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
  • TV
Average career score: 62
Highest Metascore: 93 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Lowest Metascore: 26 Tideland
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 21
  2. Negative: 2 out of 21
21 movie reviews
Title: Year: Credit: User score:
31 Absolutely Anything May 12, 2017 Extraterrestrial / Nasty Alien 6.5
26 Tideland Oct 13, 2006 Director / Screenplay 6.6