Posts filed under ‘Monty Python Trial’

Spot the Producer

Tonight- Thursday March 10 – at 7.45 pm Sky Arts is broadcasting Part 4 of Monty Python: Almost The Truth- The Lawyer’s Cut.  This series of 6 programmes was a history of the Python group made by the Pythons.  The Lawyer’s Cut is well named because this episode  deals largely with the making of Monty Python and The Holy Grail and the ‘cut’ that the lawyers made was to excise any mention of the Producer’s name. I am said Producer and all that remains of me is a photo of my young self which is not credited. In other words my image appears in the programme but not my name; I am like a ghost wandering through the show. See if you can spot my photo. I am to the Pythons as Trotsky was to Stalin. Like Stalin, the Pythons decided to re-write their history so as not to give me any credit for what I did for them. This came about because at the time this show was made we were in a dispute over Spamalot royalties. Their lawyers must have advised them not to give any publicity to my side of the story- hence I was airbrushed out of their history. I eventually won the case and the Pythons organised the O2 shows in 2014 to make enough money to cover their £ 1.3m legal costs. It is all documented in my new book The 7th Python: A Twat’s Tale.

This is what Terry Jones said of the series, “This is the documentary I always hoped that would be made — something so complete and so faithful to the truth that I don’t need to watch it.”

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March 10, 2016 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

A Poem for the Monty Python Group

On July 5 2013, the NY Times wrote an article about my trial with the Pythons. This anonymous poem was added as a comment to the online article. I quite like it:

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

March 8, 2016 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

Monty Python’s Airbrush

I never thought I would share a destiny with Leon Trotsky. Even though we are both Jewish (he was born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein) there is not much we have in common. The one thing we share is that we have both been airbrushed out of History.

After Lev broke with Stalin, Stalin had his publicity department airbrush Lev out of the photos that showed Lev’s role in creating the Soviet Union, in particular his role as the leader of the Red Army. He became one of the disappeared.

A while ago I was Watching the six part TV doc series of Monty Python: Almost The Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut). When I saw Episode 4 I began to understand how Lev must have felt. This episode dealt with the making of Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and I was intrigued to see that they managed to discuss the production of the film without interviewing or even mentioning the Producer of said film – i.e. me. There is one photo in which I appear but am unidentified.

This airbrushing was done because when this series was made I was already in dispute with the Pythons over Spamalot royalties. It did not suit their case to showcase my role in setting the film up in the way they wanted, and which benefited them enormously. So they just removed me from history. ‘Almost The Truth’ says it all.

December 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

Michael White and The Holy Grail

I’ve just been watching The Last Impresario on Imagine (BBC1), a film about Michael White, the theatre and film producer. Michael was the exec producer of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and he invested 50% of the budget. I liked Michael very much, and we worked well together. We eventually went on to do other things. such as a production of Woody Allen’s The Bluebird Of Unhappiness. He was incredibly helpful on the Holy Grail, because when we had a terrible preview of the film, Michael didn’t panic but helped to put up the additional money to redo the soundtrack. He was cool in the face of seeming disaster. Here is how I describe it in The 7Th Python:

The Disastrous First Screening

It was one of those evenings when Python flopped. – Terry Jones

Back in London, we worked hard to produce a cut of the film that we could show to the other Pythons and the investors.

The preview took place on October 1 1974 at the Hanover Grand Preview Theatre in central London. We had invited about 200 people, including most of the investors. This screening was one of the worst film experiences of my life.

Every screening has a certain mood that you can feel in the theatre, and the mood at the end of that screening was certainly pretty grim. People weren’t responding, they weren’t laughing the way they should have been. There was laughter at individual scenes, but no sustained build-up. The main problem was that the sound effects were too prominent. Because the comedy is quite slight, the jokes need to have a context in which they work, and if you overwhelm them with sound, they will just get drowned, which I think is what happened.

This was the first time that either of the two Terrys had ever done this kind of film sound mixing, so it’s very easy to try something which doesn’t work, and at that point it can all be thrown away, can all be redone. But someone who doesn’t know the technical side, might think looking at it, “God, this is it, and we’ve got to live with what we’re currently seeing,” which of course is not the case. A certain amount of inexperience may have led people to think it was a disaster which couldn’t be repaired.

Afterwards, there was a feeling of “This is a mess, what have we let ourselves in for?” I think there were people who probably felt the film was a lost cause. And it’s
very easy, when you’re in a position like this, to panic.

Eric Idle walked out halfway through the film; everyone else stayed to the bitter end. There was polite applause at the end. (Michael) White and (John ) Goldstone (executive producers) didn’t speak to the Pythons.

Here is how everyone remembered the event, in David Morgan’s book, Monty Python Speaks:

TERRY JONES: Terry G. had done the dub, and you know what it’s like when you’re making a film: you’ve got two or three sound editors working away for months and months building up wonderful, incredibly thick soundtracks. It started off everybody laughing at the beginning and then after a while just nothing; the whole film went through [with]
no laughter at all. And it was awful, I was sitting there saying, “It
just can’t be unfunny.”

JOHN GOLDSTONE: We’d already spent all the money by then and couldn’t quite go back to them and say, “Can you put up some more because we’d like to refinish it?” So we had to go to a bank and borrow money against personal guarantees to make up the difference.

TERRY JONES: So we went and redubbed it and as soon as anybody started talking I just took all the sound effects out, all the atmosphere, everything. I went through the entire film doing that, and that seemed to help, it was something about the soundtrack filling in all the pauses.

TERRY JONES: Neil Innes’ music sounded quaint, it didn’t have an epic
feel to it. And we’d run out of money by that time, so I went along
to De Wolfe Music Library in London and just took out piles and
piles of disks and just sat here at home trying out music to it, trying
to get something to work. So it felt like what you needed was really corny, heroic music.

NEIL INNES: The Arthurian themes were too thin with the instruments we had available- two French horns, two violins. Terry rang to say we can’t use the music because it’s just not strong enough. The 12 piece orchestra couldn’t cope with the 120 piece orchestral sound that the film required. Artistically it was a better solution to go to a library to get epic music. We would never have had the money to record that size score. I wasn’t that disappointed. I understood it. If it was my film I would have made the same choice.

We had some very heavy meetings over the next few days, a post mortem to see if we could bring this dead film back to life. Michael White was very supportive; he didn’t panic and I was glad that I had kept him involved in the production. In the end we remixed the film, bringing down the level of the sound effects to let the dialogue punch through, and added the mock heroic library music score. We knew there was a good film buried there, and if we went back and remixed it, we’d have a funny film. The next screening was very positive. Now we knew the film was very good, it was very funny, it was working well. I think everyone was very happy with it. So it was really night and day.

If the Pythons had not owned the film, the director (or directors) would probably have been replaced at that point, or at least told to stay out of the cutting room. But the structure I set up meant that even through a disaster, the two directors had the time (and we had to find the extra money) to let them correct their initial work.

Everyone benefited from the great success of the film, and thirty years is plenty of time for memories to blister and fade so that some of the Pythons seem to have had a bout of amnesia concerning who raised the money – and much else. The two Terrys, Graham and Michael all knew what my role had been, but Cleese and Idle had no involvement with the setting up of the film, so had no idea as to what I had done for them. This became a real problem when their management changed, and (their former manager) Anne Henshaw was no longer there to keep alive that memory.

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December 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

My Journals in The 7th Python

I quote extensively from my journals in The 7th Python. I started a journal in 2001 after writing The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations were basically his journal entries, and Professor Pierre Hadot had written in Philosophy As A Way of Life about how the ancients used journals to support their philosophy. Jules Evans in Philosophy For Life explains that daily journals were called hupomnemata in ancient Greece, and that keeping one brought a kind of Socratic dialogue into your intimate daily life. So inspired by Marcus I started to write about the events that happened to me and what I felt about them. I also considered my health, my meditation practice, and other items of personal interest.

When the dispute with the Pythons began, I started to write about those events, and kept going until the resolution of the case in 2013. In the book I decided to use quotes from the journals to show how the legal events were impinging on my inner life. I documented the stress I was undergoing, the financial struggles caused by the dispute, and my changing feelings towards the Pythons. I was also able to track my relation to the Pythons, which is a history of 40 years, from 1973-2013. In the journals I was able to acknowledge how we related to each other during the making of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1973-75, and what it was like during the dispute from 2005-2013. I was able, through the keeping of the journal, to recognise and alter my view of myself in relation to our break-up, which was traumatic for me at the time, and which was a constant psychological scar for many years. This ability, to look at the past through the prism of the present, was really helpful to me. I managed to lose a sense of blame and guilt that I had dragged with me for many years. It was in a sense an act of liberation, brought about by having to confront nakedly the painful events of the past through a new perspective of the present.
Here is an early journal entry:

October 29 2005

Today I read an article about I Ching and Synchronicity, which talked about how synchronicity was a resonance between the physical world – external events and happenings – and the psychic world-internal events and especially the meaning that one takes from the things that happen to you or appear to you.

This got me thinking about my Python problem, an external event dealing with money owed me, and which is providing me with some meaning – ie a lesson or advice about how to deal with life now and in the future. Jung’s archetypes and the I Ching hexagrams both provide symbolic images and ideas that reflect on the inner-outer resonance that is occurring between the mind and the world and provides a depth of spiritual meaning for interpreting the situation that exists. Tonight I will consult the I Ching about this situation and see what it says, but perhaps I need to reflect on the meaning of this problem and why it has happened now. What does it mean for me and what lesson does it hold?

It involves money, and would provide security of income for at least 5 years which will give me confidence to pursue my activities- either film or otherwise. It represents a pot of gold – worldly wealth that can provide benefits- security, confidence, reduction of debt etc. If I do not get this money, then what – am I insecure, lacking confidence? Or will I manage to get along, to keep going, find a way. Is my internal self or essence able to carry on as per normal (natural being) even if this money does not get paid to me. What is more important- your money or your life? When I consider the physical and mental state of my being, the quality of my relationships with others, and my relationship with the external environment, then surely this money is not really the important thing. Your life is good and solid, and means so much more than this cash.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is about values. What is more valuable and what is it important to maintain or to seek? Is it money or is it something else, something more valuable than money, something which has no cash value. If this problem makes you understand about what is truly valuable in your life, and to really appreciate these things in your life, and to give the value and importance far above the cash that you are owed, then you really would learn a valuable lesson, one that too is priceless.

Money has long been a kind of God for you, even a kind of nemesis, because money was very important to your mother and was the ultimate value system when you grew up. Dealing with money, having the right attitude to it has taken you years of inward therapy and it’s no surprise that it is a hefty money problem that you are forced to now face and to deal with in ways that leave you unhurt, still balanced and stable, not angry, not bitter, not full of regrets.

You have to learn the right perspective, how to live without getting what you are owed and not letting it damage your mind and heart. This is the lesson you must learn now and keep for all time.

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November 26, 2015 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Michael Palin and the Pythons Defer to Their Lawyers

In my post on Why I Wrote The 7th Python (Part 2) I commented: “But I could also see a disturbing pattern in the behaviour of the Pythons during this 7 year struggle. During this entire period, not one Python rang or emailed me wanting to discuss the problem. I was forced to deal only with their lawyers and managers. And when I did reach out to Michael Palin and Terry Jones by letter, it didn’t make any difference.” A friend of mine said that she was surprised that I expected to hear from them. She thought I was being naive and said that I should have realised that once there was a dispute and lawyers got involved, their advice to the Pythons would be – ‘Don’t communicate with him, leave it to us.’ This is probably the case, since this relieved the Pythons of any need for dealing with me or the dispute. This removed their responsibility to do anything about the problem – after all, they could just leave it to their lawyers.

Of course I wasn’t happy with this situation, since I had no way of knowing what their manager and lawyer were saying to them. Were they being informed about the case? So I decided to write to Michael Palin to make certain that he at least understood my position. I had hoped that he would be an honest broker and try to see why I was so certain that my position was correct (as it had been for 30 years). But Michael only passed my letter to their manager or merely asked him what was happening, only to be told that their lawyer was looking into the claim. Eventually Michael wrote to me that their lawyer had decided that my claim was not valid. I was disturbed by this. How could their lawyer make a unilateral decision like this, after I had been collecting these royalties since 1976. I felt let down, but decided that I had to continue to assert my rights.

I wrote again to Michael asking him to consult Anne Henshaw who had been their manager when I did my deal on Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1974. I specifically said that she knew what the original deal had been, and I requested that he ask her frankly to confirm the true situation. I didn’t hear back from him but assumed that he at least would make the effort to ask her. I knew that she was still involved with Michael on his broadcasting ventures and she had been his manager for a number of years after she ceased being the Pythons’ manager. I was very surprised to discover (at the trial) that he never bothered to ask her. This was his testimony in court:

Tom Weisselberg (my barrister): Did you discuss your evidence with Mrs. Henshaw?
Palin: No.
Weisselberg: You have never discussed the issues relating to this case with Mrs. Henshaw?
Palin: No.
Weisselberg: Why not, Mr. Palin?
Palin: There was no reason to.
Weisselberg: So even though Mr. Forstater says that there was an agreement between you and other of the Pythons in relation to his share of the top half, that Anne Henshaw was at a meeting with you, you have never discussed his claim with Mrs. Henshaw at all?
Palin: I cannot remember that meeting, if that meeting ever took place, whether we discussed it.
Weisselberg: My question was you have never discussed it with Mrs. Henshaw at all?
Palin: Not to my recollection.

Later Weisselberg returned to Anne Henshaw’s role:

Weisselberg: You are still a director of two companies with Mrs. Henshaw. When did you last see her?
Palin: I should think probably a year ago.
Weisselberg: You said that you have not talked about Mr. Forstater’s claim to her at all. Is that right?
Palin: I have avoided talking to her about it because I felt it was a Python matter and not something I personally wanted to get into.
Weisselberg: So you did not ask her to give evidence in these proceedings?
Palin: I might have asked her if she had any views on what was going on. That was all. That may have been a long time ago, but I always insisted that if she had anything she wanted to say she should go through the normal process and talk to our solicitor. I recollect that only came up once.

In the end, Anne Henshaw (now Anne James) did not appear as a witness for the Pythons. This is what Justice Norris had to say about it:

“I turn to consider what (if anything) should be made of the absence of Anne Henshaw at the trial of the action. She herself fell out with the Pythons as a group in an acrimonious split in 1997. But she remained a friend of Michael Palin and of Terry Jones, and a Director of two of Mr Palin’s companies. No real account was given as to why PMP did not call her to give evidence, given her continued friendship with Michael Palin and Terry Jones.

That she may have relevant evidence to give was apparent from the original pleaded case, but a challenge to call her had been squarely put in correspondence by Mr Forstater himself, and I must examine the consequences of PMP choosing to duck that challenge.”

One point that he then made was that “The failure to call her also means that there is no evidence-based challenge to Mr Forstater’s assertion that he was told by Anne Henshaw that his request for a one seventh share of the Top Half had been approved by the Pythons; and that also strengthens his case.”

Read all about it at http://www.the7thpython.com
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November 25, 2015 at 8:21 am Leave a comment

(Eric) Idle Musings

Eric Idle hates me. The reason is not difficult to find. I sued him and the other Pythons for trying to reduce my royalties from Spamalot and the Judge decided in my favour. After the trial he called me a loser, an idiot and a twat. This is very odd, since I should really hate him for having forced me to spend over 7 years pursuing this stupid case, which caused me many serious problems- poor health, financial woes, great stress. Yet he hates me. Here is what he said during his cross-examination:

Tom Weisselberg (my barrister): Do you think that your position in these proceedings –
Eric Idle: Yes.

Weisselberg: — is being inspired by, I will put it bluntly, a dislike of Mr. Forstater?
Idle: I am hopeful that I am trying to be as honest as far as I possibly can be and that my dislike, as you put it, of Mr. Forstater does not influence my honesty in reporting to you the answers to your questions.

Weisselberg: Do you have a particular animus against Mr. Forstater, Mr. Idle?
Idle: Only recently.

Weisselberg; Is that because of the fact of these proceedings?
Eric Idle: It’s ingratitude.

Idle seems to have ingratitude always on his mind.

But he didn’t just call me ungrateful, he also said of his fellow Pythons, “I’m making them money, and the ungrateful bastards never thank me. Who gave them a million dollars each for ‘Spamalot’?” So ingratitude must mean, for Eric, that people who have helped him become a multi-millionaire have failed in their duty to constantly thank him for allowing them to do so.

Idle says I am ungrateful because I did so well out of Producing Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so I shouldn’t complain if the Pythons decide to try chisel me out of Spamalot royalties. My taking them to court was a form of ingratitude. Funny, I thought I was just standing up for myself.

Weisselberg: Mr. Idle, it is right, is it not, that since Spamalot has made so much money there has been a fair amount of publicity as to which Python thinks that they have had the better of the financial deal?
Idle: We have squabbled since we first met. We are brothers, we are children, and we are comedians. But we love each other and we get on very well. The press does like to exaggerate these things and I have emails from John Cleese only yesterday.

Weisselberg: You have complained that some of the other Pythons have been ungrateful as to the amount of money that you have managed to generate for them.
Idle: I may at some times and — I have been promoting this thing since 2004, so I have answered a tremendous amount of questions and there is a selection of responses that have been selected.

Weisselberg If you look at Bundle D3, p.1047 one sees in the paragraph on the subject of money: “He is candidly regretful about his decision to hire a lawyer to represent the Pythons’ interest in Spamalot. Over a recent lunch with Observer writer Simon Garfield, he pointed out” – that is you – “that with a third share the others are being paid over the odds without doing very much”. Is that something that you said to the Observer writer, Mr. Idle?

Idle: It reflects possibly a bitterness I was feeling at the time. Insofar as I gave them Marcia Brooks, my lawyer, because I was concerned about conflict of interest, and she negotiated against me the highest percentage that has ever been received in Broadway history. Normally they would have been entitled to X% and John du Prez and I had to settle that they would take Y%.

Weisselberg: I think the terms of the deal are confidential. Certainly I have understood that they are.
Idle: Then forgive me, I just breached confidentiality inadvertently.

No matter how wealthy he becomes, it never seems to give Idle any contentment. He once called one of his tours The Greedy Bastard Tour and one wonders in this instance where is the border between comedy and truth?

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November 18, 2015 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

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