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"I think the Grand Central Station waltz sequence in Fisher King is as good as anything I've done.  Being my only really contemporary film, that's an amazing way of expressing what fantasy can be." -- Terry Gilliam

For several years, a waltz was held in the Grand Central Terminal in New York on New Year's Eve.  This was inspired by the classic scene in The Fisher King, which is your humble webmaster's favourite cinematic moment.  Here follows a selection of movie stills from the wondrously magical "Grand Central Waltz" sequence, and an interview where Terry Gilliam describes how chaotic it was to film:

waltz 1

The commuters arrive...


waltz 2

Quite a diverse crowd.


waltz 3

Almost time for Cinder--er, Lydia to arrive.


waltz 4

Parry anxiously waits for his damsel.


waltz 5

Lydia is spotted.


waltz 6

Parry is euphoric.


waltz 7

Parry follows.


waltz 8

So close, yet so far.


waltz 9

Lydia waltz's through the waltzers.


waltz 10

Terminal dancing.


waltz 11

A grand spectacle in Grand Central.


waltz 12

Odd couples.


waltz 13

The fairy tale will soon end.


waltz 14

Still in pursuit.


waltz 15

Grand Central Waltz.


waltz 16

Thoroughly enchanted.


waltz 17

Lydia disappears.


Terry Gilliam Speaks About Filming the Grand Central Waltz Sequence:

(IFC Focus interview, 2002)

TG:  The waltz wasn't in the script.  What's interesting in the script, is that Richard LaGravenese who wrote the script, I mean the sequence was basically the Jeff Bridges character and Robin being in Grand Central, and Jeff had a strange kind of epiphany.  There was this poor woman who began singing, and this beautiful voice floated through the thing, and commuters rushing past stopped and listened to her.  It was a very simple thing--and that's what was written.  And I was trying very hard, because it was the first film I'd done that I hadn't written or co-written, and so I felt terribly respectful of Richard's work, and almost intimidated by it.  Because it's kinda like raising someone else's child.  He gave birth to this thing, and I was terrified that I was gonna become this foster parent that abused the child somehow in the process.  And so I had Richard with me all the time, I would check with him before I decided to do something.  But we were all in Grand Central Station, and I just wanted to get a sense of the place, standing there watching the people buzzing and rushing from the trains, and just this rhythm started building up in my head.  Suddenly it burst like *that*, and suddenly I could hear a waltz, and everybody stopping--as they pass somebody looking and falling in love and waltzing.  I sort've said that to everybody standing around.  "Oh, wow, that would be wonderful" [they said], but we aren't going to do that, because that would be a Terry Gilliam film, and I'm trying to make a Richard LaGravenese film.  And then they forced me to do it (laughter). 

Moderator:  And you did that pretty quickly too, didn't you?  And wasn't that really a fast sequence to shoot?

TG:  Yea, we had one night in there, and that was it.  We were supposed to be out of there at five in the morning before the first commuter trains started coming in.  We didn't really get going until eleven o'clock.  Then we had total access.  And we had all these extras, which we'd specifically asked to get these people from dance schools, so they knew how to waltz.  And they all arrive, a thousand people, and we've got about twelve different choreographers to help organize the whole thing, and we get there and realize that none of them can dance the waltz.  So we then spend the next several hours as the world's biggest dance school in grand central station!  One, two,, two,, two, three.  We had the sound system that we thought would work beautifully in there, but unfortunately the acoustics in grand central station, when we'd played Strauss, it just went *imitates distorted sound*.  And so we had the dance school running until about three or four in the morning, and the first AD (assistant director) was not happy, he wanted to get it better.  At a certain point I just said "we just gotta shoot, we just gotta go, we're running out of time".  So we threw all these people in there.  And because the sound wasn't working, we had the main choreographer with a big bullhorn going "one, two, three" and they danced.  We did a few takes, we ran around, threw Robin in...Amanda in...Amanda walks through, Robin was just madness for a couple hours, and we got it.  We didn't quite get it, because the trains did arrive, and people were coming out of the trains.  And the PR lady from Grand Central says "you've gotta be outta here, you'd promised you would be outta here"...and literally I was just throwing Robin into the middle of these commuters walking through, and there weren't enough so I'd get members of the crew.  "Keep walking back and forth!  Robin look left, look right, look up, look down, look lost, do anything!"  And that's how we did it, and we got out of there...Barbara Streisand came in a few months later, and shot one one shot of her walking through and it took a week.  But she got it right, that was the important thing (laughter).

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