by Hans ten Cate
Wednesday, 12 February 1997

Rollo Lee - John Cleese plays Rollo Lee, an ex-Hong Kong police officer who works for a large international media conglomerate, Octopus Enterprises, and who gets the assignment to make a small London-area zoo profitable. The hapless executive does nothing to increase profits and runs the zoo with ruthless incompetence. "It's my usual authority figure," Cleese says, "though slightly more competent than some of the people I have played in the past." So how does Rollo compare to Archie Leach of A Fish Called Wanda? Rollo, says Cleese, "has got a lot more balls than old Archie had in Wanda, but isn't really very romantic in his attitudes."

And once again, John Cleese proves that it is possible to be sexy at middle age. "The big joke in this movie is that every time Jamie sees me and thinks I'm some great sex object, it's simply because she misinterprets what in fact is going on. Most of the time she thinks I'm with these girls, it's really the animals I've got in my room."

Rod & Vince McCain - "The last time he won an Oscar," says Cleese of Kevin Kline, "so what do you do this time?" Well, play two characters of course! Kevin plays both corporate raider Rod McCain and his never-do-well son, Vince. Rod is the hard-nosed, bottom-line executive at Octopus Enterprises who takes over the small idyllic English zoo. His son Vince is a marketing whiz kid who sees sponsorship and commercialism as a means of increasing profits.

"I wanted to give Kevin something that would really inspire him," said Cleese, "...and I thought: give him two very different characters and there will be moments in the movie when he's talking to himself. And it's very hard [laughs] to realize they're both Kevin. In fact in one or two of the previews, even after seeing the entire movie, the audience didn't get that he was also playing the father."

Willa Weston - Jamie Lee Curtis plays Willa Weston, a customer relations executive with Octopus who takes the assignment at the zoo as a means of corporate advancement but gradually becomes charmed by the zoo and the notion of conservation. Initially, Jamie was concerned that the film didn't hold much of a role for her but Cleese reassured her that she was the heart of the film. "So I'm the heart of the film," smiles Jamie, "but I'm also a corporate slut!"

John Cleese has a far more intellectual view of Willa Weston, "Now, in this one, Jamie is much more the emotional anchor. And so she anchors it more, which enables me, as well as Michael Palin and Kevin, to be crazier... One of the greatest things about Jamie is that she is very comfortable about being sexy on camera and being seductive. After all, in A Fish Called Wanda, she had four guys after her!" But Michael Palin knows better, "Beautiful thing, being a writer! I didn't even get a kiss from Jamie in this one. At least in A Fish Called Wanda I was allowed a screen kiss. I think John was just so angry about that. So utterly jealous about it..."

Adrian "Bugsy" Malone - Michael Palin plays Bugsy, the insect keeper at the zoo, whose fondness for animals is only outmatched by his incessant chatter. "John's basic thing about my character was that he felt that I had had it very easy in Wanda. And I had been in this very successful film, people loved the character I played, and I never had to get a single line out (except one I think, when Jamie had kissed me and suddenly the power of speech returns). But generally I hardly had a line to learn and John was extremely envious of this. He says, "I'm going to make you work for your money this time." So he gave me the character of somebody who talks unceasingly."

Said Cleese, "What's nice about this movie is that I get to play several scenes with Palin. If you think about Wanda, I only did one scene with Palin." Palin agrees: "Well, I like working with John, he makes me crack up and I think it's the same way with him. So I've got to try to put something in my performance which I can see will make John go and he's trying to get me going and so it keeps a freshness to it...."

Stay tuned for other Fierce Creatures tits bits... uhm, tid bits (I keep making boobs)...