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Terry Gilliam explains Billy Bob Thornton exit from The Zero Theorem

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Terry Gilliam, director of The Zero Theorem, has revealed that Billy Bob Thornton was unable to commit to the lead role in the film because he "has a fear of old things".

Thornton was set to play Qohen Leth, an introverted computer genius who has been tasked with creating a scientific formula to determine the meaning of life.

Terry Gilliam

© PA Images

Terry Gilliam

Billy Bob Thornton

© PA Images

Billy Bob Thornton


Shooting for the movie was scheduled to begin in 2009 in London. However, Thornton's phobia - which includes furniture, old planes and even elderly people - was so extreme that he was unable to be around the architecture of London as it was too old.

"I'm astonished, I just don't get it," Gilliam told the Empire podcast. "These are the things you learn when you start casting people you admire - that they're more complicated."

Christoph Waltz replaced Thornton after meeting Gilliam at an awards ceremony.

The Zero Theorem

Christoph Waltz in The Zero Theorem


Gilliam recalled: "Christoph was across a crowded room and we both pointed at each other and said, 'We've got to work together', so I thought I'd take advantage of that situation. He's such a phenomenal actor.

"He was a great actor to take on a character like [Qohen] who is so layered and we don't really tell his backstory, but you've got to feel that it's there with all the frustrations, anger, confusion, disappointment that Qohen carries around with him."

The film also stars Lucas Hedges, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Matt Damon and Lily Cole and is airing in cinemas across the UK now. Watch the trailer below:

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