Though it was delayed midway through filming by the death of star Heath Ledger and rejiggered with a trio of “replacement” actors to limn Ledger’s character in fantasy sequences, Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” was always intended to be a dual-faceted work — right down to the craft levels, with sets split between London and Vancouver representing modern-day settings and through-the-looking-glass dreamworlds, respectively.Mavens of magic
After the lensing of exteriors in London was complete, Ledger’s passing brought a halt to production just prior to shooting on the film’s Vancouver stages. Nevertheless, production designer Anastasia Masaro (nominated for an Oscar together with Dave Warren and set decorator Caroline Smith) notes that the film’s sudden thesping changes required little adjustment on her part: “Ideas for the Imaginarium scenes were already present in Parnassus’ den in the London sets. The basic tenets were there.”
Costume designer Monique Prudhomme, also enjoying her first Oscar nom, admits she was somewhat intimidated by the notion of working with the director, whose elaborate, hallucinatory visuals in films like “Time Bandits” and “Brazil” reflect a deeply idiosyncratic visual sense.
“(Gilliam) is open to everything as long as you keep him interested,” she says. “But for every two ideas you have, he has 200. The challenge for me as a designer was that, even when you’re doing a sci-fi or a fantasy film, you usually still work inside the box. But this one was everywhere, a mix of different periods.”