ERIC IDLE RECEIVES GRAMMY NOMINATION/ROALD DAHL GETS PYTHON TREATMENT
by Hans ten Cate (special thanks to Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Kim "Howard" Johnson)
Monday, 8 December 2003

Eric Idle reads Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Harper Childrens Audio, 2002) is available on CD from Amazon.com

Eric Idle was nominated for a Grammy Award last Thursday (December 4) when the Recording Academy revealed nominations for the 46th Annual Grammy Awards. Eric's nomination is for Best Spoken Word Album For Children for his reading of Roald Dahl's famous children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Eric is of course very pleased and says that he was surprised when he heard the news.

This is Eric's second solo nomination for a Grammy. His first was in 1997 when Eric was recognized for reading his children's novel The Quite Remarkable Adventures of The Owl and the Pussycat. “Though I lost out to a dead guy, Charles Kuralt,” Eric said. Joking about the 1997 Grammy in his Greedy Bastard Diary recently, Eric said “I thought that was unfair. I think you should be at least alive to compete. Dead guys are always gonna win.”

Monty Python is also by no means a newcomer to the Grammys. “Python had several Grammy Nominations in the seventies for Best Comedy Album,” Eric says in his journal, “but we always lost out to Steve Martin. When I visit him in Santa Barbara I see the same nomination plaques I have.”

This year, Eric shares company with several more famous names in his Grammy category, including none other than Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Sophia Loren.

Best Spoken Word Album For Children
(For albums consisting of predominantly spoken word vs. music or song.)

  • Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
    Eric Idle
    [Harper Childrens Audio]
  • Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
    Jim Dale
    [Random House Audio Publishing Group]
  • Prokofiev: Peter And The Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks
    Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev & Sophia Loren (Kent Nagano; Russian National Orch.)
    [Penta Tone Music]
  • Tell Me A Scary Story
    Carl Reiner
    [Time Warner Audiobooks/Little Brown]
  • Winnie-The-Pooh
    Jim Broadbent
    [Harper Children's Audio]

The winners will be announced the day of The 46th Grammy Awards, Sunday, February 8, 2004. Eric's category, Best Spoken Word Album for Children, is usually not presented during the awards show itself, so look for the list of winners on www.grammy.com.

Roald Dahl Gets Python Treatment

This is not the first time, in fact, that Roald Dahl has seen Pythons scurrying under his wainscotting...

The BFG, 1982

In February and April of this year it was reported that Terry Jones was writing a screenplay of Roald Dahl's novel The Big Friendly Giant. Jones at the time confirmed “It’s been really good fun writing that script. Paramount are very excited about it.” Jones also confirmed that he probably would not be directing. “If Paramount were prepared to let me direct it, they would be amply rewarded,” Jones told the Edinburgh News in February.[1] “I think it would be a very good deal, I’d do it for them very cheap actually. And I think either me or Mike Palin would make the perfect BFG...” In another inteview, Terry stated: “There ought to be a role for Sophie Dahl in it, but I'm not sure she would be happy playing a giant.” Sophie, the British model, was the inspiration for the young Sophie character in the original story and is the granddaughter of Roald Dahl.

The Big Friendly Giant is the story of a little orphan girl named Sophie who discovers giants do exist and, what's worse, they eat little boys and girls. Except, of course, the BFG, whom Sophie befriends one night. Together they devise a scheme to persuade the Queen Of England to help stop the mean giants. Stay tuned hopefully for future news from Terry on this project.

Speaking of The Big Friendly Giant, back in May 1996 Entertainment Weekly reported that reknown producer Kathleen Kennedy (E.T., Jurassic Park) had bagged The BFG for Paramount, reportedly to star John Cleese as the Big Friendly Giant himself! Screenplay writers Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, the husband and wife team who had adapted Roald Dahl's Matilda for the big screen in 1996, had been hired to to script the new film as well. That particular project, obviously never made it much further than the planning stages. Funnily enough, it was Paramount for whom Terry Jones was scripting the BFG as well.

In a less-than-six-degrees-of-separation fashion, I simply have to note that Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay of 1967's James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Thirty-something years later and now Cleese is solidly in the Bond franchise as Q. Ok... ok... the connection is a bit of a stretch, but it is still pretty cool.[2]

Back in March of this year, John Cleese's assistant Kim 'Howard' Johnson confirmed what the press had been reporting: John Cleese was busy writing a movie script based on Roald Dahl's book The Twits.

The Twits, 1980

Disney had reportedly signed a deal to produce the movie with John Williams' Disney-based Vanguard Films (The Tuxedo) with Kirk De Micco (Quest for Camelot - another Eric Idle link) co-writing the script, this according to Variety.

The story revolves around Mr. and Mrs. Twit, the two nastiest people in the world, who play mean practical jokes on each other and mastermind elaborate heists with the help of their crew of trained animals, until one day the creatures turn the tables on the them.

“When my daughter Camilla was about 8, it was absolutely our favorite book to read,” Cleese said in a statement in April. But while the book was “great on character, [it was] just short on plot. So Kirk and I worked up a scenario that we thought was funny, and happily so did Disney.”

Esio Trot, 1989; buy the audio version with Michael Palin on cassette from Amazon.co.uk

“We are aiming at a return to the wicked fun of 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,' 'Ruthless People,' and the whole body of work represented by John Cleese,” added John Williams.

This week, Howard reports that Cleese is just about finished with the Twits second draft, and will be turning it in after the holidays -- maybe even before. “Disney is very excited about it,” says Howard, “and seem very keen to make it.”

And finally, Michael Palin too has taken a stab at Dahl. Back in 1994, Michael Palin read Roald Dahl's Esio Trot for audio tape. The story is about a man who falls in love with a widow. For years, Mr. Hoppy has longed for Mrs. Silver, who lives one floor below him. But her attention and affection is mostly bestowed upon her pet tortoise, Alfie. Mrs. Silver has become concerned because Alfie has gained a mere three ounces in the 11 years she has owned him. To win the hand of the woman he loves, the determined Mr. Hoppy devises an elaborate scheme to make Mrs. Silver think the tortoise is growing. Tortoises, according to Mr. Hoppy, are backward creatures that “can only understand words that are written backwards.” Thus his exhortation to the pet begins "Esio Trot" — which is "tortoise" reversed. The silly love story ends with Mr. Hoppy getting the credit and the affection of Mrs. Silver.


Footnotes

  • [1] “Hidden history revealed,” by Sarah Elder, Edinburgh News.com, 1 February 2003
  • [2] Did you also know that Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay to the musical film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, starring Dick Van Dyke, and that James Bond creator Ian Fleming was the author of the original novel on which that film is based?