by Hans ten Cate
Thursday, 19 August 2004 (updated 20 August 2004)

You asked for it... here is a huge dump of llama droppings for those who simply had lost faith in PythOnline. A rundown of the latest Python related news, if you will...

The right good folks at St. Martin's Press wrote me to say that they will be publishing a re-cataloged version of The Pythons: Autobiography by the Pythons this November. The second edition book (still hardcover) will retail at a new low price of $29.95. For Python fans who didn't get this incredible book, now is your chance. The 368-page tome captures the history of the Flying Circus in the Pythons' own words. The book also includes over 1,000 photographs, many of them never-before published.

A panel of 16 judges, which included the heads of entertainment from BBC, ITV and Channel Four plus executives from several other European entertainment companies, revealed on 23 July their picks for the 50 most influential British TV shows of all time. Fawlty Towers was snubbed but the most influential comedy shows included Monty Python's Flying Circus as most iconic, The Royle Family for spawning The Office, and Morecambe and Wise for being a much copied "national institution".

SPAMALOT, the live stage musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is proceeding rapidly, building momentum to this December's opening in Chicago. Casting has all but been completed and rehearsals will begin this Fall. The show opens in Chicago as part of a pre-Broadway run, followed by previews in New York in February, leading to the Broadway debut on 10 March. Fans can get advanced tickets to the Chicago shows starting this week (see Daily Llama #249). A SPAMALOT press event will take place on or around 14 September in Chicago.

Eric Idle has been hard at work on SPAMALOT. Not too busy, fortunately, to send us periodic updates on how the show is progressing. Read his first and second installments online. Keep visiting PythOnline's Daily Llama for additional behind-the-scenes tales of SPAMALOT soon.

In a poll conducted by UK's Sunday Telegraph, Monty Python's Life of Brian was voted Best British Comedy. Just over 230 actors, technicians, writers and directors took part in the poll, published Sunday August 15 by The Sunday Telegraph, to celebrate British film and British film talent. Each participant voted for their 10 favourite British films and their five top actors and actress in several categories.

The Monty Python license continues to expand. Toy Vault this year has shipped a bevy of soft and plastic toys based on the Monty Python films and television shows. Recent additions include the Cow Catapult Deluxe playset from Holy Grail, the vomiting Mr. Creosote (from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life) who actually spews green goo when you squeeze him, The Grim Reaper (also from Meaning of Life), and the Black Beast of Arrrggghhh! Keep an eye out for some Holy Grail mini figurines and talking "chibi" style plush dolls of Tim the Enchanter and the Knight Who Says Ni.

In case you were wondering, the Holy Grail was, in fact, finally found! Whereas the original script for Holy Grail had the knights of Camelot visiting Harrod's in London to find the Grail (because Harrod's reportedly has everything you see), the real truth is that an American novelty store has picked up the relic. Spencer's Gifts is selling the Grail for a mere $19.99. The gems around the top of the chalice are buttons which will cause various bits of dialog from the film to eminate from within. Batteries for the Talking Holy Grail are included, as well as a keepsake box!

Also, stay tuned later this year for some exciting Python DVD news. We can't share much right now, because we're waiting for the publisher to finalize the details.


Eric Idle

As recently announced on PythOnline, Eric Idle's The Greedy Bastard Diary will be published by Harper Collins next spring. This is the journal that Eric faithfully posted on PythOnline every day while he and his merry band of actors performed the Greedy Bastard stage tour last year. The 256-page book will also feature a 16 page insert featuring color photos from the tour.

Eric's long awaited sequel Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch will be released on video by Warner Video in March 2005. More details on that at a later date, so stay tuned.

As of July, Eric Idle can also be heard as the narrator in televised commercials for Aquafina, the bottled water. At least two ads featuring Eric are in rotation: "Drink" and "I Feel Pretty." Here is a link to a site where you can check out one of the ads for free (sounds weird to say that). The ads air frequently on U.S. television.


Photo: "Day and Night," Daily Express, 10 February 2004
[click photo for larger version]

Carol Cleveland

Her Royal Pythonness, Carol Cleveland, wrote in to say "Hello Everyone!" and that "I have FINALLY got round to updating the NEWS page on my website." Check out Carol's site at www.carolcleveland.com for more news.

Carol tells us that she will be coming to the United States to perform in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at the Bartlett Performing Arts Centre in Memphis, Tennessee from November 28 to December 5th, 2004. Also she reports that she will likely be appearing in the Graham Chapman biopic, Gin and Tonic, but not as herself.

"As I'll be in the states in December, I'm hoping to get to the first night of Spamalot," she writes. "But really....I'd love to be IN it! Well, I do sing and dance, you know! Producers...take note!!"

"By the way," Carol also said, "I got my own back for being left out of the Vanity Fair coffin shoot (who WAS that blond in Terry's coffin anyway?!). This photo was taken for the Daily Express newspaper. See!....I can be dead funny too, and dead glamorous....which is more than can be said for any of them, right?!"

We say "you're dead right," Carol!


Terry Gilliam

Gilliam has wrapped up final production, CGI animations, and editing on his new film Brothers Grimm, starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. The film portrays the storytelling brothers Will and Jake Grimm (Damon and Ledger) as 18th century con men who pretend to rid villages of fantastical beasts. When the French government orders them to visit a forrest really haunted by creatures, they must not only save the nearby village but their own hides as well.

Contrary to what you may have heard recently, an official release date has not yet been announced by Miramax (not at press time at least). Stay tuned though.

Meanwhile, the film has undergone some test screenings and impressions are very good indeed. Check out this little nugget from the discussion boards on Ain't it Cool News:

Dieselboy212: I've gotta say, Gilliam has done it again. At first I was afraid that he would soften it up by making it some movie that was mainly targeted towards kids between 4 to 12, cause there are WAY too many of those already. This was the farthest thing from a kiddie cliche that I have seen in a very long time. Even though the effects and music weren't completely done when I saw it at a very early screening, it still was great and had my undivided attention from start to finish. I just can't wait to see the completed version. My favorite aspect of this movie is that he manages to grasp the fantasy world and takes it seriously while successfully blending in his brilliant Monty Python sense of humor. Bottom line: This movie kicked ass! Can't wait until it hits theaters.

Bob McCabe, film critic and author of several Gilliam related books, has teamed up with Terry to write a book about the film: Dreams and Nightmares: Terry Gilliam, 'The Brothers Grimm' and Other Cautionary Tales of Hollywood. McCabe was on the set for much of the film and kept a diary which serves as part of the content for the book. The book is tentatively scheduled for a November release.

Meanwhile, Terry's next project is directing a film called Tideland, based on Mitch Cullin's novel about a girl in rural Texas who escapes from the grim reality of her life into a world of fantasy. "I'm off to Canada next week to start the prep on Tideland," Terry wrote to us this past weekend. "We start shooting on Sept. 27 in Regina, Saskatchewan. That's where they invented The Regina Monologues... it's very lonely there in the winter."


Graham Chapman

Graham Chapman, the deceased one, is still rather quiet.

Bob McCabe, who also edited the Pythons autobiography (see above) is still slated to author a biographical book on Graham Chapman. The book is tentatively titled The Life of Graham: The Authorised Biography of Graham Chapman. Once Bob has finished his upcoming Brothers Grimm book, we hope to see this one!


Terry Jones

In further book news, St. Martin's Press has announced that they will be publishing Terry Jones's Who Murdered Chaucer? in the United States early next year. The publication date is January 2005. In the book, Terry Jones investigates the mystery surrounding the death of Geoffrey Chaucer over 600 years ago. The book will retail for $29.95 US / $49.95 CAN.

All nine Ripping Yarns episodes (which were written by and starred Terry Jones and Michael Palin) are going to be issued on a DVD by a company called Network Media, towards the end of this year or early next year. Network are currently working on enhancing/restoring the quality of the original film material, and Michael and Terry Jones have both recorded special commentary for the discs.

Terry also continues to write opinion pieces and articles for The Guardian and The Independent newspapers. Here are links to a few:


Michael Palin

Michael Palin's new travel show, Himalaya, will be airing on BBC in early October. Keep visiting this site (as well as Michael's travel site, www.palinstravels.co.uk) for air dates. In the series, Michael takes on the Himalaya mountain range including the Khyber Pass, the hidden valleys of the Hindu Kush, ancient cities like Peshawar and Lahore, the mighty peaks of K2, Annapurna and Everest, the bleak and barren plateau of Tibet, the gorges of the Yangtze, the tribal lands of the Indo-Burmese border and the vast Brahmaputra delta in Bangladesh.

Weidenfeld Nicholson will publish the book based on the series, and will also publish one of Basil Pao's amazing photographic books chronicling the trip. Both books will be available in the UK on 27 September. BBC Video will release the series on DVD (also in the UK) on 1 November. No word yet on U.S. air dates.

What is more, the BBC has also bundled all of Michael's travel series into one giant boxed set (with a suggested retail price of £69.99) which will also ship 1 November. The collection of 14 discs (that's over 25 hours of Michael!) includes all episodes of all six series:

  • Around The World in 80 days (1989)
  • Pole to Pole (1992)
  • Full Circle with Michael Palin (1997)
  • Michael Palin's Hemmingway Adventure (1999)
  • Sahara (2002)
  • Himalaya with Michael Palin (2004)


John Cleese

John Cleese mentioned to me recently that he had recorded a part for an upcoming animated feature in which he plays the role of Hitler and Sylvester Stallone plays Mussolini. Too bizarre to be true? Guess again! A recent scoop about Automatons, the film in question, was also published on Ain't It Cool News, so it seems safe to disclose some info about it. The film script was written by Ed Solomon, John's son-in-law, and tells the story of two robots (Otto Maton and Rob Ott) built during WWII to kill Hitler. The two robots are abandoned and end up roaming the the ocean floor for 60 years, bickering with each other. Meanwhile Hitler, Mussolini and Japanese premier Tojo are revived, escaping their secret cryo-chambers, and decide to make the world a better place by staging a musical. This deliciously bizarre film will be done entirely in stop-animation style by the talented animators at Screen Novelties International. The animations are not finished but all of the dialog, including that of John's Hitler character, seems to have been recorded already.

John will also be voicing an animated character in Walt Disney's Valiant, due out some time in 2006. The film, in production at Vanguard Animation, is about a lowly wood pigeon named Valiant, who overcomes his small size to become a hero in Great Britain's Royal Air Force Homing Pigeon Service during World War II. John was approached by John H. Williams, the producer of the first Shrek film, to perform the voice of an Allied pigeon, trapped behind enemy lines in France. Ewan McGregor voices the title role and is joined by an all-star cast, including: Cleese, Sir Ben Kingsley, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent, Rupert Everett, John Hurt, Hugh Laurie, and Ricky Gervais.

In yet further animation news, John is also currently working on a treatment for a new animated feature about cavemen for Dreamworks. John and screenwriter Kirk DeMicco (who wrote Quest for Camelot - which starred Eric Idle), are teaming together on the project. It is too early to say when this project will be greenlighted.

The Food Network, a U.S. based cable network, will be airing a John Cleese hosted special, tentively called John Cleese on Wine for the Confused. The one-hour special will air in October and is intended to receive numerous airings. A near-final cut of the show is ready and I'm told that a DVD with loads of extra material will be released around the same time as the show's air date. A ton of material was shot for the show, enough for five episodes practically, which was challenging to edit down to a single one-hour show, so the additional material is being kept to include on the DVD instead.

Look for re-runs of Will and Grace episodes later this summer. Now that the new Fall TV season is coming up, NBC will likely be re-airing the episodes with Cleese in them. No official word on whether John will be returning next season - mostly because he hasn't been asked. All six installments featuring John as guest star have already aired, including the season finale in which John's character, Lyle Finster, marries Karen Walker (played by Megan Mullally).

John also stars in a recently released interactive DVD called Time Troopers, a history trivia game which can be played using your DVD player and the player's remote control. The program is meant to engage the entire family, featuring over 1,650 questions at adjustable difficulty levels. The DVD uses video clips and reenactments from The History Channel to entertain and educate. John Cleese portrays Special Agent Wormold of IM-6, who tries to recruit players to help right the wrongs of the past. The DVD comes with a bonus disc that includes three brief documentaries including a making of, an introduction to the game for parents by John Cleese, and a message to kids that is also from John. The History Channel and BEqual, a new edutainment company, teamed up to create the product. John Cleese also taped a special video message (including a clip from Monty Python), which is available on the BEqual website.

Look for Superman: True Brit, a comic book (yes a comic book) written by John Cleese and Kim "Howard" Johnson, this October.

And FINALLY, John will be spending the fall getting his website, www.thejohncleese.com in tip top shape. He has posted a brief video introduction on his site, which he was inspired to do after recording the video for the Time Troopers website.