresses needed only two to three takes, Robert De Niro insisted on twenty-five to thirty takes for his character, and he still managed to forget his lines. His part was eventually filmed in two weeks, rather than the one week Terry Gilliam envisioned.
Despite the problems Terry Gilliam had directing Robert De Niro, De Niro said he had a wonderful time on the production, and would gladly work with Gilliam again.
During his trouble with the studio, Terry Gilliam asked Daily Variety for a full page ad, which cost around fifteen hundred dollars at the time. He had it bordered like a funeral invitation, and it said: "Dear Sid Sheinberg, when are you going to release my film? Signed: Terry Gilliam."
In the autumn of 1985, Terry Gilliam and Robert De Niro appeared on Good Morning America (1975) to promote this film which was finished, but not yet released. Gilliam was struggling with the studio and the studio head, Sid Sheinberg, quite publicly. De Niro rarely made television appearances, but agreed to help Gilliam out. According to Gilliam "Bobby (De Niro) said very little, he was talkative that day, so we might have gotten him to ten words." Host Joan Lunden asked Gilliam, "I hear you're having trouble with the studio, is this correct?" Gilliam responded with "No, I'm having trouble with Sid Sheinberg, here is an 8x10 photo of him", and showed the entire nation his photograph. Sheinberg was reportedly furious with this incident, and it helped Gilliam get the release of the film done the way he wanted.
An early title for this movie was "1984 and ½", an homage to Federico Fellini and (1963), but the film 1984 (1984) was released, and the idea was scrapped, as there would have been legal trouble with the George Orwell estate.
During the time when the studio was blocking the release of the film, and were re-editing it for the infamous "Love conquers all" version, copies of the Director's Cut were circulating on video around Hollywood. At one point, several critics began asking if a film that had been completed, but not released, could be eligible for a Best Picture Oscar. It's said that the potential embarrassment of this happening, forced the studio to release the original version, instead of their new one.
Almost all of the soundtrack music is a variation on the main melody in the song "Brazil".
The creepy mask Michael Palin wore in the film, was based on a similar mask Terry Gilliam's mother gave him once.
According to Terry Gilliam in the book "The Battle of Brazil: Terry Gilliam v. Universal Pictures", the toolbelt worn by Tuttle, and all of its gadgets, were supplied by Robert De Niro.
The odd little bubble-topped car that Sam (Jonathan Pryce) drives, is a three-wheeled, two-cycle, one cylinder Messerschmitt KR200 "Kabinenroller" (covered scooter), built in Germany in the late 1950s until 1964.
This was River Phoenix's favorite movie, and he had been filming Dark Blood (2012) with Jonathan Pryce. As a gift, Pryce arranged for Phoenix to meet Terry Gilliam, his hero. The meeting was set to happen the day he died outside the Viper Room. Phoenix never met him.
Terry Gilliam was reported to have been rather unhappy with Kim Greist's performance, and as a result, many of her scenes were drastically cut or trimmed down. Some of these were added for the Sid Sheinberg "Love Conquers All" studio version.
Mrs. Veronica Buttle (Sheila Reid) never blinks during the extended monologue Sam (Jonathan Pryce) gives, when he comes over to her apartment.
Terry Gilliam admitted that the film was inspired by George Orwell's 1984, although he never actually read the book. He jokingly referred to it as "1984 and a half."
According to Maxim Magazine, Terry Gilliam was reportedly so stressed during filming, that he lost all feeling in his legs for a week.
Terry Gilliam tested more than half a dozen actresses to play the part of Jill, interviewing or testing Rosanna Arquette, Ellen Barkin, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rebecca De Mornay, Rae Dawn Chong, Kelly McGillis, Joanna Pacula, Kathleen Turner, and he even considered Madonna. Gilliam's personal favorite was Barkin, because he thought she had a great combination of sex appeal and toughness, that would work for the character. He stated later that while Kim Greist gave an excellent audition, and his close circle of friends and family advisors liked her, he mainly picked her for the role, because she had only one film credit to that date ( C.H.U.D. (1984)), and this would enable her to create a truly original character for audiences, without any prior expectations. He also said that working with Griest, who was difficult on-set, and whose material had to be severely reduced to help the film, drove home that "experience really does count for something."
The dates, on Mr. Archibald Buttle's (Brian Miller) paperwork, show he was received by the MOI on June 31, 1984. This would be another reference to it being called "1984 and a half", since it is half way through the year.
To Terry Gilliam's puzzlement, the film is popular among the American Right.
In preparation for the role, Robert De Niro witnessed neurologists performing brain surgery, because he likened his character's job to that of a brain surgeon.
(At around twelve minutes) The poster which reads, "Information is the key to Prosperity / Ministry of Information", is a reference to a Soviet 1923 advertisement poster, "Rezinotrest", made by Vladimir Mayakovsky. The movie poster uses the same colors and style (half of the word "Prosperity" is green, half is red, similar to the word "Rezinotrest" on the original poster).
When Mr. Kurtzmann (Sir Ian Holm) discovers the cowboy movie playing on the computer monitors in the Records Department, the accompanying music is "Flying Messenger" by Oliver Armstrong, the same music used during Lancelot's attack on Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) which Terry Gilliam co-directed.
The dream scenes were initially meant to form just one long sequence in the middle of the film, but technical difficulties made this impossible. The most important part of the dream sequence was intended to be a scene where Sam flies over a field of eyes, which then start slowly moving to follow his descent on a pillar. The eyes were made of snooker balls with false irises added. The eye symbol is also seen in other Terry Gilliam films including Twelve Monkeys (1995). The decision was later made to split the remaining dream scenes to fill the "empty" spaces between chapters.
Charles McKeown, who shared writing credit on this movie, wrote most of the propaganda slogans that can be seen in the background throughout the film. He also played Harvey Lime.
In the commentary, Terry Gilliam states that the restaurant bombing scene was inspired by the I.R.A. bombings that occurred in London when Gilliam lived there.
The reference to form 27B/6, without which no work can be done by repairmen of the Department of Public Works, is a reference to George Orwell, who lived at Canonbury Square Apartment 27B, Floor 6, while writing parts of 1984.
In 2013, Terry Gilliam called this the first installment of a dystopian satire trilogy it forms with Twelve Monkeys (1995) and The Zero Theorem (2013).
The hands seen manipulating Tuttle's tools belonged to Terry Gilliam, not Robert De Niro.
The technician who, right at the start of the film, swats the fly which falls into the printer, causing the fatal misprint, is Ray Cooper, the percussionist who, among other things, accompanied Sir Elton John on his famous Russian concerts in 1979.
Jonathan Pryce has described the role of Sam Lowry as the highlight of his career, along with that of Lytton Strachey in Carrington (1995).
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Lots of significant names: - Mr. Kurtzman: (German for "short man"): small in stature and success. Named after the Editor of "Help" (Harvey Kurtzman), a magazine, for which Terry Gilliam worked in the mid 1960s. It was at a photo shoot for this magazine, that Gilliam met John Cleese, who would later invite him to join the Monty Python team. - Mr. Helpman: "helped" Sam - Mr. Warrenn: works in a rabbit-warren style place: a maze of corridors - Harvey Lime: possibly a reference to Harry Lime in The Third Man (1949).
When Sam (Jonathan Pryce) goes to see Jack Lint (Michael Palin), the elevator in Information Retrieval goes up to floor 84, as in 1984.
Robert De Niro originally went uncredited, despite playing a major character, because he was under contract elsewhere. He took a role that he had not sought, and did it for free, because he really wanted to be in the film.
Despite a twenty-week shooting schedule, it took nine months to finish filming. The film just about came in under budget.
Jonathan Pryce's role as Sam was written several years earlier with him in mind. The character was originally designed to be in his mid twenties (Pryce was only about thirty when Terry Gilliam was developing the script), but after many years in limbo, Gilliam changed the character's age to mid to late thirties, so that thirty-seven-year-old Pryce could still play the role.
DIRECTOR CAMEO (Terry Gilliam): The smoker in the Shangri-La tower who bumps into Sam.
Tom Cruise was considered for the role of Sam Lowry, back when the character was meant to be younger, but he didn't want to test for it.
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Dr. Chapman was a reference to Terry Gilliam's Monty Python colleague Graham Chapman, who was in reality an M.D.
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According to Terry Gilliam, several people walked out of screenings of the film.
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Terry Gilliam credits Tom Stoppard with the idea of having a dead beetle fall into the computer and cause the typographical mistake that leads to a man's death, and the entire sequence of events in the film.
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Despite prominent billing, Robert De Niro and Bob Hoskins are hardly in the film.
The sound effects used for the computer terminals are identical to those used for the MU/TH/UR 6000 computer on-board the U.S.C.S.S. Nostromo in Alien (1979). Sir Ian Holm appeared in both movies.
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Although a huge new Paris apartment complex called Marne la Vallee provided the setting for Sam's Tower Block (Robert De Niro leaps up on a balcony and disappears down a wire cable fourteen stories up), the little figure of Harry Tuttle zipping down a cable was an inch-high lead figure dropping along a wire through a two-foot-high building model.
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Archibald Buttle's wife's name is Veronica. A reference to Archie and Veronica of Archie Comics.
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Terry Gilliam): (cages): Many characters are in cages throughout the film.
The mask used by the torturer also appears used by several extras in the 1994 music video "Basket Case" by Green Day.
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Terry Gilliam): (burst): S.W.A.T. teams enter through the ceiling. Also at the diner.
The samurai warrior's suit was covered in electronic components such as resistors and volume knobs. In an early version of the film, all of the samurai warrior's scenes were in one block.
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During the opening scene, where you see the paperwork floor with all of the runners dropping and picking up receipts, there is actually only one row of typing stations. The actors and actresses just pass forward and backward along the same set of stations.
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The first film Terry Gilliam made after officially breaking with the Monty Python troupe. However, Michael Palin does have a part in the film.
Frank Zappa's favorite film.
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In the Christmas shopping scene, a woman is carrying a banner outside the store with a cross that says "Consumers for Christ".
According to Katherine Helmond, Terry Gilliam called her and said, "I have a part for you, and I want you to come over and do it, but you're not going to look very nice in it."
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During production, Katherine Helmond spent ten hours a day with a mask glued to her face. Her scenes had to be postponed, due to the blisters this caused.
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Working titles for the film included The Ministry, The Ministry of Torture, How I Learned to Live with the System - So Far, and So That's Why the Bourgeoisie Sucks.
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Terry Gilliam lured Bob Hoskins away from the set of Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club (1984) in New York City, to cameo as Spoor.
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The first sound in the film is the Telecaster of famous guitarist Amos Garrett.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Kim Greist is mistakenly billed as "Kim Griest" in various locations, including the early DVD packaging. In the Criterion single-disc reissue of the film, the error is corrected.
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Jill wears a bandage on one of her hands. According to Terry Gilliam, it was added to give her "more personality".
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While cast as friends in this movie, Jonathan Pryce and Robert De Niro played enemies in Ronin (1998).
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Robert De Niro, pulled in by producer friend Arnon Milchan, as well as his love for Monty Python, was paid six hundred sixty thousand dollars for his two weeks out of the scheduled twenty-two weeks of shooting: three times what Jonathan Pryce received. Universal ponied up three hundred fifty thousand dollars, and 20th Century Fox paid two hundred fifty thousand dollars for his marketable name on the project.
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Final theatrical film of Gorden Kaye.
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Ranked #13 in Entertainment Weekly's "Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time."
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the four hundred movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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First cinema feature of Roger Ashton-Griffiths.
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The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Robert De Niro and Jim Broadbent; and four Oscar nominees: Sir Ian Holm, Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Bob Hoskins.
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Favorite film of Doug Walker, a.k.a. Nostalgia Critic (2007).
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In early drafts, the character of Jack Lint, played in the film by Michael Palin, was the hero.
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Michael Palin has made a travelogue program about this movie.
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Brian Miller says he was booked for five days, but only worked three.
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Rupert Everett was considered for the part of Sam Lowry.
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Cameo 

Holly Gilliam: Jack's daughter Holly is played by Terry Gilliam's daughter.
Jack Purvis: A regular in the films of Terry Gilliam, Purvis appeared as "Dr. Chapman", a reference to fellow Python Graham Chapman, who had a medical degree.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Universal Executive Sid Sheinberg didn't want the film released, because he thought it was too pessimistic, the ending was downbeat, and it was not commercial enough for mainstream acceptance. Terry Gilliam refused to back down, and showed the film to several Los Angeles film critics. They declared it the best film of the year. Gilliam eventually won out, and Sheinberg, rather than face embarrassment at keeping such a lauded film from the public, gave in to Gilliam's demands. It's especially ironic, given the film's themes of an individual standing up to the system. The only difference is Lowry lost, and Gilliam won. The struggle is recounted in The Battle for Brazil: Terry Gilliam v. Universal Pictures, written by Jack Matthews in 1987.
Terry Gilliam had trouble with studio producers over the dark ending he wanted on the film. The producers wanted a "happy Hollywood" film, which eliminated (among other things) the final transition, and a critical line of dialogue, which reveals the tragic fate of Jill. These changes were made, and this "butchered" version was shown on U.S. television at least once. Gilliam threatened to disown the film, and consequently the cinematic release, and all videotape versions show the film essentially as he intended it to be seen (although the U.S. cinematic release still omitted the line about Jill).
When Harry (Robert De Niro) rescues Sam (Jonathan Pryce) from the Ministry of Information, as they escape through the lobby, the Security Police walk in unison down the stairs in a single rank firing their guns. Meanwhile, a vacuum cleaner rolls down the stairs ahead one step at a time. This is an homage to Battleship Potemkin (1925), and the massacre by the Cossacks of the people on the Odessa steps, while a baby carriage rolled unharmed down the steps in the midst of the ensuing carnage.
Terry Gilliam admitted that the conclusion of the movie was the first idea that came to him. He asked himself what kind of story would have a man going insane as a happy ending. But he felt that in refusing to give in to an inhumane system, and going into a state where he cannot be further hurt via torture or death or anything else, was a redemptive victory after a cold, awful life for Sam Lowry.
When Mr. Helpmann (Peter Vaughan) spells out the code that Sam's father used to get to Helpmann's floor on the elevator, the letters are ERE I AM JH. When you rearrange those letters it spells JEREMIAH, Sam's father's name.
The "Brazil" theme is heard several times within the film. When Sam types "Ere I am JH" into the secret elevator's control panel, it plays the first eight notes. This is also what he hums when he sends the refund check up the pneumatic tube at Mr. Kurtzmann's office. It is playing on the radio in his car, and Tuttle whistles in his flat.
Body count: twenty-five.
In one of the final scenes of the movie, among Jack Lint's (Michael Palin) instruments of torture, can clearly be seen a rubber bouncy ball and a pacifier.
The rails embedded in the walkway, out to the middle of the torture chamber, were actually functional, and were used to dolly the camera back and forth, seen when the camera rapidly pulls back from a close-up of Sam's head, to a wide shot of the chamber.
The "young Mrs. Lowry" was played by Kim Greist and Katherine Helmond.
During the escape sequence towards the end, the S.W.A.T. team walks into the secretary's room, who is still typing what the person says during the torture, this person being Sam. This shows, before the reveal at the end, that Sam is still being tortured, and this is a hallucination induced by Sam's brain, to cope with the torture. The fact that the sequence is fake, becomes increasingly apparent throughout the sequence, allowing viewers to catch on, before the bleak truth is revealed.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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