Terry Gilliam and Heath Ledger
Dominique Charriau/WireImage, Bryan Bedder/Getty
05/22/2009 at 02:55 PM EDT
The director of Heath Ledger
's final film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
, says the late actor was more than just a cast member – he almost co-directed the movie.
"Heath was just brilliant at it, and he got everybody else going," Terry Gilliam said Friday at the Cannes Film Festival, where the movie premiered this week. "Everybody was just energized by Heath. He was extraordinary. He was almost exhausting because he had so much energy."
When Ledger died
in January 2008 halfway into his performance, Gilliam said he had to "go out and find a way of finishing the film for Heath," the Associated Press reports. The solution: casting Johnny Depp
, Jude Law
and Colin Farrell
to play incarnations of Ledger during the fantasy movie.
And while Ledger was replaced, he was not forgotten. At the end of the movie, there's a dedication: "A film from Heath Ledger and friends."