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Time Bandits (1981) Poster

(1981)

Trivia

In 1996, Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown collaborated on a script for Time Bandits 2, bringing back most of the original cast, except David Rappaport and Tiny Ross, who had died a few years earlier. Jack Purvis had been paralyzed in a car accident, so his character was written to be in a similar state. When Purvis died, the project was shelved indefinitely.
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Jump to: Spoilers (3)
In the original script, King Agamemnon was introduced as: "The warrior took off his helmet, revealing someone that looks exactly like Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature." To writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam's surprise, the script ended up in Connery's hands. He expressed interest in the part, and his agent approached them for the role.
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Ruth Gordon was cast as Mrs. Ogre, but was injured before production. Katherine Helmond was originally slated to play the role in heavy make-up, to look like her husband, but then decided it would be funnier if Mrs. Ogre was an ordinary person. Writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam agreed.
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According to Terry Gilliam, David Rappaport believed he got his part for his acting ability alone, without size being a contributing factor. As a result, he didn't socialize with his co-stars. During the Invisible Barrier scene, when the other bandits retaliate against Randall, the actors were expressing their frustrations with Rappaport.
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No studio wanted to make this movie, so executive producers George Harrison and Denis O'Brien mortgaged their office building in Cadogan Square to raise the $5 million to make it.
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While filming the sequence in Sherwood Forest, in which the Time Bandits inadvertently crash into Vincent (Sir Michael Palin) and Pansy's (Shelley Duvall's) carriage, Terry Gilliam had scaffolding built for the actors to jump off. When directing the scene, Gilliam instructed them to jump in such a way as to land around Palin and Duvall without actually falling on them. To better illustrate what he meant, Gilliam climbed to the top of the scaffolding and jumped off, landing directly on top of Duvall.
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The cowboys, Greek archers, tank, spaceship (Micronauts Mobile Exploration Lab), and all of the attackers that fight Evil Genius (David Warner) at the end were the counterparts of the same toys seen in Kevin's (Craig Warnock's) room. In some shots, as Kevin runs through Evil Genius' fortress, giant "Lego" blocks can clearly seen as part of the fortress. Kevin also mentioned to his parents that the Greeks had to learn forty-four styles of hand-to-hand combat.
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It was Sir Sean Connery's idea for Agamemnon to do magic tricks for Kevin.
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Craig Warnock (Kevin) won the role after a wide search for the right child actor. An agent had seen Warnock's brother, and sent him to an audition. That Craig went with him was merely a coincidence. Terry Gilliam, however, took more interest in Craig than his sibling, noting that the young man seemed rather intelligent, yet aloof and quiet, as opposed to the stereotypical "cute" little boy.
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Sir Ralph Richardson took his role so seriously that he submitted his own red ink edits, complete with the message "God wouldn't say that."
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Jonathan Pryce was offered the role of Evil Genius, but had been offered Loophole (1981) at the same time: "Loophole paid twice as much as Time Bandits, so I went for Loophole, because I needed the money". Pryce got the lead role in Terry Gilliam's next movie, Brazil (1985), and later recalled that any time he had to do anything difficult in Brazil (such as be hanged from wires or strapped down and tortured), Gilliam would say to him, "This is your punishment for saying 'no'".
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In his book "Monty Python: The Case Against Irreverence, Scurrility, Profanity, Vilification, and Licentious Abuse", Robert Hewison described the dwarves as a commentary on the Monty Python troupe. Fidgit, the nice one, is said to represent Sir Michael Palin. Randall, the self-appointed leader, represents John Cleese. Strutter, the acerbic one, represents Eric Idle. Og, the quiet one, represents Graham Chapman. Wally, the noisy rebel, represents Terry Jones. Vermin, the nasty, filth-loving one, represents Terry Gilliam.
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Sir Sean Connery suggested that he appear as one of the firefighters near the end of the movie.
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When Evil Genius has captured the Time Bandits in the cage, he walks up the stairs. It was not David Warner, but a double, because Warner suffers from vertigo.
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Terry Gilliam laughed so hard while shooting the table scene with Sir Ian Holm as Napoleon Bonaparte that he had to leave the set, to avoid ruining any takes of said scene.
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The whole notion of casting a movie with dwarves came from writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam's memories of growing up in the San Fernando Valley, where a circus used to roll into town each year, and local kids would find odd jobs with them.
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Sir Ralph Richardson came up with the idea to dispose of the pieces of Evil Genius in the post box.
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Executive producer George Harrison was frustrated with writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam's stubbornness, as evident by the lyrics to Harrison's song "Dream Away". Harrison even once told Gilliam he reminded him of John Lennon, because he was so difficult and "bolshie". It was the thing that Gilliam was most proud of that Harrison ever said to him.
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On his first day of filming, Craig Warnock was reportedly so overwhelmed at meeting Sir Sean Connery that their close-ups had to be shot separately, until the boy had adjusted to the veteran actor's presence, reportedly at Connery's own suggestion. In his part of the audio commentary, Warnock says he remembers Connery being "very friendly, and down to Earth", and joked that the scene where he rode off into the desert with Connery on horseback, probably made more women jealous than kids.
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According to the DVD commentary, Terry Gilliam shot this movie in low camera angles throughout, to give the audience the perspective of a dwarf or a child.
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After the giant walks out from the sea, it steps on a hut, which is the home of the butler-elephant creature from the "Find the Fish" segment of The Meaning of Life (1983).
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On the Special Edition DVD, writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam explains why Marcus Powell is still credited as Horseflesh, even though he apparently never appears on-camera. Horseflesh is visible in one scene, standing next to David Warner as he gazes into the bowl of water to track the Time Bandits.
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This was the tenth most popular movie of 1981 at U.S. and Canadian box offices.
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In the published screenplay, there are several black-and-white stills from scenes that do not appear in the final cut. These include the "spider women" sequence and Agamemnon giving Kevin a knife (this is later used when Og takes it from Kevin's satchel to unlock their cage). Other deleted scenes included Kevin waking up at night to find his bedroom flooded with water, and a pirate ship sailing through his window, and the bandits trying to rob a bank in twenty-second century London. Writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam stated at the 2011 Bradford Film Festival in the U.K. that he believes that all of the cut footage is lost.
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Agamemnon's wife glares at him, and he sentences her three courtiers to execution. These are references to Greek mythology, in which Agamemnon and Clytemnestra hated each other, and their marriage ended in murder.
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Executive producer Denis O'Brien wanted the soundtrack peppered with George Harrison songs and "High-Ho" type music reminiscent of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). In the end, only "Dream Away" appeared in the credits. The song was to originally appear on the announced Time Bandits soundtrack album. However, when that failed to materialize, and Harrison was finalizing the tracks for his Gone Troppo album, he decided to include "Dream Away". Although the Gone Troppo album was a commercial failure, "Dream Away" became a popular tune.
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It took several weeks to train the horse to jump out of the closet.
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Terry Gilliam first came up with the idea in 1979. He had wanted to do an entire movie from a kid's point of view. The only problem was he felt he needed to give the protagonist child a group of people of similar height to surround him, because a kid couldn't carry an entire movie. He combined those thoughts with the concept of committing crimes while time travelling, making it possible to get away with the thievery, because it had not happened yet.
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In the screenplay, when the Supreme Being (Sir Ralph Richardson) chases after Kevin (Craig Warnock) and the gang, He initially appeared as a "classical" depiction of God: robes, white beard, et cetera. A picture of this version of the Supreme Being appeared in a published book of the screenplay, suggesting the Supreme Being scenes were filmed as written, but ultimately the "classical" depiction was replaced with the "floating head" version of the Supreme Being seen in the movie.
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Most of the cast were Monty Python fans, and wanted to work with Terry Gilliam.
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According to a passage from Terry Gilliam in the Time Bandits Screenplay Book, Horseflesh was removed from the band of dwarves, as this would have made them seven and would have infringed upon Disney copyrights. It is unknown whether or not he was being serious in that statement.
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The gold masks of Agamemnon's Priests were replicas of a King's deathmask, found by Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenae in 1876, now on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
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Writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam came up with the idea for the ogre's ship to be a hat on top of a giant's head from a painting by Brian Froud. Also, a lot of tall men were initially considered to play the giant before wrestler Ian Muir was eventually cast in the role.
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Derrick O'Connor (Robber Leader) came up with the idea to make the bulk of his dialogue unintelligible.
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Sir Michael Palin wrote the role of Robin Hood for himself, but John Cleese wanted to play him. The script said "To be played like the Duke of Kent", a reference to Edward Windsor of Kent going to football (soccer) matches and shaking hands with the players, asking them questions. Sir Sean Connery played Robin Hood in Robin and Marian (1976) (which also featured Sir Ian Holm) and had a cameo appearance in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).
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Kenny Baker and Jack Purvis were previously a comedy double-act.
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According to his 1980 diary, Sir Michael Palin went directly from a meeting with his son's future headmaster to another with Terry Gilliam to discuss if John Cleese was right for Evil Genius.
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This was the only movie that Terry Gilliam made for HandMade Films, due to numerous clashes with executive producer Denis O'Brien.
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According to the novelization, Kevin's last name is Lotterby, and he's eleven years old.
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John Cleese filmed his part in two days.
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According to Terry Gilliam, the studio originally didn't want Katherine Helmond in this movie, because she wasn't a big enough name.
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Sir Sean Connery's appearance as a fireman at the end of a film required him to only be on set for one hour. By the time this scene was filmed he was already making OUTLAND (1981) at Pinewood Studios, which was less than 20 miles from where this scene was filmed. Connery was allowed to disappear for the morning, shoot his brief scene, and reappeared at Pinewood after lunch.
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Music producer Ray Cooper played the hands of the Supreme Being folding the map in the closing shot for this movie.
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The Minotaur bullhead prop was also used in Gladiator(2000).
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Writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam described Sir Sean Connery's career at this point as "at its nadir". Fortunately, Connery was a Monty Python fan, and signed on for a part of the gross. It also happened that executive producer Denis O'Brien was a former golfing partner of Connery.
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DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Terry Gilliam): (bookends): Begins and ends with the map.
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The opening credits take the unique approach of listing the celebrity cameos first, in alphabetical order.
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All of the Bandits appeared in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
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In Anne Rice's novel "The Queen of the Damned", Daniel (the interviewer from Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles) and vampire Armand see this movie in the theater together. Armand finds the scene in which the Time Bandits sing for Napoleon Bonaparte, in the battle-ravaged theater, so funny that he laughs uncontrollably every time he sees it, and goes back repeatedly to re-watch it.
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The suit worn by Sir Ralph Richardson was his own.
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Terry Gilliam was not happy at the inclusion of the 'Dream Away' song during the end credits as he wanted to make the film without including any music beyond the traditional film soundtrack score. However as George Harrison, who wrote and performed the song, was the film's executive producer, he reminded Gilliam that without his help neither this film, nor the Monty Python film 'The Life of Brian' made two years earlier would have happened without his help. Gilliam was forced to concede and allowed one original song of Harrison's onto the soundtrack.
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On the wall of Kevin's bedroom, can be seen a drawing of Dr. Bertram X. Fegg, a character created by Sir Michael Palin and Terry Jones for their "Dr. Fegg" books, drawn by Martin Honeysett.
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According to Terry Gilliam and Sir Michael Palin's interview on the DVD, David Rappaport was so into the character of Randall that he didn't socialize with his co-stars and kept demanding close-ups of himself.
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The leader of the cowboys was dubbed, and was not credited in the end credits.
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In this movie, one of Napoleon's Generals says Napoleon is 5'1''. Some sources say he was really 5'6''. Sir Ian Holm is 5'6'' in real life.
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Evil Genius' apparatus on his head was influenced by H.R. Giger's work on Alien (1979), which also featured Sir Ian Holm. Coincidentally, one of Evil Genius' lines is "And the day after tomorrow". Sir Ian Holm appeared in The Day After Tomorrow (2004).
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Terry Gilliam hadn't directed in four years. On his first day back behind the camera, he was on top of a mountain in Morocco in one hundred thirty-six degrees Fahrenheit (fifty-eight degrees Celsius) heat. After struggling to get things right, Sir Sean Connery helped by strongly suggesting to Gilliam that he shoot his parts first, and let him leave, before working with Craig Warnock, who was living through his first day ever on a movie set. Connery also told Gilliam they would deal with the star actually getting on the horse during post-production.
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The title characters were written based on the personalities of the actors. David Rappaport was very full of himself, Kenny Baker was nice, Malcolm Dixon would complain, Jack Purvis was strong, et cetera.
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One of the toys in Kevin's bedroom is the Washington's board game "Blast Off". The board in the game bears a resemblance to the Time Bandits map.
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Only one set was built for the scenes on the Titanic. All the shots of the Titanic outside of this set were stock footage.
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Sir Ian Holm, who was 49, played 26-year-old Napoleon Bonaparte.
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It took three months to get permission to use the tower, of which the guys blowing the big horn are standing on top.
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When developing the sequel for his computer RPG "Ultima", Richard Garriott a.k.a. Lord British, watched multiple showings of this movie in the theater, and incorporated the "time holes" and other concepts into his game Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress (1982).
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According to Sir Michael Palin, executive producer Denis O'Brien suggested Art Carney, Burt Reynolds, or Peter Sellers for the role of The Supreme Being.
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Gilda Radner was considered for the role of Mrs. Ogre.
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As outlined in the non-fiction book, "The Battle of Brazil: Terry Gilliam v. Universal Pictures in the Fight to the Final Cut" by Jack Mathews, Gilliam's work on the controversial 1985 movie was informed and an extension of his work on this movie. Gilliam recounted how he had no patience left for studio interference, after major studios turned down or tried to force him into making major changes to his script for this movie, leading to the movie being released by the small Avco Embassy distributor, and all of the studios then claimed they wanted to work with him again. He chose to make a deal with Universal Pictures for Brazil (1985), largely because they had passed on this movie for financial reasons, but ended up having even worse conflicts with Universal Pictures' leadership than he'd had in getting this movie to theaters at all.
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John Cleese had to shave off his beard in order to play Robin Hood.
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Agamemnon was the King of Mycenae, who, in Greek mythology, led the Greek Army in the siege of Troy in the Trojan War.
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Sir Ian Holm also played Napoleon Bonaparte in Napoleon and Love (1974) and The Emperor's New Clothes (2001), and was Stanley Kubrick's first choice to play him in his aborted biopic. In an interview conducted in 1981, Holm said that he wore the same costume from Napoleon in Love in Time Bandits.
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The trailer to the film has no explanation of plot details whatsoever. Though most of the images are actual scenes from the film, all of the dialogue consists of a British man - presumably a director or producer - bickering with an American narrator ("You remember my voice. I do trailers. Allll kinds of trailers.") over how to promote the movie. The narrator stumbles over the script before settling on overselling the film's makeup effects. Upon learning that the narrator hasn't even seen the film, the director fires him and gives a brief attempt to sell the movie himself; the trailer ends with the narrator mocking his efforts; "Honest-schmonest; what's that got to do with anything?!"
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DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Terry Gilliam): (burst): Horse and rider from closet.
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Disney was initially considered to distribute this movie, before Avco Embassy picked it up.
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With the exception of bit players Derrick O'Connor (Ireland), Leon Lissek (Australia), and Terence Bayler (New Zealand), Americans Shelley Duvall and Katherine Helmond are the only members of the principal cast (more than forty-five credits) not to hail from the U.K.
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John Cleese played Robin Hood. In Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969), Cleese played an incompetent Robin Hood-like nineteenth century highwayman, who stole from the poor and gave to the rich, called "Dennis Moore" in the Dennis Moore sketches, which parodied and mocked the Robin Hood legend.
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Gilliam says in the commentary track that the live pig seen in the final battle came on board with an animal trainer who said that his pig was special and could do all sorts of tricks. But the trainer would command him, the pig would do nothing, but the trainer was convinced that it had pulled off the trick. Gilliam muses "There are a lot of mad (British for "crazy") people involved in movie making, but perhaps the most mad are the animal trainers."
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This movie is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #37.
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The bandits were written as dwarves, so that audiences would accept Kevin as their equal.
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After a series of mediocre albums, George Harrison fans were delighted that he ended the movie with a great song, "Dream Away". But they were frustrated that he didn't release it on a record until he put out the "Gone Troppo" album three years after this movie was released.
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In 1981, in a curious callback to their shared history, Lee International Studios were by then based in Wembley, in the studio complex that had previously been used as the main television studios for Associated-Rediffusion - where most of the Python's had made children's television shows together pre-Monty Python, and London Weekend Television. Most famously, the gigantic Studio 5 was used in Brazil (1985), amongst other movies. In 1984, Lee International Studios acquired Shepperton Studios, home of Gilliam's Jabberwocky (1977), and the Wembley complex eventually returned to television production as Limehouse Television, and Fountain Television. In 2019, the Wembley studios were scheduled for demolition.
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The strange screeching noise of the creature on horseback that breaks through into Kevin's room is actually a stock sound effect and can be heard in other British made productions of the 1970s. It was regularly used in several Gerry Anderson produced TV shows of that era.
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Most of the cast appeared in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). David Rappaport appeared with Mark Hamill in Amazing Stories: Gather Ye Acorns (1986).
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Sir Michael Palin, Sir Ian Holm, Katherine Helmond, Peter Vaughan, and Jim Broadbent appeared in Brazil (1985).
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"Star Wars" fans should like this movie because Fidgit was played by Kenny Baker, who was R2-D2. This movie gives "Star Wars" buffs the chance to see what Baker looked like outside his "droid" costume.
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Sir Sean Connery and David Rappaport appeared in Cuba (1979).
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Sir Ian Holm (Napoleon Bonaparte) and Sir Ralph Richardson (Supreme Being) appeared in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984).
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Sir Ralph Richardson played God in Everyman (1947).
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Sir Ian Holm (Napoleon Bonaparte) and David Warner (Evil Genius) appeared in S.O.S. Titanic (1979).
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In this movie, Kevin and the Time Bandits meet Robin Hood. Mike Edmonds appeared in Maid Marian and Her Merry Men (1989) as Little Ron. The series was a parody of the legend of Robin Hood.
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John Cleese who played Robin Hood and David Warner who played Evil Genius both later narrated different Winnie the Pooh films for Disney. Warner narrated Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (1997) A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving (1998) and Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You (1999) while Cleese narrated Winnie the Pooh (2011).
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Tony Jay and John Cleese who did Robin Hood and Supreme Being later worked on different projects of The Jungle Book for Disney. Cleese was in The Jungle Book (1994) playing Dr. Plumford and Jay voiced Shere Khan in TaleSpin (1990).
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Executive producer Denis O'Brien was against the ending of Kevin's parents blowing up, and writer, producer, and director Terry Gilliam had to fight to keep it in the movie. O'Brien was only convinced that the violent ending could stay after an advance screening of the movie was held for an audience full of children. The first child who was asked what his favorite moment of the movie was, excitedly proclaimed, "The parents being blown up!"
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Agamemnon was originally supposed to appear at the climactic battle against Evil Genius, leading an army of Greek soldiers and being killed, but it could not be worked into Sir Sean Connery's schedule (they only had him for about two weeks, as his role was small). Having Connery appear as the fireman at the end was the compromise they devised to bring things full circle for Kevin. Agamemnon's death was given to Fidgit.
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Kevin's parents' demise at the end of the movie is their comeuppance. Kevin's parents, who are uncaring and neglectful, died because they ignored Kevin and didn't listen to him about the toaster oven. If they had listened to him, they would still be alive.
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