Terry Gilliam

Biography: Terry Gilliam is one of the most exceptional Pythons for one main reason: he's an American, the only one of the predominantly British cast. His different takes on humor bring yet another unique craziness to Monty Python.

Terry Gilliam was born on November 22, 1940 in Medicine Lake, Minnesota. His father worked as a door-to-door salesman but then quit to work as a carpenter. The Gilliams lived in a marshy area with no plumbing, making the ordeal of going to the bathroom quite unpleasant. Terry was a first born, followed by a sister, and then a brother, born in 1950. In 1951, the Gilliams moved to California. There Terry went to Birmingham High School. Due to the ludicrously low standards at the school, Gilliam was able to consistently achieve straight As. Even with the work needed to be put into getting straight As, he still lettered in pole-vaulting, became president of the student body, King of the Senior Prom, and was chosen as the student most likely to succeed.
Terry Gilliam is one of the most exceptional Pythons for one main reason: he's an American, the only one of the predominantly British cast. His different takes on humor bring yet another unique craziness to Monty Python.

Terry Gilliam was born on November 22, 1940 in Medicine Lake, Minnesota. His father worked as a door-to-door salesman but then quit to work as a carpenter. The Gilliams lived in a marshy area with no plumbing, making the ordeal of going to the bathroom quite unpleasant. Terry was a first born, followed by a sister, and then a brother, born in 1950.

In 1951, the Gilliams moved to California. There Terry went to Birmingham High School. Due to the ludicrously low standards at the school, Gilliam was able to consistently achieve straight As. Even with the work needed to be put into getting straight As, he still lettered in pole-vaulting, became president of the student body, King of the Senior Prom, and was chosen as the student most likely to succeed.

Terry graduated high school and moved on to Occidental College, where he decided to major in physics. Having developed his art talents, he found he could pay his rent by simply drawing for people. After six weeks he switched to a fine arts major, but his professor made it exceptionally dull. He ended up majoring in political science, giving him just enough time to work on the college magazine.

Gilliam was a part of a group of jokers on campus who did everything and anything to entertain the other students. He also was in on setting up some rituals for freshmen which would affect many future generations of freshmen students at Occidental.

With all of his extracurricular interests, Gilliam barely graduated from Occidental. He had begun to send some of his cartoon samples to a magazine in New York called Help! A vacancy in the magazine's editorial staff opened up and he decided to fill it. He worked there for three or four years. It was in New York that he met John Cleese, who was performing in New York with the Cambridge Circus. Cleese also modeled for him for a comic strip.

The draft was sweeping the country and Gilliam enrolled in the National Guard to avoid it, but to no avail. He was forced to report to basic training in Fort Dix, NJ. He worked on the camp newspaper for the few months he spent in the camp. After he was released, he decided to leave New York and to search for new opportunities in Europe. He made his way around Europe, looking for work as he went. When he ran out of money, he was forced to work in Paris for Pilote magazine.

Gilliam returned to New York to dwell upon whether or not to stay in the United States. He travelled to Los Angeles to work as a freelance illustrator and in an advertising agency. But he did not enjoy office life, and was fired before he turned in his resignation. At the time, he was living with a British journalist, Glenys Roberts, who persuaded him to go to London.

In London he worked for many magazines, but to no avail. He couldn't get anywhere. Gilliam decided to call up John Cleese and see whether he could get in Television. Cleese pointed him toward a guy named Humphrey Barclay who found some cartooning work for him. Gilliam met Eric Idle and Michael Palin while doing some animations for the TV Show Do Not Adjust Your Set. Soon after the show came the formation of Monty Python.

The advantage that Terry Gilliam had within Monty Python is that none of his work was submitted for group approval, as sketches were. He could basically do what he wanted to unless there was a context he needed to put his animation into, which wasn't too often.

After filming And Now For Something Completely Different, the Pythons assigned Gilliam and Jones to co-direct their film, which resulted in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Gilliam found it less satisfactory than Jones. Jones directed The Life of Brian himself, with Gilliam doing Production Design. Meanwhile, Gilliam directed his first film, Jabberwocky, starring Michael Palin. He next directed Time Bandits, which was a huge success. When it came time to film The Meaning of Life, Terry Jones directed the main part of the film, while Gilliam was given the "other unit".

Gilliam's next film, Brazil, was a very dark film set in a controlled futuristic society. It was very funny and powerful, but it was very pessimistic. It was not shown in the US on the grounds that it was too long. Gilliam re-edited and submitted a 130 minute version, but they still wouldn't show it, partly because of its bleakness and pessimism. When it was finally released, it was unsupported by advertising and failed at the box office.

Gilliam was married to Maggie Weston (make-up girl on Monty Python), in 1973. They have three children: Harry, Amy, and Holly, and live in Highgate Heights in Britain.
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Terry Gilliam's Scores

  • Movies
Average career score: 63
Highest Metascore: 90 Monty Python and the Holy Grail (re-release)
Lowest Metascore: 26 Tideland
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 18
  2. Negative: 1 out of 18
18 movie reviews
Title: Year: Credit: User score:
tbd Jupiter Ascending Feb 6, 2015 Cast tbd
50 The Zero Theorem Sep 19, 2014 Director 7.1
56 For No Good Reason Apr 25, 2014 Himself / Himself 10
45 A Liar's Autobiography - The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman Nov 2, 2012 Various 7.5
68 Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) Sep 10, 2010 Himself 8.5
65 The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Dec 25, 2009 Director / Producer / Writer / Written By 6.6
66 The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes Nov 17, 2006 Executive Producer 5.4
26 Tideland Oct 13, 2006 Director / Screenplay 6.4
51 The Brothers Grimm Aug 26, 2005 Director 6.0
75 Life of Brian (re-release) Apr 30, 2004 Written By / Man Even Further Forward/Revolutionary/Jailer/Blood & Thunder Prophet/Frank/Audience Member/Crucifee 7.9
82 Concert for George Oct 3, 2003 Himself/Barber/Mountie 8.6
74 Lost in La Mancha Jan 31, 2003 Himself - Writer & Director 7.5
61 Jabberwocky (re-release) Sep 28, 2001 Director / Screenplay / Man With Rock 6.8
90 Monty Python and the Holy Grail (re-release) Jun 15, 2001 Director / Written By / Patsy/Green Knight/Old Man From Scene 24 (Bridgekeeper)/Sir Bors/Animator/Gorrilla Hand 9.0
41 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas May 22, 1998 Director / Screenplay 7.6
74 Twelve Monkeys Jan 5, 1996 Director 8.2
61 The Fisher King Sep 20, 1991 Director 8.4
69 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Mar 10, 1989 Director / Screenplay 8.3
88 Brazil Dec 18, 1985 Director / Screenplay 8.2