Terry Gilliam: The Python Who Renounced His Citizenship

Jeff Berwick
The Dollar Vigilante

Terry Gilliam, one of the “Pythons” of Monty Python fame, renounced his US citizenship in 2006 for one critical reason: “There was the fact that my wife would have had to sell the house to be able to afford to pay the taxes when I died.”

This is an issue we write about and discuss regularly here at The Dollar Vigilante. It seems Terry saw the writing on the wall. So-much-so, in fact, he made a movie about what I surmise is basically modern America. (read: Amerika)

Terry’s 1984 film Brazil portrays a bizarre 1984-esque world which meshes the dark reality of a society mired in totalitarianism, slowed to a near halt by bureaucracy, with what’s basically slapstick. One of the main events of the film is when the wrong person is killed. “Tuttle” is who the state wants to murder for being a terrorist, but a fly lands on on the oversized behemoth of a state printer and smudges the T to look like a B. And so the wrong person, Buttle, an old man who leaves behind a family, is executed by “shock troops.”

These “shock troops” are basically military-police, and they’re quite funny. In one scene, one of them takes off his helmet and demonstrates concern for how his eyebrows looks. Terry says he “left that in just because I wanted to give those guys a moment, too, of being human beings, with their own little sets of problems.”

They also apologize for being rough to people. In fact, they’re very polite when they’re bashing in the brains of their victims. They’ve even got receipts!

Government agents even go as far as charging suspects for their interrogation, including for the electricity applied to their bodies as a form of torture. Detainees unable to afford the costs of torture could apply for loans, which are advertised at favorable interest rates. The machinery of government-sanctioned torture and data collection become a self-sustaining apparatus, so there is no need for a big brother figure, as in Orwell’s dystopia.

The film is very interesting, obviously examining themes of totalitarianism. I highly recommend it for any budding or full-blown libertarian. Anybody “skeptical” of the state, as Terry terms it.

Perhaps in his real life, as in his art, Terry hopes his actions inspire people to think for themselves. That is what he tries to do in his films.

I hope they [people] come out saying, ‘More things are possible.’ I think that, if anything, is what I’m trying to do — not just get my imagination on the screen, but to try to encourage other people to develop their own. And that’s one of the problems of having an imagination: trying to communicate it and keep people interested…There’s a political element to that — the idea that another world is possible.

Brazil had a very hard time making it to the big screen,

Unfortunately with Universal, for a variety of reasons — some to do with internal politics, some to do with the fact that it’s a different group of people and that Universal is far closer to the bureaucracy that was portrayed in BRAZIL — they were just stunned by it. And they didn’t know quite what to make of it. And even though the script was shot as approved and all of those things, they just weren’t sure, because they’re very nervous people. They’re paid enormous sums of money to be able to predict exactly what the public wants.

So they tried to change the film. As Terry recalls,

I refused to play ball with them. I said, ‘Sorry, this is the film that we agreed to make.’ And then it got into this legalistic argument. And the only thing they really had over us was the time clause [2.5 maximum run-time], and that’s what they used to try to make us change the essence of the film… I don’t think they were expecting me to be as immovable as I was, because they’re used to working with people who live in Hollywood, and whose bread and butter is very much dependent upon the whims and friendship of the people at the studios, and I sit here 6000 miles away in London saying, ‘Why should I change it if it’s the film we agreed to make?’ And I don’t think they were prepared for that attitude. And on it went… It became like a repeat of the film itself. It was so identical to the story, and the depressing thing about it was that I knew how the film ended!

Terry went public, because he couldn’t take it to court. Universal had the cash. It would have sat in the court system for years. He named names, “which was something they were totally unprepared to deal with. Rather than say Universal was involved, I said, ‘it’s not Universal, it’s one man — his name is Sid Sheinberg. And that really drove them crazy because they didn’t know how to deal with that. I think the only thing that kept me sane throughout all that was how funny it was. So terrifying. The film could have just disappeared and all I could do was keep being outrageous publicly and hopefully get a few people on our side to make enough noise to get it out of their clutches.”

Ultimately, the film was released…and it’s delay caused it to be released in 1984. Very fitting.

Free Copy of the American Expat Guide


Terry was ahead of the crowd. There is an a growing tide of successful people voting with their hearts and their wallets and leaving the US tax farm. Unfortunately, there are countless others … from the entrepreneurs and doctors who have saved up a nice nest egg over their lifetime all the way up to the musicians, athletes and super-entrepeneurs who have made 8 or 9 figures. Most have no idea that they risk losing everything, or most of it, by not internationalizing their assets at the very least.

We’ve been writing regularly about US taxes here, namely the international implications thereof. In fact, we wrote about some “accidental Americans” recently, and Jim Karger wrote an open letter about them as well, and I suppose in a way Terry is also an “accidental American.” He knew he would owe the US government on all his international income, and for him this would amount to millions of dollars.

There are ways around this, and also a path to renunciation should you so choose, like Terry did, which we help people towards at TDV Passports and at TDV Wealth Management (TDVWM). And next month face-to-face at the TDVWM Crisis Conference. Of the many topics you will learn at the Crisis Conference are how to shelter your assets from the death/estate tax in the US … as Terry Gilliam pointed out as being one of his main reasons for getting out of dodge.

In our TDV Newsletter, we cover topics pertaining to help you understand and position yourself to do as Terry and avoid the Brazil-esque reality we’ve already seen in the US. In Fact, Terry even threatened to sue George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for remaking his film!

Be sure to join the discussion on Terry Gilliam, Brazil and the US at The Dollar Vigilante

Anarcho-Capitalist. Libertarian. Freedom fighter against mankind’s two biggest enemies, the State and the Central Banks. Jeff Berwick is the founder of The Dollar Vigilante, CEO of TDV Media & Services and host of the popular video podcast, Anarchast. Jeff is a prominent speaker at many of the world’s freedom, investment and gold conferences as well as regularly in the media including CNBC, CNN and Fox Business.

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