I interviewed legendary director and comedy hero Terry Gilliam for The Skinny
The Zero Theorem, the new film from Terry Gilliam, the legendary director of Brazil, Time Bandits and 12 Monkeys, is driven by ideas, and ideas that demand to be talked about. It centres on Qohen Leth (played by Christoph Waltz), a computer programming drone whose job is to prove that everything equals nothing, that life is ultimately meaningless. When I meet Gilliam at a Glasgow hotel ahead of the Scottish premiere of the film at the Glasgow Film Festival, I suggest my line of question should have a metaphysical bent. “Go for it,” chuckles Gilliam, “see if I can take it!” He can, and it’s with great relief that the genial director is eager to open up on some of the brain-scratching philosophies behind his film.
Nathanael Smith: The Zero Theorem is, at times, quite bleak. Bob [Lucas Hedges] tries to persuade Qohen Leth [Christoph Waltz] that everything is meaningless, that there is no such thing as a calling. Do you see yourself as a Bob figure, trying to disabuse the audience of a notion of meaning?
Terry Gilliam: No, not really. It’s sort of testing the main character is what it’s really doing. Matt Damon [playing a figure known only as Management] describes [Leth] towards the end as a man of faith. Qohen believes there is a meaning to life and that our lives make sense, and he certainly wants to believe that. Everybody else is kind of conspiring to say it’s not true, except that in the course of this Bob, the teenager, Bainsley [Mélanie Thierry] the girl, these are people that come into his life that he actually begins to care about and love. It’s about re-humanising the character, in a strange way…