Throughout the movie’s development, what were some ideas that never went away?

The relationship basically of a modern man in advertising was always there in the Johnny Depp version. And the difference was, he was more like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, where he got knocked on the head and he ended up in the 17th century. I just thought that’s a bit tired, and also, it’s much more expensive when you gotta be true to the 17th century. It seemed a better idea to keep it contemporary, where if planes flew over, we didn’t need money to get rid of them, and that was the way it developed out of just sheer pragmatism.

Then we’d always been struggling to find a good Dulcinea character that would work, and the idea of him being a younger film director and meeting this village girl, probably falling in love, they both did. And she ends up going off to be an actress, fails at that, and gets into the escort business, is basically a kept woman by a Russian oligarch seemed to give us a nice Dulcinea that echoed Cervantes’ original one, who was basically a peasant girl, but she would put out for anybody, basically.

You’ve always been good at stretching a dollar and creating a large sense of scale. How do you do it? What are your tricks?

Desperation is the trick. The main one is desperation because I can’t get the money to do what really is floating around in my head, so we have to constantly invent. What that produces is nice surprises, because it isn’t … I would just build it if I didn’t have these restrictions, and it would be just more like every other film, but by being trapped in a small budget, you’ve gotta be clever and those kinds of restrictions seem to get my mind working better than when I get handed a lot of money to do exactly what I want to do. I think the main thing is to keep me from doing exactly what I want them to do, and that’s what low budgets do.

Have you always felt that way?

I discovered along the way, and at the time when it’s happening, I’m screaming at the gods and threatening death, destruction. But when it’s all finished, I look back and say, “Oh, yeah, that was a really good idea, much better than my original idea, but it was forced upon me by circumstances.”

The movie’s coming out next week in the states, so what’s your relationship to the film and the story right now? Does its release feel more significant than usual?

Once a movie’s done, it’s kind of it. I’m glad to get on with my life. Hopefully, it’ll be seen by a lot of people and enjoyed, because I mean, when you live with a thing … Every movie I do, I’m probably lived with it for three years at least, sometimes four, and this one was just longer. So I think I said in some interview a year ago or something, it’s just like having a brain tumor removed so I can get on with my life, and that’s what it feels like.

How much do you see of yourself in these characters?

Well, I try not to say the truth, but I’m actually both characters. I’m both Sancho and Quixote. I mean, I think most of us have that within us. We’ve got the dreamer, or the madman, or the person who’s just an idiot, a fool. And then we’ve got the other side that keeps his feet on the ground a bit more. It’s the only way to live life, it seems to me. If you’re just pragmatist, just looking at the world as it’s presented to you, that’s a pretty dull way to live life.

Where if you can constantly try and reinvent it, to make it better, it seems like something that could fail, which each film is, I mean, a sense of failure because I didn’t quite create this wondrous world that I wanted to. I create something slightly smaller, but it’s still pretty good. It’s better than if I hadn’t attempted to do so.

I was just reading an interview with you where you talked about how darker the world has gotten the last few years, and I wondered, how much do the times ever influence your sensibilities or the stories you tell?

Well, I think everything I’ve done is my version of what I think the world is. In each film, I do so, and then realize a year later how wrong I got it, so I make another attempt at it. So it’s always trying to reflect it. But I do find the current world is becoming so tedious, so serious. Its lots its sense of humor it seems. Everyone finds it so easy to take offense. We’ve become very thin skinned, and I really hate that. I just want people to be bolder, to try to imagine a more wondrous place out there, but it doesn’t seem to be. And our leaders are not leading us up the hill to a great view.

Do you have any hope at all?

Well, it’s horrible, because I’ve now got a granddaughter, who’s two years old. She gives me more sense of what life should be than anything out there. I do worry about what the world is gonna be like when she becomes of age. We seem to be so distracted by nonsense, rather than dealing with the big problems which are facing the world. And I’m afraid that Donald is very good at reducing everything to tweets, and that’s a sad way to look at the world.

Mentioning your granddaughter, you’ve said before children and musicians tend to really connect to your work the most. Why do you think that is? When did you first notice?

Yeah, I think it started happening with Jabberwocky, which is the first one I did on my own, and Time Bandits because it’s adults … Adults, by the time they become adults, they’ve accepted so much of the reality of the world and they try to structure everything. I remember with both Jabberwocky and Time Bandits, the adults were frightened watching the film, because it was leaping around, moving through time and space, and they couldn’t keep up with it. They wanted to effectively be given road signs as to where we’re going next, but kids just went with it. They were free.

Even with Quixote, we know that there’s a lot of people that just do not get what I’ve just done. But at a screening at a festival, there’s this 10-year-old kid, who happened to be with his parents at dinner afterward with us, and he could describe everything in the film. He just got the whole thing, and I thought, “That’s what it’s about. Keeping your mind open and willing to just go for the ride and enjoy it rather than try to structure it, define it, limit it.” That’s what I think is the problem with adulthood [Laughs].

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