Christoph Waltz as Qohen Leth in a scene from "The Zero Theorem."

Terry Gilliam ponders the meaning of life with The Zero Theorem

TORONTO — Over 30 years after starring in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, filmmaker Terry Gilliam is exploring the significance of existence once again with his new sci-fi drama, The Zero Theorem. It’s a theme that’s been on his mind since he was young, says the American-born British writer-director, who got an Oscar nomination for co-penning the 1985 film Brazil.

TORONTO — Over 30 years after starring in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, filmmaker Terry Gilliam is exploring the significance of existence once again with his new sci-fi drama, The Zero Theorem.

It’s a theme that’s been on his mind since he was young, says the American-born British writer-director, who got an Oscar nomination for co-penning the 1985 film Brazil.

“When I was a kid I was a little zealot,” the Minnesota native said. “I went to university on a Presbyterian scholarship, I was going to be a missionary.

“So I’ve got all of that stuff stuck down deep.”

The Zero Theorem — out on DVD, Blu-ray and Video on Demand on Tuesday — stars two-time Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz as Qohen, an eccentric computer genius working on a mathematical formula to determine if life has any meaning.

Co-stars in the surrealistic story — directed by Gilliam and written by Pat Rushin — include Matt Damon as an enigmatic figure overseeing Qohen’s actions, and Tilda Swinton as a psychiatrist.

Some reports have said the film is the conclusion of a trilogy that began with Brazil and continued with Gilliam’s 1995 film 12 Monkeys, but the Monty Python alum says that’s not the case.

“I originally was thinking of the film as a compendium, because when I read the script it was clear Pat Rushin had watched every film of mine made, and there was reference to all of them in the script,” he said from London, where he was performing in the Monty Python Live reunion shows that wrapped over the weekend.

“I thought, this will be my Fanny and Alexander or my Amarcord,” he continued. “Everybody keeps thinking it’s a trilogy and it’s not. The one thing I was aware of is that it would be compared to Brazil, and so I was going out of my way to try to make it not to seem to be like Brazil.”

Virtual reality is a big part of Qohen’s life in the film it’s also been something Gilliam has been wanting to explore onscreen for a while.

“I don’t know if it’s accurate but (the film) is certainly my reaction to the world that we’re in at the moment, where tweeting has become dominant,” he said.

“You can’t just sit and watch the sun set, you’ve got to comment on it and tell your friends. In the lead up to doing Zero Theorem, for years I’d been obsessed about solitude, about trying to learn to be alone to escape from the world we’re in.”

That doesn’t mean Gilliam doesn’t participate in social media.

He said while he doesn’t run his Twitter account, he does write the entries on his Facebook page, where this past weekend he lamented that The Zero Theorem wasn’t getting a theatrical release in Canada. He also called on fans to email representatives at Mongrel Media to voice their “displeasure.”

Hours after his post, the distribution company said given the tremendous interest in the film, it will release it in theatres in Canada in the next few weeks.

“Facebook works because I can promote what I’m doing and I can comment on things,” he said. “Like if I wake up in the morning and I’ve got a very silly idea, I can put it on Facebook and I get an immediate reaction, which is nice.”

“But I don’t want to sit there and talk to the people that are on my Facebook page,” he added with a laugh.

By contrast, Qohen in The Zero Theorem is unable to deal with relationships in the real world.

“He’s a man who has become impotent, really, and I think so many people in the world now feel impotent — they can’t control the world around them,” said Gilliam.

“So all of that stuff is in there in different forms, and I’m focusing on those in different ways without giving answers. I don’t want to ever give answers to people, but let’s . . . raise a few questions.”

Just Posted

$26,000 worth of tools stolen from business

Red Deer RCMP investigate break and enter

“Piece of paradise” purchased by ACA near Caroline to help preserve trout habitat

Alberta Conservation Association buys 153-acres along Raven River

Innisfail RCMP investigate possible stolen dogs

Eight dogs seized from hotel room

Watch: Your Westerner Days Parade photos

Red Deerians line downtown streets to enjoy annual Westerner Days kick-off

Red Deerian wants to chat with Trudeau about Greyhound

Greyhound ending bus service in October

Study links air pollution to drop in national park visitors

DENVER — Visitors appear to be steering clear of some U.S. national… Continue reading

Banff’s bathroom bears returned to the park after 15 months of rehab in Ontari

Three cubs found abandoned in a washroom along the Trans-Canada Highway in… Continue reading

Canada could get caught in cross-fire of U.S. uranium investigation

Canada could get caught in the crossfire after the U.S. Department of… Continue reading

Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled his pre-election cabinet, shuffling… Continue reading

Canada’s premiers meet Indigenous groups, although three major groups decline

BOUCTOUCHE, N.B. — Canada’s premiers are meeting with Indigenous organizations in New… Continue reading

An updated list of federal cabinet ministers following Wednesday’s shuffle

OTTAWA — An updated list of federal cabinet ministers following Wednesday’s shuffle,… Continue reading

U.S. launches national security investigation against uranium imports

The U.S. Department of Commerce has launched another national security investigation that… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month