Posts tagged ‘Spamalot’

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

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

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

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


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Reflections on an age of anxiety.

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