Heath Ledger passed away midway through filming the movie The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. After regrouping, director Terry Gilliam figured out a way to finish the film, so you'll get to see Ledger one more time when the film opens. In the fantasy film, actors Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell play the "Imaginarium" incarnations of Ledger's character.

"Number one, I chose people who were close friends of Heath's so they know Heath," Gilliam said. "So that's to start. Then we gave them all DVDs of what we'd been able to assemble of what Heath had done so they can see what he was doing, how he was moving and how he was talking and everything. Then, they arrived. No time to rehearse. Do it. It's really brave of them. It's extraordinarily brave because they could have just fallen flat on their faces. I thought out maybe this was the way we could pull this thing off. I wasn't certain."

Ledger appears in about half of the film in scenes he shot in London, in the real world. The rest of the film remains largely what Ledger would have filmed, had he survived.

"I didn't rewrite much," Gilliam said. "There's a lot of little things that I've done but nothing of any substance. Everything you hear, the dialogue was all written before. That speech that Johnny gives about the young dying, some people think that's a eulogy to Heath. No. That was written. This film was about mortality. That's the great irony of the whole thing, mortality being a central part of the story and look what happens. I supposed one's got to be careful of what one writes at times."

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus opens Christmas Day.

Click the pics for Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus's gallery:

Story/Interview by Fred Topel

Starpulse contributing writer