Terry Gilliam and Lucas Hedges Work Out “The Zero Theorem”

Now available on VOD and in limited  theatrical release, Terry Gilliam returns to his Brazil-dystopic roots with Zero Theorem. The highly energetic director and member of Monty Python gleefully joined young actor Lucas Hedges to discuss the film at length in New York.

Zero Theorem finds Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) in a neon-lit Orwellian nightmare. He is a cog in a massive corporate machine, Mancom, who is desperately awaiting a phone call that will reveal the meaning of his life. Counterproductively his menacing boss, referred to simply as Management (Matt Damon) charges Qohen with proving the Zero Theorem which states that the entire universe will eventually collapse in on itself rendering all existence meaningless.

While Zero Theorem arguably completes a trio of dystopian films after Gilliam’s own Brazil and 12 Monkeys, it now joins a host of modern future-set films that are increasingly Orwellian or apocalyptic rather than hopeful, I asked Gilliam what he thought of this trend of humanity not exactly looking towards The Future as idealized. The director cheerfully threw his arms open and “defended” Zero Theorem’s busy, candy-colored vision of the future:

Terry Gilliam: “This is not a dystopia! It’s Utopia. It’s a wonderful world! C’mon! Everybody’s out there, they’re dressed smartly, they got a lotta color. They’re bouncing around the place, cars are zipping back and forth–Shopping is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week–what more do you want?! I mean, the workplace, Mancom is FUN. Roller blades, scooters, zippy clothes, lots of primary colors. It’s a fantastic place. There’s only ONE guy who’s the dystopic element [laughs], miserable guy, called Qohen. And he needs a kick in the ass. And [Lucas] is one of the kicks!”

Lucas Hedges: “Yes.”

Gilliam: “It’s really that. I mean everyone keeps referring to it as dystopia. If you think the world we’re living in now is a dystopia, then you may be right! But we’ve been looking forward to this time for so many years! We got all the goodies.”

Hedges: It’s a matter of what perspective we see it from. And we see it from Qohen’s perspective and he has a–I guess his perspective is very much nihilistic and dystopic and sad.

Gilliam: “That’s really it. He’s the odd man out.”

Hedges: “I’m sure there’s a way of looking at the world we’re living in now from a certain perspective that makes our world look dystopic. I mean, maybe it is or maybe it isn’t but it depends on whose eyes you see it from.”

Gilliam: “I mean my tendency in films is to see the less good things in society. And the world we’re living in. Because at least those are the things you can criticize and possibly comment on and possibly it might change something in some small ways. Not likely [laughs] but we can pretend we have some potency in our ability to help change the world. [Lucas has] got to believe things like this . He’s got a whole life ahead of him, I’m old, I know the truth! [Laughs]”

Gilliam later elaborated on the world as it is today, where the amount of clutter is not exactly far off from his designs in Theorem.

Gilliam: “My complaint, it seems we’re becoming more and more infantile in the fact that ‘Oh! there’s something interesting! I’ve got to put that in my mouth!’ We don’t, but it’s effectively that ‘I WANT IT NOW’ not, I’m not going to work towards it, I’m not gonna wait. I need it now. And that’s in fact infantile. But that’s what we’ve become. I mean a lot of the film is a resistance to that, to escape it. I mean for me, coming to New York, it’s like Qohen going out his front door. I mean it’s just like WHAT?! In London we’re overwhelmed with stuff but it’s provincial and pissy-small compared to walking into Times Square.

And you think, ‘what is this about?’ and where do we fit in to it. I mean are we just these little dots that connect around the way? Are we just becoming social insects like worker bees? You  know our job is to keep tweeting and connecting, spreading those pheromones, they sort of go through the ether as opposed to antenna going [wiggles fingers at Lucas]…So nobody really has to have an individual opinion, people are sort of constantly communicating ‘Should I say that? Is that right? Have I gone too far? Have I offended? Am I rude?’ All these words keep coming up and mine are just FUCK THIS! People have got to start being individual and offensive.

I’m obsessed about offending people [laughs] Because it’s when you get a discussion going now, maybe. You might start talking about things rather than ducking and diving. I’ve watched my daughter say ‘oh that was very rude’ AND? [laughs] What do you think about that thought? You wanna talk about it?”

Hedges plays Bob, Management’s teenage son who is there to speed along Quohen’s progress. From this press conference, it was obvious that teenage Hedges and Gilliam were so pleased to be working with each other, and they elaborated on how he was cast in the film:

Lucas Hedges:  “I sent in a tape to Terry as an audition and then a week later I got cast. Which is very strange. Especially for a role of this proportion…that doesn’t happen. And we arranged to talk on the phone and [Terry] called me up…we spoke and it was–his energy was absolutely incredible. It was absolutely incredible! And he was insane! Absolutely insane and he was going on about what was going on in [Bucharest, Romania, where the film was shot] and about Vlad Tempish and about Dracula and it was lovely. And it was clear right off the bat that this is a man who doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Really. And he’s an individual artist and I guess that’s my origin with Terry…Meeting Terry–I mean hearing [him] for the first time was something I’ll never forget.”

Terry Gilliam: “When I saw him in Moonrise Kingdom, there was one guy that kinda popped off the screen for me. And it turned out to be this one. I’d never seen him before or anything and then [he] sent that tape in. I had only taped one kid in London. There was one kid who was kind of interesting, he was the only person I started putting on tape. And Lucas’s tape came in and I said that’s it! Done. Magic. It was simple as that. I didn’t have a single doubt. He just cracked it, boom. That’s the character. Then I called him and I tried to frighten him off and I failed. [Laughs] And it was wonderful I mean [he] was really thrown in the deep end with someone like Christoph.”

Hedges: “Yeah and it was a scary transition both from Brooklyn to Romania to working with Christoph and in a world that was very foreign. Both from a filmmaking standpoint and a social standpoint. But it really became a home and it really worked out.”

Up next for Hedges is playing Jeremy Renner’s son in Kill the Messenger.
Meanwhile, the internet has recently stirred up a renewed interest in Gilliam’s long-gestating Don Quixote project which was last addressed in the 2002 doc, Lost in La Mancha. Unfortunately, this conference took place just a couple days too late for hopeful news:

Gilliam: “Today, I don’t know. I knew two days ago. Today I don’t know anymore. I got an e-mail the other night. So I’m not gonna say anything. Things are [Gilliam wavers his hands in the air]…gone liquid again. We shall see. It’s something for me to think about when I don’t have a job. That’s the important thing. A man’s gotta keep the mind occupied. And pretending is the best way there is to go through life.”

CD Review “The Zero Theorem: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

The Zero Theorem
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Composer: George Fenton
Milan Records
Tracks: 26
Running Time: 57 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“The Zero Theorem” is the newest sci-fi extravaganza directed by legendary director Terry Gilliam (“Brazil”, “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas”, “Twelve Monkeys”). I have been following this film for a long time and I was very excited that the score is being released way in advance of the film. In fact the film at the time of writing does not have a US theatrical release date. If you watch the trailer to this film you can tell that is going to be quite the trip, this soundtrack is a perfect compliment to the film. What it succeeds in is making me REALLY want to see this film now. No question, this is already one my favorite scores of 2014.

If you are a fan of Terry Gilliam’s films, like myself, then you will know how important and the music to the film. I still have the “Brazil” score on my phone for many years. Well there is no change here and the score plays a very significant role in “The Zero Theorem”. Acclaimed composer George Fenton really does a wonderful job with this score score. It ranges from combining simple classical moments then mixed with exciting futuristic, electronic tracks. I also really enjoyed the new rendition of “Creep” performed by Karen Souza. I can’t wait to see how it ties into the film itself. I have had this album on loop since receiving it and I do not see that changing for many months to come! Highly recommend checking this out!

Track Listing:
1. The Zero Theorem Main Title -George Fenton
2. Leth on the Street
3. Creep – Karen Souza
4. Remote Central
5. Joby’s Party Part 1
6. Meeting Management
7. Joby’s Party Part 2
8. Joby’s Party Part 3
9. The Mainframe
10. The Entities Won’t Crunch
11. The Nurse
12. Bob and the Clones
13. Bob’s on the Job
14. Enter in Tropical Style
15. Beach Romance
16. Shrink Rom Rap – Bob’s Crunch – Tilda Swinton
17. Inside Your Head
18. A New Bainsley
19. There’ll Be No Call
20. We Can Be Together
21. Bainsley Leaves
22. Bob Collapses
23. Q Loses It
24. Destroying the Mainframe and the Release
25. Qohen Leth
26. 0=100% (Party part 2) (Konstantine Pope Remix)