Posted on Friday, September 4th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
After Heath Ledger‘s death, Terry Gilliam came up with a brilliant plan to salvage his film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: he would keep the footage he’d already shot of Ledger’s character in the movie’s ‘real world’ sequences, and cast a new actor, or as it turned out, actors, to fill out the film’s fantasy sequences. Gilliam recently revealed that one of the actors who was interested in the job was Tom Cruise. Obviously, he didn’t get the job. Why not?
Gilliam mentioned Cruise’s interest to Total Film:
I’m not sure if it was Tom or his agent (who put Cruise forward for the role). 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.
That it was Cruise’s people who put the actor’s name into the ring as a possibility isn’t a surprise, not only because that’s their job, but because the timeline for the recasting was right. Cruise needed serious image rehab, and stepping in to help Gilliam finish Heath Ledger’s last film would have been a great PR move, if the deal could be made to look like it wasn’t just a great PR move. As it turns out, his brief role in Tropic Thunder was probably a far better move when it came to regaining public interest in the wake of that crazy Scientology vid and the famous Oprah couch-jumping appearance.
I can’t help but be curious about what Cruise would have done for Imaginarium, though. I’m fascinated by the guy; there might not be a weirder major star working today. And when he’s right for the role, I genuinely like his work. (Eyes Wide Shut, for which he was perfect, and Magnolia both spring to mind.) Gilliam’s choice to go with Johnny Depp and two friends of Legder (Jude Law and Colin Farrell) was almost certainly the right one, but still I’ve got trailer voice in my head, intoning ‘in a world where Tom Cruise works with Terry Gilliam…’.
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