by Hans ten Cate
Thursday, 21 December 1995
  • During preproduction, a wide variety of names were considered for the film, including Robin Williams, Olivia Newton-John, Adam Ant, Sting, and Oliver Reed. In fact, some of these actors/actresses, including Sting, were lobbying very hard to be in the film! Both Adam Ant and Sting were seriously being considered for the roll of "Dan," Yellowbeard's son.
  • Sadly, Marty Feldman, the lovable British actor and gifted comedian, died shortly after filming his last scenes for "Yellowbeard" in Mexico City. He died in his hotel room, shortly after complaining of extreme chest pains. Graham believed that, although Marty was a heavy smoker, the heat, elevation, and pollution in Mexico City contributed to his failing health. Although there was no autopsy, Michael Mileham believes that Marty may have died of shellfish poisoning from a dirty knife used to cut coconuts he and Marty ate while visiting an island off the coast of Mexico.
  • Harry Nilsson, singer-songwriter and long-time friend of Graham Chapman, wrote an original song for the film, "Black Sails" (which can be heard on Nilsson's album, "Pussy Cats"). Unfortunately, the song was not included in the final version of the film. However, another Nilsson song, "Men at Sea," was recorded uniquely for "Group Madness: The Making of Yellowbeard" and can be heard during the end-credits of the documentary film. This song is dedicated to Marty Feldman, who died shortly after filming "Yellowbeard."
  • The original idea for "Yellowbeard" came from Keith Moon, drummer for "The Who," who also happened to be a huge Python fan and close friend of Graham Chapman. Although involved in the early conceptual stages of "Yellowbeard," Keith died on September 7, 1978 from a drug overdose. He was, in fact, set to do some acting in Monty Python's "Life of Brian," which would begin filming nine days after his death.
  • Filming of "Yellowbeard" in Mexico was grueling. The biggest problem, apparently, was the heat - nearly 100 degrees! Also, because of the harried production schedules and limited budget, the actors did not have lavatory facilities available to them in Mexico; only a few tents.
  • While filming in Mexico, the costumes for the film were apparently impounded by Mexican customs agents for several weeks! In addition, Air France accidentally shipped off a whole series of costumes to Paris. Because filming was expected to start immediately upon the cast's arrival in Mexico, the wardrobe department had to improvise. This proved to be a nightmare since the replacement costumes they created had to exactly match those used in England for earlier parts of the film!
  • Almost all of the shipboard sequences (for all three ships in the film) were filmed on board MGM's Bounty, the ship originally built and used for MGM's 1962 remake of the 1935 classic, "Mutiny on the Bounty." The ship had to be constantly redecorated and painted throughout the film to look alternately like a Spanish grandee, a weathered armed merchantman, and a French frigate. The ship had a built in generator which, when turned on, made so much noise that some of the scenes were difficult to film!
  • Nigel Planer, who plays Eric Idle's assistant, "Mansel" in the film is also known for his portrayal of "Neil" in the irreverant and extremely popular BBC series, "The Young Ones." Interestingly, another Python, Terry Jones, once made an appearance as a drunken vicar on that series (in the "Nasty" episode which aired May 29, 1984).
  • Graham Chapman, and life-partner/writer David Sherlock, conducted scrupulous research on pirates prior to filming. Their research showed that historical pirates used to burn fuses in their hair and beards for use on guns and cannons. This was incorporated in the film, although Graham found the fuses in his beard most uncomfortable - the smoke kept going into his nose!

    Sources: Kim 'Howard' Johnson, "Life Before and After Monty Python: The Solo Flights of the Flying Circus" (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993); interviews with Michael Mileham; and the "Yellowbeard" press kit, Orion Pictures Corporation, 1983