In the original script, King Agamemnon was introduced as: "The warrior took off his helmet, revealing someone that looks exactly like Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature." To Terry Gilliam's surprise, the script ended up in Connery's hands. He expressed interest in the part, and his agent approached them for the role.
While filming the sequence in Sherwood Forest, in which the Time Bandits inadvertently crash into Vincent and Pansy's carriage, Terry Gilliam had scaffolding built for the actors to jump off. When directing the scene, Gilliam instructed them to jump in such a way as to land around Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall without actually falling on them. To better illustrate what he meant, Gilliam climbed to the top of the scaffolding and jumped off, landing directly on top of Duvall.
Ruth Gordon was cast as Mrs. Ogre, but was injured before production. Katherine Helmond was originally slated to play the role in heavy make-up, to look like her husband, but then decided it would be funnier if Mrs. Ogre was an ordinary person. Terry Gilliam agreed.
According to Terry Gilliam, David Rappaport believed he got his part for his acting ability alone, without size being a contributing factor. As a result, he didn't socialize with his co-stars. During the Invisible Barrier scene, when the other bandits retaliate against Randall, the actors were expressing their frustrations with Rappaport.
In 1996, Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown collaborated on a script for Time Bandits 2, bringing back most of the original cast, except David Rappaport and Tiny Ross, who had died a few years earlier. Jack Purvis had been paralyzed in a car accident, so his character was written to be in a similar state. When Purvis died, the project was shelved indefinitely.
Sir Sean Connery suggested that he appear as one of the firefighters near the end of the movie.
Young Craig Warnock, who played Kevin, won the role after a wide search for the right child actor. An agent had seen Warnock's brother, and sent him to an audition. That Craig went with him was merely a coincidence. Terry Gilliam, however, took more interest in Craig, than his sibling, noting that the young man seemed rather intelligent, yet aloof and quiet, as opposed to the stereotypical "cute" little boy.
When Evil has captured the Time Bandits in the cage, he walks up the stairs. It is not David Warner but a double, because Warner suffers from vertigo.
No studio wanted to make this movie, so Executive Producers George Harrison and Denis O'Brien mortgaged their office building in Cadogan Square to raise the five million dollars to make it.
The cowboys, Greek archers, tank, spaceship (Micronauts Mobile Exploration Lab), and all of the attackers that fight Evil (David Warner) at the end, are actually the counterparts of the same toys seen in Kevin's (Craig Warnock's) room. In some shots, as Kevin runs through Evil's fortress, giant "Lego" blocks can clearly seen as part of the fortress.
Sir Ralph Richardson took his role so seriously, that he submitted his own red ink edits, complete with the message "God wouldn't say that."
According to the DVD commentary, Terry Gilliam shot the film in low camera angles throughout, to give the audience the perspective of a dwarf or a child.
On his first day of filming, Craig Warnock was reportedly so overwhelmed at meeting Sir Sean Connery, that their close-ups had to be shot separately, until the boy had adjusted to the veteran actor's presence, reportedly at Connery's own suggestion. In his part of the audio commentary, Warnock says he remembers Connery being "very friendly, and down to Earth", and joked that the scene where he rode off into the desert with Connery on horseback, probably made more women jealous than kids.
Executive Producer George Harrison was frustrated with Director Terry Gilliam's stubbornness, as evident by the lyrics to Harrison's song "Dream Away". Harrison even once told Gilliam he reminded him of John Lennon, because he was so difficult and "bolshie". It was the thing that Gilliam was most proud of that Harrison ever said to him.
Agamemnon's wife glares at him, and he sentences her three courtiers to execution. These are references to Greek mythology, in which Agamemnon and Clytemnestra hated each other, and their marriage ended in murder.
The whole notion of casting a movie with dwarves, came from Terry Gilliam's memories of growing up in the San Fernando Valley, where a circus used to roll into town each year, and local kids would find odd jobs with them.
Terry Gilliam laughed so hard while shooting the table scene with Sir Ian Holm as Napoléon, that he had to leave the set, to avoid ruining any takes of said scene.
Jonathan Pryce was offered the role of Evil, but was unavailable owing to his commitment to Loophole (1981). Pryce got the lead role in Terry Gilliam's next movie, Brazil (1985).
Michael Palin wrote the role of Robin Hood for himself, but John Cleese wanted to play him. The script said "To be played like the Duke of Kent", a reference to Edward Windsor of Kent going to football (soccer) matches and shaking hands with the players, asking them questions. Sir Sean Connery played Robin Hood in Robin and Marian (1976) (which also featured Sir Ian Holm) and had a cameo appearance in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).
In his book "Monty Python: The Case Against Irreverence, Scurrility, Profanity, Vilification, and Licentious Abuse," Robert Hewison describes the dwarves as a commentary on the Monty Python troupe. Fidgit, the nice one, is said to represent Michael Palin. Randall, the self-appointed leader, represents John Cleese. Strutter, the acerbic one, represents Eric Idle. Og, the quiet one, represents Graham Chapman. Wally, the noisy rebel, represents Terry Jones. Vermin, the nasty, filth-loving one, represents Terry Gilliam.
In the published screenplay, there are several black-and-white stills from scenes that do not appear in the final cut. These include the "spider women" sequence and Agamemnon giving Kevin a knife (this is later used when Og takes it from Kevin's satchel to unlock their cage). Other deleted scenes included Kevin waking up at night to find his bedroom flooded with water, and a pirate ship sailing through his window, and the bandits trying to rob a bank in twenty-second century London. Terry Gilliam stated at the 2011 Bradford Film Festival in the U.K., that he believes all the cut footage to be lost.
Sir Ralph Richardson came up with the idea to dispose of the pieces of Evil in the post box.
According to a passage from Terry Gilliam in the Time Bandits Screenplay Book, Horseflesh was removed from the band of dwarves, as this would have made them seven and would have infringed upon Disney copyrights. It is unknown whether or not he was being serious in that statement.
Terry Gilliam first came up with the idea in 1979. He had wanted to do an entire movie from a kid's point of view. The only problem was he felt he needed to give the protagonist child a group of people of similar height to surround him, because a kid couldn't carry an entire movie. He combined those thoughts with the concept of committing crimes while time travelling, making it possible to get away with the thievery, because it had not happened yet.
In the screenplay, when the Supreme Being chases after Kevin and the gang, He initially appeared as a "classical" depiction of God: robes, white beard, et cetera. A picture of this version of the Supreme Being appears in a published book of the screenplay, suggesting the Supreme Being scenes were filmed as written, but ultimately the "classical" depiction was replaced with the "floating head" version of the Supreme Being seen in the movie.
After the giant walks out from the sea, it steps on a hut which is the home of the butler-elephant creature from the "Find the Fish" segment of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983).
According to the novelization, Kevin's last name is Lotterby, and he's eleven years old.
Executive Producer Denis O'Brien wanted the soundtrack peppered with George Harrison songs and "High-Ho" type music reminiscent of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). In the end, only "Dream Away" appeared in the credits. The song was to originally appear on the announced Time Bandits soundtrack album. However, when that failed to materialize, and Harrison was finalizing the tracks for his Gone Troppo album, he decided to include "Dream Away". Although the Gone Troppo album was a commercial failure, "Dream Away" became a popular tune.
On the Special Edition DVD, Terry Gilliam explains why Marcus Powell is still credited as Horseflesh, even though he apparently never appears on-camera. Horseflesh is visible in one scene, standing next to David Warner as he gazes into the bowl of water to track the Time Bandits.
In Anne Rice's novel "The Queen of the Damned", Daniel (the interviewer from Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles) and vampire Armand see this movie in the theater together. Armand finds the scene in which the Time Bandits sing for Napoléon Bonaparte, in the battle-ravaged theater, so funny that he laughs uncontrollably every time he sees it, and goes back repeatedly to re-watch it.
According to his 1980 diary, Michael Palin went directly from a meeting with his son's future headmaster to another with Terry Gilliam to discuss if John Cleese was right for Evil.
Terry Gilliam came up with the idea for the ogre's ship to be a hat on top of a giant's head from a painting by Brian Froud. Also, a lot of tall men were initially considered to play the giant before wrestler Ian Muir was eventually cast in the role.
The gold masks of Agamemnon's priests are replicas of a King's deathmask, found by Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenae in 1876, now on display at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
This was the only movie that Terry Gilliam made for HandMade Films, due to numerous clashes with Executive Producer Denis O'Brien.
Derrick O'Connor came up with the idea to make the bulk of his dialogue unintelligible.
Evil's apparatus on his head was influenced by H.R. Giger's work on Alien (1979), which also featured Sir Ian Holm. Coincidentally, one of Evil's lines is "And the day after tomorrow". Sir Ian Holm appeared in The Day After Tomorrow (2004).
Terry Gilliam hadn't directed in four years. On his first day back behind the camera, he was on top of a mountain in Morocco in one hundred thirty-six degrees Fahrenheit (fifty-eight degrees Celsius) heat. After struggling to get things right, Sir Sean Connery helped by strongly suggesting to Gilliam that he shoot his parts first, and let him leave, before working with Craig Warnock, who was living through his first day ever on a movie set. Connery also told Gilliam they would deal with the star actually getting on the horse during post-production.
According to Terry Gilliam, the studio originally didn't want Katherine Helmond in this movie, because she wasn't a big enough name.
In this movie, one of Napoléon's Generals says Napoléon is 5'1''. Some sources say he was really 5'6''. Sir Ian Holm is 5'6'' in real-life.
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Terry Gilliam): (cages): This movie uses cages identical to the cage, in which Jill is imprisoned, in Giliam's Brazil (1985).
Terry Gilliam described Sir Sean Connery's career at this point as "at its nadir". Fortunately, Connery was a Monty Python fan, and signed on for a part of the gross. It also happened that Executive Producer Denis O'Brien was a former golfing partner of Connery.
The opening credits take the unique approach of listing the celebrity cameos first, in alphabetical order.
On the wall of Kevin's bedroom, can be seen a drawing of Dr. Bertram X. Fegg, a character created by Michael Palin and Terry Jones for their "Dr. Fegg" books, drawn by Martin Honeysett.
According to Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin's interview on the DVD, David Rappaport was so into the character of Randall that he didn't socialize with his co-stars, and kept demanding close-ups on himself.
The title characters were written based on the personalities of the actors. David Rappaport was very full of himself, Kenny Baker was nice, Malcolm Dixon would complain, Jack Purvis was strong, et cetera.
It took three months to get permission to use the tower, of which the guys blowing the big horn are standing on top.
Disney was initially considered to distribute this movie, before Avco Embassy picked it up.
Music Producer Ray Cooper played the hands of the Supreme Being folding the map in the closing shot for this movie.
According to Michael Palin, Executive Producer Denis O'Brien suggested Art Carney, Burt Reynolds, or Peter Sellers for the role of The Supreme Being.
Only one set was built for the scenes on the Titanic. All the shots of the Titanic outside of this set were stock footage.
With the exception of bit players Derrick O'Connor (Ireland), Leon Lissek (Australia), and Terence Bayler (New Zealand), Americans Shelley Duvall and Katherine Helmond are the only members of the principal cast (more than forty-five credits) not to hail from the U.K.
When developing the sequel for his computer RPG "Ultima", Richard Garriott a.k.a. Lord British, watched multiple showings of this movie in the theater, and incorporated the "time holes" and other concepts into his game Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress (1982).
The bandits were written as dwarves, so that audiences would accept Kevin as their equal.
John Cleese played Robin Hood. In Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) John Cleese had a played an incompetent Robin Hood-like nineteenth century highwayman, who stole from the poor and gave to the rich, called Dennis Moore in the Dennis Moore sketches, which parodied and mocked the Robin Hood legend.
Agamemnon was the King of Mycenae, who, in Greek mythology, led the Greek Army in the siege of Troy in the Trojan War.
After a series of mediocre albums, George Harrison fans were delighted that he ended the movie with a great song, "Dream Away". But, they were frustrated that he didn't release it on a record until he put out the "Gone Troppo" album three years after this movie was released.
As outlined in the non-fiction tome "The Battle of Brazil: Terry Gilliam v. Universal Pictures", Gilliam's work on the controversial 1985 movie was informed and an extension of his work on this movie. Gilliam recounted how he had no patience left for studio interference, after major studios turned down or tried to force him into making major changes to his script for this movie, leading to the movie being released by the small Avco Embassy distributor, and all of the studios then claimed they wanted to work with him again. He chose to make a deal with Universal for "Brazil", largely because they had passed on this movie for financial reasons, but ended up having even worse conflicts with Universal's leadership than he'd had in getting this movie to theaters at all.
Sir Ian Holm also played Napoléon in Napoléon and Love (1974) and The Emperor's New Clothes (2001).
Most of the cast appeared in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). David Rappaport appeared with Mark Hamill in Amazing Stories (1985) season one, episode seventeen, "Gather Ye Acorns".
"Star Wars" fans should like the movie because Fidgit is played by Kenny Baker, who was R2-D2. This movie gives "Star Wars" buffs the chance to see what Baker looked like outside his "droid" costume.
In 1981, in a curious callback to their shared history, the Lee International Studios were by then based in Wembley, in the studio complex that had previously been used as the main television studios for Associated-Rediffusion - where most of the Python's had made children's tv programmes together pre-Monty Python, and London Weekend Television. Most famously, the gigantic Studio 5, would later be used in "Brazil", amongst other films. In 1984, Lee International studios would acquire Shepperton Studios, home of Gilliam's "Jabberwocky", and the Wembley complex would eventually return to television production as Limehouse Television, and Fountain Television. In 2019, the Wembley studios are scheduled for demolition.
Sir Ian Holm (Napoléon) and Sir Ralph Richardson (Supreme Being) appeared in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984).
In this movie, David and the Time Bandits meet Robin Hood. Mike Edmonds appeared in Maid Marian and Her Merry Men (1989) as Little Ron. The series was a parody of the legend of Robin Hood.