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Classics Corner: ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’

Python co-founder Michael Palin remembers the 40-year-old comedy classic – and Biggus Dickus

By Hanna Flint
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‘Unlike “Holy Grail”, “Life of Brian” got a reputation for being quite a naughty film. Some people in the church had a kneejerk reaction to it, and claimed comedy and Christ could never mix, but I always dispute that. Jesus was a charismatic speaker so he must have been able to tell a joke.

‘I would have liked to have played Brian, our accidental Messiah. I understood Brian and what he was but Graham [Chapman] had played Arthur so well in “Holy Grail” and the same requirements were needed: someone going through the world, totally mystified by what’s going on around him, telling people not to be stupid when they are stupid. Whoever wrote a sketch would usually be chief contender to play the main part, which is why I played Pontius Pilate.

‘People love to quote “Biggus Dickus” to me most. That was a hard scene to film. I would whisper a name in someone’s ear before a take so that when they yelled “action” that person would have to suppress a laugh. I think Incontinentia Buttocks came out of one of those ad-libs. At one point, I couldn’t do it without smiling myself and Terry Jones kept the moment in, which I’m slightly embarrassed by, but the hardest scene to film was being crucified. That was unpleasant.

‘I think it’s aged pretty well , and I see a reference to Monty Python every day. A Ukrainian presidential candidate recently said that he’s a fan. So we’re not dead yet.’ 

‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’ is in cinemas on Apr 18 for one day only. Head to www.wewantbrian.com to find your nearest screening.

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