The Johnny Depp Movie That Crashed And Burned While He Was Making It

Johnny Depp has been in many iconic films, but one of his most iconic roles happens to be part of a production that completely crashed and burned.

By James Brizuela | Published

johnny depp

It would be hard to believe that any film that had Johnny Depp attached to it would be a failure by every measure. That was certainly the case for a film entitled, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. The film was based on the famous 1800s novel, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. The director and writer for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was Terry Gilliam, who had one of the longest journeys of any filmmaker in cinema history.

Terry Gilliam reportedly began to write the film in 1989, before finally securing funding and entering pre-production for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in 1998. Johnny Depp was cast as Toby Grummett and Jean Rochefort was cast as Quixote. However, several issues with the production sent the film into production hell. Some of the equipment that was meant to be used had been damaged while flooding, Rochefort then fell ill and left the production, and there were issues securing insurance for the production. All this led to the ultimate cancelation of the film. The subject of this disaster was then turned into a documentary called Lost in La Mancha, which was independently released in 2002.

Part of the reason that the film lost its legs, might have been due to the odd story. Though The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was based on the Don Quixote novel, it involved the character known as Toby Grummett, which was first inhabited by Johnny Depp. Toby is a 21st-century filmmaker who made The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as a student film, which is discovered by him 10 years later. He is currently working on another film and realizes the location where he shot The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is close by. Toby visits the area when he runs into a cobbler named Javier, who believes himself to be the real Don Quixote, and who coincidentally believes that Toby is his squire Sancho Panza. Toby is arrested after the set of his current movie catches fire, and he is seen fleeing the scene on a motorbike. Toby is arrested but is soon released when Javier intervenes and stops the cops, leading to one of the cops being shot. Javier then supplies Toby with a donkey and clothes from the set of the film, making him look exactly like Sancho Panza. The pair set off for more adventures together.

Though this story seemed odd, Terry Gilliam has determined to make the film. The initial attempt was a complete failure, with both Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort exiting the production. Production was attempted many times again between 2003 and 2016, with many actors inhabiting the role of Toby Grummett. Depp had been asked to return but his busy schedule and disinterest in the project led to him staying out of it. The huge list of actors that had been cast in the Toby role included Robin Williams, Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, and Jack O’Connell. Though the film seemed to be stuck in limbo, it had been announced that Adam Driver was cast in the role of Toby in 2016. He also helped to fund the movie when no one else would. Johnathan Pryce would be cast as Don Quixote. Gilliam had announced that shooting for the film had finally concluded in 2017, some 17 years after it was reported to have started.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was eventually released in May of 2018 and served as the closing film of Cannes. It was also released in theaters in France. Taylor Gilliam had issues with releasing the film worldwide because of issues with former producer Paulo Blanco. The film was initially released in Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. It eventually premiered in the U.S. and Canada in 2019 and the UK and Ireland in 2020. Adam Driver had taken on the role of Toby, with Johnny Depp’s version now long gone.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is currently free to stream on Tubi and PlutoTV and rentable on Amazon Prime Video and other streamers. Though it is likely a much different film than when Johnny Depp was involved, it might be worth the watch simply because of how long it took to get this film made. To see how Depp was involved, watch Lost in La Mancha, which can be rented on AppleTV.