As we know, when Heath Ledger died, Terry Gilliam chose to complete “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” using Jude Law, Colin Farrell, and Johnny Depp as different incarnations of Ledger’s role. All three were close friends of the Ledger family, and the film will operate as a sort of tribute while fulfilling its purpose as commercial cinema. One thing we didn’t know, and as Terry Gilliam recently revealed to Total Film magazine, was that Tom Cruise also lobbied heavily to step into the role as part of a return to relevance akin to his appearance in last summer’s “Tropic Thunder”.
Gilliam refused for one very simple reason: Tom Cruise had no personal connection to Heath Ledger. More after the jump.
Gilliam said of the decision, “I know there was a period when Tom’s agents were keen. The thing is, I was only interested in people who were friends of Heath. Simple as that. I wanted to keep it in the family.” Though Gilliam has always said that this is not Heath Ledger’s movie, there was a very personal void left by his death that could only be filled by those who knew and loved him. It definitely would have been inappropriate, therefore, for the film to serve as some sort of vehicle for Tom Cruise to make people forget how bizarre he’d been acting over the last few years.
Tom Cruise is a movie star. He’s a big name who (at least at one time, but many could argue that it still holds true) commands a big box office but has always been associated more with star power than acting talent. The others, however, transcend the boundaries between acting prowess and star power. Colin Farrell is probably the least potent star on the list, but that’s like saying the Virgin Mary is not as popular as God and Jesus. Everybody knows who they are, yet they don’t create the kind of spectacle that seems to follow Cruise wherever he goes. He’s just not right for the film, and I really have the feeling that the buzz surrounding the film would be more “Will Tom Cruise do right by Heath Ledger?”, rather than related to the intricacies of finishing a film without its star.
Honestly, I would have no interest in this film if it weren’t Heath Ledger’s last. It’s absolutely nothing against the movie or Terry Gilliam, but it’s just not my cup of tea. At least I think it isn’t. That being said, I’m utterly fascinated by how the film was transformed by Ledger’s passing, and I think I’m not alone in saying it put the movie on a lot of people’s radars who would have initially passed.