Graham Chapman tribute from Monty Python - NY Times
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"You can kill him, cremate him and (ostensibly) kick his ashes around the stage at a comedy festival in Aspen. But you can’t keep a funny guy down.
Graham Chapman, whose death from cancer in 1989 forever closed the door on a full reunion of the Monty Python comedy troupe, will soon be back in what might be the next best thing: he will star in a 3-D animated version of his absurdist memoir, “A Liar’s Autobiography: Volume VI,” with most or all of the surviving Python members performing roles that are cut together with Chapman’s voice from a taped reading made shortly before he died.
Produced and directed by Bill Jones, Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson, who are based in London, the project continues a chaotic afterlife for the creators of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” a BBC comedy series whose run ended in 1974. They have resurfaced in films, on Broadway and in a 1998 appearance at the Aspen Comedy Arts festival, during which Terry Gilliam of the group kicked over what appeared to be an urn containing Mr. Chapman’s ashes. (In fact, those were scattered elsewhere.)
In keeping with the scrambled nature of all things Python, the new film has 15 animation companies working on chapters that will range from 3 to 12 minutes in length, each in a different style.
“Creatively, the different styles reflect the stages in Graham’s life,” said Mr. Simpson, who joined Mr. Timlett and Mr. Jones in describing the project in a telephone interview in mid-June. “Also, it saves us a lot of time.”
The film is expected to be about 85 minutes long, and should be finished in time for release next spring by Brainstorm Media and the production company Trinity, the filmmakers said. In the United Kingdom, it will open in theaters. In the United States it will have a debut on the television and online services operated by Epix. That company helped to finance the picture as part of an initiative under which it backs projects that look inside the entertainment world, according to Mark Greenberg, the president and chief executive of Epix.
First published in 1980, “A Liar’s Autobiography” was a deliberately fanciful account. And precisely what it says about Mr. Chapman remains open to debate.
“Nothing,” said Terry Jones, one of the six original Pythons and the father of Bill Jones, one of the producers, when asked recently what was true in the book’s description of Mr. Chapman’s progress through medical school, alcoholism, acknowledgment of his gay identity and the toils of surreal comedy. “It’s all a downright, absolute, blackguardly lie,” he said — perhaps joking, as Pythons will.
But Mr. Simpson says there is truth to be found, somewhere, in the book’s collection of stories, some of which are no sooner told than they are disavowed by the author.
“Graham’s is the story of a man who was openly gay but secretly alcoholic,” Mr. Simpson said. “This is not the story of Monty Python, it is a man’s life,” he added.
Hoping to make a documentary about Mr. Chapman, Mr. Simpson said he was initially disappointed during a visit to Mr. Chapman’s life partner, David Sherlock, who told him that home movies and other raw materials for a possible film did not exist. But Mr. Sherlock mentioned Mr. Chapman’s taped reading of the book, recorded in a single night in the studio of a Chapman friend, Harry Nilsson, at a time when audiobook recordings were not yet commonplace.
The idea of blending Mr. Chapman’s voice with animation and added dialogue from his old partners grew from talks with Mr. Timlett and Bill Jones, who had already made a six-part documentary series called “Monty Python: Almost the Truth — The Lawyer’s Cut.”
In the new film, John Cleese, a Python member who worked closely with Mr. Chapman after the two met at Cambridge University, engages in a long conversation while bicycling with his former partner. Mr. Chapman’s voice, captured long ago, is matched with Mr. Cleese’s newly recorded dialogue.
Michael Palin will appear as Mr. Chapman’s father. Mr. Gilliam plays various roles. So far, among the original Python group, only Eric Idle has not become involved, though Mr. Timlett said the filmmakers are “working on” him. (Queried through a spokesman, Mr. Idle did not respond.)
Bill Jones said he was particularly struck by the promotional potential of a project whose home video boxes might say: “Graham Chapman — Dead in 3-D.”
Terry Jones, who plays both himself and Mr. Chapman’s mother in the film, said he wouldn’t take any of it too seriously.
“The film shouldn’t be made,” he insisted in a conversation during which he laughed more than spoke from Gotland Island in Sweden, where he was vacationing.
“There isn’t a single word of truth in it.”
Isn't this awesome or what!?!