Terry Gilliam Terrified A Young Sarah Polley With His Chaotic Use Of Explosives

In a long e-mail, Sarah Polley described to Terry Gilliam that she mostly remembers being sick and afraid during the shooting of “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” She had good memories of Gilliam as a person but had also come to realize that neither he nor her parents really had her safety and emotional well-being in mind. Polley was careful not to sound accusatory, but, knowing that Gilliam was about to work with another young actress again, to film under different circumstances. Notably, to keep kids away from actual bombs, and to warm the water actors swim in to prevent illnesses. The entire e-mail can be found printed in the Guardian, as can Gilliam’s response. 

Gilliam’s response was measured and apologetic. He admitted he didn’t understand how scared she was, recalling only her enthusiasm. He apologized for the boat bomb incident. He also asked to clarify which shots she meant. Polley, after all, had a double, and Gilliam wants to parse out who was whom. 

It all seemed well and good until she met Gilliam in person some years later. They talked about “Tideland,” and she initially recalled that the film’s star was treated well … before Gilliam joked about her working overtime for free. He also made a crack about Polley’s scars which confused her. She understood that Gilliam was, once again, not paying close attention. 

Later on, after Polley’s story was printed, she met with Richard Conway, the special effects coordinator on “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” Conway apologized profusely for what Polley experienced, explaining that “A lot of things went wrong.” It was Conway who remembered Polley’s legitimate terror. 

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