We double-took over those reports that Columbia Pictures was going to have a stake in Terry Gilliam’s $25-million fantasy, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” what with studio head David Puttnam’s pronouncements that he wants to keep his budgets down. And isn’t Gilliam known as the guy who took on a studio (Universal) and its chief (Sid Sheinberg) in order to get his film (“Brazil”) made his way (for a reported $15 million)?

So when the Hollywood Reporter announced (front page) that Columbia was securing world rights to the film, to shoot in Italy in July, we got on the phone.

We found some crossed wires: That is, Puttnam denied that Columbia is committed to backing the picture: “Like any studio in town, we would certainly consider the project. Just like we’d consider any viable film project.”

According to another source, Columbia had planned to work with Gilliam. But the supposedly premature announcement about the studio’s involvement--made prior to Puttnam’s upcoming announcement of his slate of films--may have forced a withdrawal, because “the Coca-Cola people” hadn’t given the project their stamp of approval, said the source.


We couldn’t reach Gilliam in London for a comment. But a high-ranking Columbia source labeled the Reporter account “deeply inaccurate” and said that while the hefty budget would be a negative for the studio, Gilliam--and his reputation--would not.

“The idea that someone who fought for something he felt strongly about would be castigated (by the studios) is akin to an old Hollywood witchhunt. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen anymore,” the source said. “A brilliant film maker will always work again.”