Terry Gilliam’s 1981 film Time Bandits is one of my favorite fantasy films. I loved that movie! I watched it all the time. It was so different, unique, and crazy from any other film that was watching as a kid. It was such a wild and ridiculously adventurous story, and I loved the fact that it revolved around a young kid who embarked on this perilous journey. I also just loved all of the other characters in the story that were introduced.
It wasn’t until later as a teenager that I was introduced to the Monty Python comedy troupe and my mind was blown when I learned that Gilliam was the guy behind Time Bandits. It was also cool to learn at the time that formers Beatles musician George Harrison was a producer. You don’t really care about this stuff when you’re a kid, but when you learn these things as you get older, it makes the things you love about the film we grew up on a little more special.
I attempted to show Time Bandits to my kids, but it was just too much for them. They just weren’t ready for that kind of awesomeness. I got a lot of weird looks from them!
Anyway, I thought it’d be fun to dig into some Time Bandits trivia, and thanks to IMDB, I’ve made a list of 25 fun facts about the film that you may or may not have known. I’ve also included a couple of original trailers and behind-the-scenes videos.
In the original script, King Agamemnon was introduced as: “The warrior took off his helmet, revealing someone that looks exactly like Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature.” To Writer, Producer, and Director Terry Gilliam‘s surprise, the script ended up in Connery’s hands. He expressed interest in the part, and his agent approached them for the role.
Sir Sean Connery suggested that he appear as one of the firefighters near the end of the movie. It was also his idea for Agamemnon to do magic tricks for Kevin.
In his book “Monty Python: The Case Against Irreverence, Scurrility, Profanity, Vilification, and Licentious Abuse”, Robert Hewison described the dwarves as a commentary on the Monty Python troupe. Fidgit, the nice one, is said to represent Sir Michael Palin. Randall, the self-appointed leader, represents John Cleese. Strutter, the acerbic one, represents Eric Idle. Og, the quiet one, represents Graham Chapman. Wally, the noisy rebel, represents Terry Jones. Vermin, the nasty, filth-loving one, represents Terry Gilliam.
While filming the sequence in Sherwood Forest, in which the Time Bandits inadvertently crash into Vincent (Sir Michael Palin) and Pansy’s (Shelley Duvall‘s) carriage, Gilliam had scaffolding built for the actors to jump off. When directing the scene, Gilliam instructed them to jump in such a way as to land around Palin and Duvall without actually falling on them. To better illustrate what he meant, Gilliam climbed to the top of the scaffolding and jumped off, landing directly on top of Duvall.
According to Terry Gilliam, David Rappaport believed he got his part for his acting ability alone, without size being a contributing factor. As a result, he didn’t socialize with his co-stars. During the Invisible Barrier scene, when the other bandits retaliate against Randall, the actors were expressing their frustrations with Rappaport.
In 1996, Gilliam and Charles McKeown collaborated on a script for Time Bandits 2, bringing back most of the original cast, except David Rappaport and Tiny Ross, who had died a few years earlier. Jack Purvis had been paralyzed in a car accident, so his character was written to be in a similar state. When Purvis died, the project was shelved indefinitely.
No studio wanted to make this movie, so Executive Producers George Harrison and Denis O’Brien mortgaged their office building in Cadogan Square to raise the five million dollars to make it.
Harrison was frustrated with Gilliam’s stubbornness, as evident by the lyrics to Harrison’s song “Dream Away”. Harrison even once told Gilliam he reminded him of John Lennon, because he was so difficult and “bolshie”. It was the thing that Gilliam was most proud of that Harrison ever said to him.
The cowboys, Greek archers, tank, spaceship (Micronauts Mobile Exploration Lab), and all of the attackers that fight Evil Genius (David Warner) at the end were the counterparts of the same toys seen in Kevin’s (Craig Warnock’s) room. In some shots, as Kevin runs through Evil Genius’ fortress, giant “Lego” blocks can clearly seen as part of the fortress. Keven also mentioned to his parents that the Greeks had to learn forty-four styles of hand-to-hand combat.
Gilliam laughed so hard while shooting the table scene with Sir Ian Holm as Napoleon Bonaparte, that he had to leave the set, to avoid ruining any takes of said scene.
Gilliam shot this movie in low camera angles throughout, to give the audience the perspective of a dwarf or a child.
On his first day of filming, Craig Warnock was reportedly so overwhelmed at meeting Connery, that their close-ups had to be shot separately, until the boy had adjusted to the veteran actor’s presence, reportedly at Connery’s own suggestion. In his part of the audio commentary, Warnock says he remembers Connery being “very friendly, and down to Earth”, and joked that the scene where he rode off into the desert with Connery on horseback, probably made more women jealous than kids.
In the published screenplay, there are several black-and-white stills from scenes that do not appear in the final cut. These include the “spider women” sequence and Agamemnon giving Kevin a knife (this is later used when Og takes it from Kevin’s satchel to unlock their cage). Other deleted scenes included Kevin waking up at night to find his bedroom flooded with water, and a pirate ship sailing through his window, and the bandits trying to rob a bank in twenty-second century London. Gilliam stated at the 2011 Bradford Film Festival in the U.K., that he believes that all of the cut footage is lost.
Gilliam first came up with the idea in 1979. He had wanted to do an entire movie from a kid’s point of view. The only problem was he felt he needed to give the protagonist child a group of people of similar height to surround him, because a kid couldn’t carry an entire movie. He combined those thoughts with the concept of committing crimes while time travelling, making it possible to get away with the thievery, because it had not happened yet.
It took several weeks to train the horse to jump out of the closet.
Evil Genius’ apparatus on his head was influenced by H.R. Giger‘s work on Alien, which also featured Sir Ian Holm. Coincidentally, one of Evil Genius’ lines is “And the day after tomorrow”. Sir Ian Holm appeared in The Day After Tomorrow.
The opening credits take the unique approach of listing the celebrity cameos first, in alphabetical order.
Holm’s was forty-nine when he played twenty-six-year-old Napoleon Bonaparte.
Only one set was built for the scenes on the Titanic. All the shots of the Titanic outside of this set were stock footage.
Disney was initially considered to distribute this movie, before Avco Embassy picked it up.
The bandits were written as dwarves, so that audiences would accept Kevin as their equal.
Kenny Baker baker played R2-D2 in the Star Wars film and all of the other Bandits appeared in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.
Terry Gilliam was not happy at the inclusion of the ‘Dream Away’ song during the end credits as he wanted to make the film without including any music beyond the traditional film soundtrack score. However as George Harrison, who wrote and performed the song, was the films executive producer, he reminded Gilliam that without his help neither this film, nor the Monty Python film ‘The Life of Brian’ made two years earlier would have happened without his help. Gilliam was forced to concede and allowed one original song of Harrisons onto the soundtrack.
Executive Producer Denis O’Brien was against the ending of Kevin’s parents blowing up, and Gilliam had to fight to keep it in the movie. O’Brien was only convinced that the violent ending could stay, after an advance screening of the movie was held for an audience full of children. The first child who was asked what his favorite moment of the movie was, excitedly proclaimed, “The parents being blown up!”
Kevin’s parents’ demise at the end of the movie is their comeuppance. Kevin’s parents, who are uncaring and neglectful, died because they ignored Kevin and didn’t listen to him about the toaster oven. If they had listened to him, they would still be alive.