...AND HOW THE REST WAS WON
by Hans ten Cate
Friday, 10 May 1996

Even though none of the Pythons themselves have won Academy Awards, two post-Python projects have received actual Oscars. Kevin Kline won one in 1988 for Best Supporting Actor in John Cleese's "A Fish Called Wanda" and Mercedes Ruehl won three years later for Best Supporting Actress in the Terry Gilliam-Directed "Fisher King"

Kevin Kline met John Cleese while the two of them were filming the action-Western "Silverado" together in 1985. In addition to having learned how to ride a horse, Cleese walked away from "Silverado" with a respect for the American actor, Kline, whom he subsequently invited to participate in "A Fish Called Wanda" three years later. In fact, their professional relationship continues to this day, as Cleese, Kline, and the rest of the "Wanda" cast are filming another comedy together called "Fierce Creatures" (due out later this year).

But it was Kevin Kline's performance in "Wanda" that earned him the favor of the Academy, and eventually the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Kline is sometimes best remembered for some of his one-liners as the dim-witted crook, Otto, in "A Fish Called Wanda" ("Don't call me stupid!"). Kline's rapid rise to stardom is certainly well-deserved, having delivered phenomenal performances in his first three films: "Sophie's Choice" (1982), "The Big Chill" (1983), and "The Pirates of Penzance" (1983). Kline also attended the famed Juilliard School in New York and co-founded John Houseman's prestigious The Acting Company there.

Interestingly, the same year Kevin Kline received his Oscar, Peter Biziou received an Academy Award as Best Cinematographer for the film "Mississippi Burning." About ten years earlier, in 1979, Peter was Director of Photography for "Monty Python's Life of Brian." Two years after that, he also filmed "Time Bandits" for Terry Gilliam.

Mercedes Ruehl was a theater graduate who gained prominence after her role as a jealous Mafia wife in 1988's "Married to the Mob." Her role as Jeff Bridge's supportive, no-nonsense girlfriend in "The Fisher King" (1991) earned her critical acclaim from many circles. Not only did she win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year, she also received a Golden Globe and a Los Angeles Film Critics Society award for that role.

"The Fisher King" was an overall success for Ruehl, Gilliam, and the rest of the cast. Robin Williams was nominated (his third nomination to date) for the Best Actor Oscar as the emotionally distraught "Parry." He didn't win, unfortunately, but he did win the Golden Globe for Best Actor two months prior. The film also won the highest award at the Toronto Festival of Festivals that year. Overall, "The Fisher King" scored five Oscar nominations, with only Ruehl walking away with an Oscar trophy.

Another Python connection was found recently... Ruehl also starred in "84 Charring Cross Road" (1987) with Anne Bancroft and Sir Anthony Hopkins. This film also featured Connie Booth, John Cleese's ex-wife, as the Lady from Delaware.


SIDEBAR:

Incidentally, Richard LaGravenese, who wrote the original screenplay for "Fisher King" (and received an Oscar nomination for it) is currently working with Terry Gilliam on a new (and yet relatively old) film project called "The Defective Detective." Said Gilliam in a recent interview, "That's a project that Richard LaGravenese and I wrote and are working on at the moment and that's still alive. We started working on it about a year after 'The Fisher King' and then it went on and off and eventually the studio said, 'No,' so I'm trying to resuscitate it on the coattails of this little success with '12 Monkeys'..."
This film rumor was further confirmed in a January "Starlog" interview with Gilliam conducted by famed Monty Python biographer, Kim "Howard" Johnson. Gilliam said, "I re-read 'The Defective Detective' not long ago and I didn't like it, but on the other hand, we're talking about having another go at it. There's one side of me that's really demanding to do another one of my own things because I have ideas I want to get on the screen." Gilliam's last two projects, "The Fisher King" and "12 Monkeys," involved screenplays written by other parties.