Of Gilliam, Ledger and, at Last, Don Quixote

After debuting at Cannes, Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" got its first stateside preview in Hall H at Comic-Con Thursday afternoon to an audience eager to catch a glimpse of Heath Ledger's final performance. It began with a tribute to Terry Gilliam called "Behind the Mirror," which showed brief snippets of his films […]

After debuting at Cannes, Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" got its first stateside preview in Hall H at Comic-Con Thursday afternoon to an audience eager to catch a glimpse of Heath Ledger's final performance.

It began with a tribute to Terry Gilliam called "Behind the Mirror," which showed brief snippets of his films like "Brazil" and "The Meaning of Life." In the film, Gilliam talks about the world of Parnassus, with cast members like Tom Waits waxing poetic about the director.

A representative from Comic-Con then came on stage to present Gilliam with the Ink Pot award, the event's creative honor.

"I know everybody is basically waiting to see Heath's last performance, but the film is really Parnassus’ film," Gilliam said before introducing a clip with Christopher Plummer, who plays Parnassus. In the scene, Parnassus tells a young girl the story of when he met a mysterious character in his youth.

Gilliam said he didn't want his ideas "fiddled with" by big studios and for that reason, "doesn't usually do movies with big budgets." But Ledger, who was working on the Joker for "The Dark Knight" at the time, came along and asked Gilliam if he could be in the film.

"I said ‘Yes!!!’ Then we went out to see if we could get the money with Heath as our lucky charm — and we couldn't get any money even with Heath," Gilliam said before presenting a clip featuring Ledger. "And this was after ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ And I kept saying, you do realize in the summer of 2008, ‘The Dark Knight’ is going to come out and he's going to be a big star — and the Hollywood execs didn't get it."

In the scene, Ledger is masked and talks to passersby about charity.

"Heath was very old. I always thought he was 100 or 200 and there was a wisdom about him," Gilliam recalled. "He was playful and fearless, and I think he would have been the greatest actor of his and a few other generations as well."

Actor Verne Troyer took the stage and said he felt honored to be in the film "and try to show my acting ability."

"I feel lucky for having that brief moment to meet Heath, and it was a tragic accident he had," Troyer said of working with Ledger. "I felt he had been my friend for years."

Gilliam also announced he had finally gotten the rights to "Don Quixote" back and said he was on "the hunt for actors and money."