Here's what he had to say
What was your starting point?
TG: God came to me at night and said “do this or die.” When you've got a god that wants to watch movies and is bored with the shit that's being produced these days, he gets angry. He forced me to do it and it was as simple as that, and how simple it can be. He's a god that I don't even believe in, which is even more extraordinary.
You're going to get one of these interviews that won't be like any of the others (laughs). You can check the answers on the other interviews.
tV: This is exactly what I'm looking for (laughs)! So perhaps I should ask you then what inspires you? What gets you to decide, “I'm going to make another movie.”
TG: When people offer me large sums of money. I get very inspired. I realize life is worth living again. Unfortunately nobody offered me large sums of money on this, so I had to take a lot of drugs... aspirin mainly(laughs).
tV: (laughs) How do you see this film in context with your earlier work?
TG: It's kind of the best of everything... except for the films that weren't so good (laughs). We wanted to make something that was like a compendium film. There's a little bit of everything in there.
I would say it links in with Time Bandits and Munchausen most, mainly because both those films have little theatres in them (laughs). That's the connecting link.
Also, I think all of those leapt around in time and space, and within The Imaginarium, you leap through many different worlds each time you go through. It fits with those most of all I think.
tV: I'm curious as to how you came to choose Johnny, Colin, and Jude, why you chose three people to replace one person.
TG: Well there was no way any one person was going to be able to replace Heath in my books so that was ruled out. It was obvious very quickly that his character goes through the mirror three times, so three might be the magic number.
The father, son, and the holy ghost were not available so I had to get these other guys.
I went straight to the top. Here's a guy that pushed me into making this movie so, “get to work” but they were not available. Neither the father, nor the son, nor the holy ghost. I don't know where the son was working, probably down in Texas, he spends a lot of time down there in perceived angelical living (laughs).
tV: It's no fair making me laugh
TG: It is fair, come on (laughs). It's making me laugh. I'm especially awake here. I've been doing this for years now, these interviews. Not this specific one but... I've talked about the same piece of shit films (laughs).
tV: Can you tell us, besides the tragedy of losing Heath, what the most challenging part about making the film was?
TG: It was trying to get my head around the fact that we could actually finish the film; actually make it. That was the hard part. I mean everything else was just what you do. It's difficult.
In Vancouver I think we were there for five weeks doing all the special effects, all the Imaginarium stuff. It's blue screen work...
It was very tricky, once we started up again, to mesh all the different schedules of Johnny, Colin, Jude, and the film schedule. That was a nightmare because we had limited stage space, and depending on who was available we had to wheel a set outside, replace it with something else, and then the next day try to bring the other set back in. The puzzle of shooting within all these different schedules was nightmare-ish. Other than that it was kind of straight forward.
The hardest part was getting the money and that always is the hardest part. In the end we made this thing with no American money. This is the Queen's film. No cheap American money.
That's why I've got to thank Canada and the UK, because it's a Canada/UK co-production with a few other foreign people; Japanese people, French people, and Germans giving us the rest of the money.
The Americans didn't touch it.
tV: Was there any particular Canadian actor or crew member who stood out for you. Who impressed you in some way?
TG: That's an easy one. Chris Plummer. He's Canadian. That's the only reason I hired him, not because he's a good actor. Cheap Canadian labour (laughs).
TG: Chris is brilliant. And a lot of people don't actually know he's Canadian, which I find extraordinary, but he is. He's the centrepiece of the whole movie. He just holds the whole thing together.
I loved partnering him with various other actors. It's a double act between him and Tom Waits, a double act between him and Lily Cole, who really had no acting experience, and a double act between him and Verne Troyer, the smallest man in show biz these days. Chris just holds the whole thing together.
tV: He definitely is fantastic. What about any of the Canadians who played more minor roles who you cast here in Vancouver?
TG: Well there were the dancing policemen (laughs). I mean men who could wear fishnet tights and still sing and dance like men. That's a very important thing. I can't remember any individual names. Of course there were the little girls and little boys who were in there.
It's really weird, I'm so bad with names. Even on the days we were shooting with good Canadian actors I wouldn't know who I was talking to half the time. I kept my call sheet with me. It's a personal medical problem called nominal aphasia.
tV: It's not easy to recall such a huge cast and crew though.
TG: The crew was fantastic. Monique Prudomme who did the costumes was brilliant, Anastasia Masaro the production designer was fantastic. It was a great crew. The other tragedy though was the Canadian producer Bill Vince. He was suffering from pretty brutal cancer and he managed to keep going until a couple of days after the last bit of film went through the camera and then died. Without Bill well... he was the one who kept this thing going. Absolutely extraordinary.
The Canadian aspect is absolutely essential to this movie. It's the second movie I've done in Canada and I love working here.
tV: Can I touch briefly on Heath's scene with Lily. This is purely gratuitous on my part but it was absolutely...
TG: The one where he kisses her.
tV: yah, where he attempts to kiss her. That seduction scene was absolutely breathtakingly hot.
TG: Good! (laughs)
tV: I'm wondering how many takes you have and if you'd consider sending me a copy (laughs)
TG: (laughs) it's very funny because Heath had just come back from Australia, because we'd had a break for Christmas, and he got there and just lifted the whole spirit “let's go to work.” It was a miserable, cold, rotten day in London, grisly and all and this energy arrived on the set.
He was wonderful with Lily. All through the shoot he really kept lifting her performance. He actually drew it out of her, and that particular day all of his seductive powers were fired and yah it's great, it's a good one. He's slowly, slowly just drawing her in and the poor girl doesn't have a chance.
tV: Can you tell me what excites you and what limits you?
TG: Oh god, I don't know. I kind of trying to limit the excitement factor at my age (laughs). The problem is that everything excites me. That's the real problem. I'm very greedy for excitement so I just find things everywhere. What excites me is seeing people do good work.
One of the great things on this film was just watching all the wonderful acting going on because they bring life to these characters that I've been thinking about for a long time.
I'd probably got the characters up to about two and a half dimensions and they bring them to three and that is the joy, because filmmaking is very repetitive and it's quite slow and when the actors are firing it's just great and I just think wow, it's worth everything.
What limits me is my imagination. It's just not good enough. I can't imagine I'm going to get money for the next project (laughs). That's my problem.
tV: What was the most positive, memorable thing that happened during the project?
TG: A tragedy like that, and then to have three great actors step up, walk in, with no rehearsal, take over, do their bit, and give the money to Heath's daughter. That's memorable!
That has never happened before in the history of motion pictures I believe, and that's what's absolutely wonderful and magical about this whole experience.