Posts tagged ‘trial’

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
Visit The 7th Python on Facebook

Advertisements

November 13, 2015 at 10:21 am 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

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


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

Categories