Fever dream

The adolescent fantasy Heavenly Creatures is the best film Terry Gilliam never made

He disputes the theory advanced by fans of his earlier films that Heavenly Creatures represents a bid for mainstream respectability. As punctuation, he issues a standing invitation to any filmmaker reading this piece to please make a gorier, more outlandish undead epic than Dead Alive. "I've read some critics who said there needn't be any more zombie pictures after mine, and I certainly hope no one else feels that way. I love the form too much to think somebody out there won't have the urge to top it."

For now, he says he has no plans to move to Hollywood. He likes working in New Zealand, where he can get large government grants to beef up his budgets, and where there's no puritan rating system to influence his style or choice of subject matter.

"It's very comfortable back home," he says. "There's a sense of being cut off from things, of being able to concentrate on your work without the kind of distractions a place like Los Angeles can bring. Each time one of my movies comes out, I get offers to move to the United States and direct a big-budget horror movie or fantasy picture...but because the jobs would require me to superimpose my sensibility on somebody else's material, I never actually go through with them. I like being my own person and telling my own stories."

"I know this is probably going to sound terribly self-centered and selfish," he says, "but I never put much thought into what audiences are going to think of my movies. Really, if the next movie I made were seen by no one but me and my friends, I'd accept that. I ultimately make movies only for myself. If other people get something out of them, if they provoke thought or some kind of emotional reaction, that's very nice, but it's not why I do what I do. I do what I do because I have these visions and I have to bring them to life."

Heavenly Creatures. Miramax. Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet. Script by Peter Jackson and Frances Walsh. Directed by Peter Jackson. Opens December 2.

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