In the trailer that was released last week, we get a glimpse of the last work of an actor who died way too young and with so much potential for greatness. It’s a fantastical morality tale that tells the story of a leader of a traveling troupe, Dr Parnassus, who has an extraordinary gift of guiding people’s imagination through a magical mirror. But Dr Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret after having made a deal with the devil Mr Nick a second time, this time to trade his immortality for youth. That ‘deal’ comes at a hefty price: any souls that reach the age of 16, including Parnassus’ own daughter, would become the property of Mr Nick. As Valentina rapidly approaches her 16th birthday, the doctor becomes desperate to protect her daughter from her impending fate. Enter a mysterious outsider Tony, who ends up embarking through parallel worlds of surreal obstacles to rescue Valentina, the girl he loves. He and Dr Parnassus must fight to undo the doctor’s past sins, once and for all.
British thespian Christopher Plummer (who’s always & forever Capt. Von Trapp to me) plays Dr Parnassus, and Heath played the role of Tony. According to MTV news, Heath has completed about 45 percent of the shoot for the film in London in early December 2007. By mid-January, after Ledger had filmed an eerie scene in which his character hangs by his neck off Blackfriars Bridge, production broke for a week, as planned, with the intention to resume the shoot in Vancouver. Heath died merely days later of accidental overdose. Originally director Terry Gilliam rejected the idea of recasting Heath’s role. “He finished almost everything on this side of the mirror,” Gilliam said. “What he didn’t do was what was on the other side of the mirror.” But upon the insistence of the producers of the film, he ended up having to find other actors to portray Tony once he travels through the mirror, and Gilliam called some of Ledger’s friends to see if they’d join the cast. That’s how Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law found their way into this movie. On a side note, the three replacement actors donated their paychecks to Matilda, Ledger’s three-year-old daughter, which is very cool of them to do so.
The movie was screened at Cannes to mixed reviews, and it will premiere for North American audiences at the Toronto Film Festival in less than a month. It’ll no doubt be gaining attention the fact that it’s Heath’s final film. But the trailer itself looks fascinating, it’s weirdly surreal-looking brimming with psychedelic imagination and circus-like vibe, which is expected from the director of Monty Phyton and the Holy Grail. Besides Ledger who’s perfect as Tony, it’s always fun to see Johnny Depp in yet another one of his seemingly endless fantastical roles (as he’s just last seen as Madhatter in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland). “Nothing is permanent, not even death,” Depp as Tony says towards the end. Alas, in the transient world we live in, it is indeed permanent, but once The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is released on October 16, it’ll be great to see Ledger come alive again on screen.