Posts tagged ‘Monty Python and The Holy Grail’

Airbrushed Out Of History

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.

Watching Episode 4 of Monty Python: Almost The Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut) 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.

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August 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm 1 comment

Standing on Others’ Shoulders – Part 2

Having written six books that have had as their starting point someone else’s writings, I feel it is time I write a book that is entirely mine (if you can ever say a book is entirely your own). In a way, this blog is that book, and I wonder if I will really write another book?

A publisher friend suggested I write about my experiences with the Pythons- my involvement with the Holy Grail, the dispute over Spamalot, and the subsequent court case. I’m not certain I have the energy to do this now, but if I were to do it, it would be quite an undertaking. Two parts of the book would be difficult to write. One would be the need to examine my own personal feelings and relationships around the making of the film and our breakup. That was a painful time for me. Secondly, I would want to explain the case in a lot of detail, as a kind of litigation manual.  That would take a lot of time to put together, and perhaps the events are too recent for me to take this on.

Instead I may decide to do more guided meditations. I created one called The Age Of Anxiety for people suffering financial stress, and I liked how that came out. I’d like to do one for people who think too much. That would be a useful tool .   

There is one Taoist philosopher called Lieh Tzu that I have wanted to write about. I suppose if I do that I would be again standing on his shoulders. But since he had a reputation as a man who could ride the wind that might be quite an exciting trip.   

He wrote,

My mind concentrated and my body relaxed, bones and flesh fused completely, I did not notice what my body leaned against and my feet trod. I drifted with the wind East or West, like a leaf from a tree or a dry husk, and never knew whether it was the wind that rode me or I that rode the wind.

Standing on those shoulders would really give me an incredible view of the world! Maybe I’d better do that one, after all.

July 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm Leave a comment

Healing Python Wounds

I was interviewed today by Frances Hardy,a reporter from The Daily Mail. They want to print an in depth story about my Python case on Saturday.

I told Frances the history of my involvement with the Holy Grail film, and also the circumstances in which the Pythons and I parted company. I didn’t realise I would feel so sad after this interview, but it was clear that dredging up old and painful memories left its mark on me.

I had blamed myself for this break-up for many years, and of course regretted it, since the team went on to make two more films, and Terry Gilliam, who I was closest to, had become a feted director. I regretted not having been involved in those films, but the train had moved on.

When I realised that my dispute with the Python management over my royalties was not going to be resolved by negotiation or mediation, but that I would have to take my claim to court, it became clear to me that the preparation for the court case would force to me to open these old wounds and to examine them again.

During this period I met Terry Gilliam at a dinner and asked him what happened between the Pythons and me in 1975, when we went our separate ways. Terry said, “We were naïve.” What I took this to mean was that this was their first real film (as it was mine) and that they didn’t understand that if a producer delivers the goods – ie a successful film – that the arguments and dissensions that take place during production can often be creative, or at least may spur everyone on to do their utmost. They aren’t good reasons for ditching a producer who has helped make as successful a film as the Holy Grail. This was the naïve act of people who were not film business savvy.

Looking at the documentation disclosed for the trial, and hearing Terry’s opinion, I realised that there was no need to blame myself. It was my first big film, and I undoubtedly made a number of mistakes out of inexperience and innocence. I didn’t handle the problems that arose as well as I did later or would do now. But in their eyes – as artists and performers- this was enough to force a break.

Winning the case has been a great relief, but perhaps the most important outcome of the trial is that I now view the past in a different way. I don’t blame myself, and I’m pleased that the trial gave me the chance to clean out those old wounds and allow them to finally heal.

July 10, 2013 at 4:15 pm Leave a comment

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