Posts tagged ‘Monty Python and The Holy Grail’

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

Press Release for The 7th Python – Part 1

Here is our first Press Release for The 7th Python:

BOOK LAUNCH

THE EPIC STORY OF A FILM PRODUCER, BRITAIN’S BEST-LOVED COMEDY TROUPE, A CLASSIC COMEDY, AND HOW 40 YEARS ON THEY CLASHED IN A TRAGI-COMEDY OF BONE-BREAKING GREED, AND HEART-BREAKING DESPAIR.

STARRING MR JUSTICE NORRIS, THE LORD OF INJUSTICE, MONTY PYTHON AND MARK FORSTATER, FALSELY YCLEPT A TWAT.

LITERARY EDITORS SHOULD KNOW YCLEPT IS OLD ENGLISH FOR ‘CALLED’. SEE THE PRODUCER’S TALE DIRECTED BY GEOFFREY CHAUCER.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a comedy classic. Consistently voted in the top ten of all comedy films, it is the most profitable independent film ever made in the UK and has achieved worldwide box office success. Forty years on it is still screened.

The young man who produced the film was Mark Forstater, an American from Philadelphia who shared an apartment in New York with Terry Gilliam, before coming to England in the mid-Sixties to study at film school. Forstater liked the country so much he decided to stay and has been living and working here ever since.

The 7th Python (A Twat’s Tale) tells the story of the ups and downs in the making of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It lifts the visor off the sometimes brilliantly creative, sometimes fractious relationships between the Pythons. They were comedy icons but they were also, cue cliché, human with all too human frailties, which Forstater describes sans cliché.

Everything was fine, rosy and profitable until Eric Idle came up with the idea for Spamalot, a stage musical based on the film. Spamalot became a smash hit. As producer of the original film, Forstater was entitled to a percentage of the profits from the film and its spin-offs. But then his share of the royalties was arbitrarily slashed. Did anyone consult the ‘twat’? No, though for 30 years and more Forstater had received his agreed share.

Forstater tried to talk to the Pythons; he wrote to them; he tried to negotiate. But the mighty Python was stubborn as a goat. (Note to editors: mixed metaphors intentional.) So Forstater had to go to law which led to Eric Idle dubbing him a ‘twat’.

Forstater tells of his trials and tribulations before, during and after the trial. For seven long years, he tried to get the Pythons and their management to see reason, and for seven long years, he failed.

The final section of the book offers a lesson for those thinking of going to law. After endless writs, witness statements, witless statements, etc., the Pythons appear in court. The judge says the original agreement could have been drafted better. It ends moderately happily for Forstater – he wins – and very happily for the lawyers in that they all get their fees.

Forstater was sustained in this ordeal by his belief in the Tao. He is the author of The Spiritual Teachings of Yoga (with Jo Manuel), The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao, The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius, The Spiritual Teachings of Seneca (with Victoria Radin), The Living Wisdom Of Socrates and with Rudolf Reder I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp (Psychology News).

A must-read for Python fans and anyone interested in comedy – and human frailty.

Press Inquiries to Nigel Passingham – mob.: 07795024272, email: nigelpas@live.com

February 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

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.

Buy the book at http://www.the7thpython.com
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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

Why I Wrote the 7th Python – Part 1

In 2012-13 I was in court with the Monty Python group over my share of royalties from Spamalot and other spin-off income from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I had this share of royalties because I Produced the film. After the trial ended I felt unable to write about the 7 frustrating years of this legal battle. But after about a year, my friend David Cohen suggested I should try to recount it. By this time I felt sufficiently distanced from the events to take that look back.

7 years is a very long time, and it represents what is termed a ‘little life’. For example the Chinese believe in 7 year cycles of life. so that the ages 7,14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70, 77, and so on represent important stages in life, in which significant physical and emotional changes take place. So I wondered what these 7 years had done to me. I wanted to review how I dealt with this emotional rollercoaster.

Luckily, since 2001 I have been keeping a journal, and I had reflected during 2005-2013 about the stressful situation I found myself in. I was curious to read through those journals to see what I had been thinking, and to examine how I coped with that stress. I have quoted extensively from my journals in the book.

I also had the lawyers’ correspondence and the transcripts of the trial, so I could review the whole transit of the case from beginning to end. I could trace it from the first email to the final Judgement, and everything in between. I wonder how many real lawsuits (as against fictional ones) have had this kind of scrutiny. It was a bit like performing an autopsy, a forensic examination of all the elements that went into the case: the dispute with the Pythons’ managers, the lawyers brought in to argue it, my appeals for help to Michael Palin, a failed mediation, my unexpected meeting with Palin in a Soho street, the Pythons’ witness statements and their appearance in court (something which I never believed would happen), the witnesses, the barristers, the Judge and then the press. The transcripts are particularly revealing. 

When I read through the journals, I realised that the 7 years had at least done me one good thing. I could see that in preparing for the case I had to review in detail the events surrounding the 1974 production of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I split from the Pythons in 1975, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say they split with me. This split was not on the surface acrimonious, and in fact the split was not communicated to me officially for a couple of years. I had to work it out for myself. But the fact that I was no longer involved with them left me feeling betrayed, since the film was a huge success and went on to become the most successful independently produced film ever made in the UK. It has made around £ 30m in profit and the Pythons have each received about £ 2m from the film. It was my work which helped to create this wealth, and this feeling of betrayal stayed with me for many years, gradually losing its power. I was forced to look again at this break-up, and I could see, from a new perspective, how the events actually played out. This allowed me to re-evaluate what I thought was a failing on my part, but which I could now see was really a mutual kind of naiveté. I was pleased that I now understood what had really happened and could stop blaming myself.

This freeing myself of blame, of thinking that the break-up was my fault, is very liberating, since I was dogged with that feeling (albeit much diminished over time) for all these years. I now feel a kind of re-birth, that these events have freed me from some kind of barrier or obstacle in myself, and I now have the opportunity to continue to create books or films with a new energy and a new creative freedom. This book is therefore the first flourishing of this new freedom. Having discovered what had actually happened, I felt the need to communicate these ideas, and to use the book as a recognition of the catharsis that I had achieved.

Visit http://www.the7thPython.com for more information and to purchase the book
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November 13, 2015 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

The 7th Python

I have a new book coming out soon. It tells the story of my epic 7 year battle with the Monty Python group to restore my share of the merchandising profits of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I produced in 1974. In 2005, after Spamalot started to bring in considerable income, they tried to reduce my share of profits (after 30 years of paying it like clockwork). The film reveals a different and darker side to the Pythons than the image they have presented to the public for so many years, and it also shows how celebrities become reliant on their managers and lawyers to autonomously deal with things on their behalf, leading to the kind of not so benign negligence they dished out to me.

I am still bewildered as to why they couldn’t settle my claim as soon as it became apparent that the evidence was overwhelmingly in my favour. I also don’t understand why not one of them attempted to intervene and stop the expensive nonsense that the court case became. None of them rang me or wrote me to ask about the truth; they just let their minions deal with it, until the cost became so great that they were forced to defend the case in court.

Eventually they lost some £ 1.3m and had to put on the O2 shows to pay their bills. The book tells the history of the film, details my relationship with the Pythons, and examines the legal battle and eventual court case. I have included parts of Eric Idle and Michael Palin’s cross examination in court, which reads sometimes like a Python sketch and sometimes like a modernist play.

October 11, 2015 at 7:32 pm 2 comments

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