Posts tagged ‘Monty Python’

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.

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October 11, 2015 at 7:32 pm 2 comments

A Cultivator’s Diary – Part 3 (From my journal 2007)

January 25 2007

In the morning, when everyone has left the house to go to work or school, there is a great silence and peace in the house. But at the same time, because there is so little for me to do, a great lassitude comes over me. This reluctance to move but only rest (the desire to read a book or contrarily to go out and buy a newspaper) needs a certain discipline to get me into the yoga room to practise. Once there it is easier- force of habit and the feeling in my body that moving and stretching are what I really need take over and I am into it.

I want to see if my arms/shoulders have changed since yesterday’s work. Is there as much pain in those specific points? Is there more mobility? What effect did this work have on other parts of the body, if any?

Evening:

Reading To Realise Enlightenment by Master Nan Huai-Chin. He talks of how you have to understand that Form is Emptiness and Emptiness Form. Quantum physics also says that Form is Emptiness, that atoms, which make up the Form of the material world, are 99.9% empty once you open them up. What we take to be solid and stable is actually dancing and ultimately empty, separating out into vast areas of emptiness in a tiny space. Since space is relative a tiny space can be a vast space. Inside the atom it certainly acts like one.

So if my body, my Form, is Empty, then as Nan says it is birthless and deathless. What is born is a Form, a baby, developed from a smaller Form, an embryo which grew from a sperm and egg. But if all of these are Forms, however small or large, then all of them are also Empty and once they are all resolved to Emptiness, how is Emptiness ‘born’ and how does Emptiness ‘die’? If we are all Empty then we are all unborn, and our births and deaths just transformations of Form, something which the elements we are made of have been doing from the beginningless beginning of time.

Can you live with a mind that sees that all is Emptiness? Can you put that into practise? How does that relate to your law suit with the Pythons? That is certainly part of the world of Form – it exists as a concept and a thing so must be Empty. I suppose the attitude should be: I’ll pursue my case because people have cheated me and I should not allow myself to be cheated. However if I lose the case I should just walk away from it with no regrets, bitterness or anger. And while it is going on I should feel no anxiety about the outcome, no matter whether I win or lose. In fact Emptiness means that winning and losing do not exist. They dissolve away into an equality of Empty Form.

December 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

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.

August 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm 1 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

Monty Python Trial Costs -New York Times

Dave Itzkoff of the The New York Times wrote about my trial on Friday the 5th July. He said I was British. I could be British but I didn’t want to spend £ 700 on a UK passport, so I get by on my American one. He obviously never visited my web site or did any fact-checking.

There were three comments to the article, and I liked this one.

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

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

The point that the writer was making is that the amount I sued for is about
£ 225,000 and there are six Pythons (5 alive and one estate) . So each of the Pythons would have had to pay £ 37,500 each. It’s hard to believe thay didn’t want to do this and instead will have to pay legal bills of maybe £ 800,000 on top of the £ 225,000 plus interest that I am owed. Badly advised, or what?

July 9, 2013 at 5:43 pm 2 comments

A Chuang Tzu Story

In my last post I wrote about a line I found in Chuang Tzu on ancestor worship. I was actually looking at Chuang Tzu to find this story (quoted in my book, The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao),

Tzu Kao, the Duke of Sheh, was about to leave on a mission when he decided to consult Confucius.

“The King is sending me on an important mission to Chi. The Prince of Chi will probably treat me with great respect, but will be in no hurry to deal with me. It’s difficult enough to hurry an ordinary man, much less a prince. This worries me no end. You have always told me ‘Only through following Tao can most things, great or small, be managed successfully. If affairs turn sour, criticism follows, and even if successful, yin and yang is disturbed and anxiety can’t be avoided. Only the virtuous man, even in the face of failure, can avoid distress.’ 

My diet is plain and simple, I eat no spicy dishes that  make me thirsty. Yet only this morning I received my orders, and this afternoon I’m already gulping iced water. My body’s burning up, and the mission hasn’t even started! If it fails, I’ll be judged harshly. I suffer on two fronts and don’t feel capable of carrying out this commission. Can you give me some advice?”

The Master replied, ”In the world there are two great principles: one is the requirement implanted in our nature and the other is the conviction of what is right. The love of a daughter for her parents is implanted in her, and can never be erased from her heart. That a minister should serve his ruler is what is right, and he can’t escape this obligation. These are called the great universal principles.

Therefore a daughter finds peace in serving her parents wherever they may be, and this is the height of devotion. Similarly, a minister finds peace in serving his ruler, whatever the matter, and this is the height of loyalty. When you simply obey the commands of your heart, thoughts  of sorrow and joy don’t arise. There’s no alternative to acting as you do, and you accept this as your destiny. This is the perfection of virtue.

As a minister and a son you must do what can’t be avoided. Absorb yourself in your mission and ignore your own self. When will you have time to think of loving life or hating death? Act like this and all will be well.

Let your mind be content with the situation you’re in. Stay centered, and resign yourself to the inevitable. This is the ultimate you can pursue. What else can you do to fulfil the charge of great Tao? The best thing you can do is also the most difficult- to let things take their natural course.”

I wanted to read this story, because I had remembered these lines,

‘Only through following Tao can most things, great or small, be managed successfully. If affairs turn sour, criticism follows, and even if successful, yin and yang is disturbed and anxiety can’t be avoided. Only the virtuous man, even in the face of failure, can avoid distress.’ 

I was wondering how well I was doing in following Tao in relation to my law suit against the Monty Python group. A Taoist would say, ‘Don’t go to court. Forget it. It’s not worth the hassle and pain.” This is right. Don’t get embroiled in affairs is the Taoist way. Affairs, whether legal, business or sexual, get you entangled in them, and this leads to endless thoughts and strategies for either disentangling them, or finding a successful way through. The results of these actions are characterised correctly by Chuang Tzu- If affairs turn sour, criticism follows, and even if successful, yin and yang is disturbed and anxiety can’t be avoided. You pay the price for engaging in these activities, whether you win or lose.

You will not be surprised if I tell you that I have not avoided distress during the 8 years of pursuing this case.  I did suffer and lost the even-tempered and tranquil Taoist mentality that is both difficult to find and hard to maintain. I suffered stress, illness and it probably took years off my life. Very un-Taoist.  So why did I take on this battle? In a couple of weeks I will have the Judgement on the case, and after that has come in I will try to explain why I undertook it. Till then, I had better stay silent.

June 17, 2013 at 9:24 pm 3 comments

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