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Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) Poster

Trivia

Jump to: Cameo (1)  | Spoilers (2)
Six cast members played forty characters.
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When Sir Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate addressed the soldiers daring them to laugh, he was truly daring them. The soldier extras were ordered to stand there and not laugh, but not told what Palin was going to do. Palin, in fact, can barely stifle his own laughter when saying "Biggus Dickus" in front of the soldier asked if he finds the name "risible".
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In the interview section of Monty Python's Flying Circus: Live at Aspen (1998), John Cleese said that because of the massive protests against this movie from all denominations of Christianity, he would joke with Sir Michael Palin, "We've brought them all together for the first time in two thousand years!"
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One original concept for this movie was having Brian be the 13th Apostle and miss all of the critical moments of Jesus' life, like the Last Supper.
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Norway banned this movie for one year for blasphemy, then gave it an "18" rating and included a warning from the censors at the beginning. It has been marketed in Sweden as "The film that is so funny that it was banned in Norway!" Ireland banned this movie for blasphemy until 1987. Torbay Council, Devon, refused to show this movie until September 2008. Aberystwyth, Wales, lifted its local ban in 2009 after cast member Sue Jones-Davies was elected Mayor.
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After the first take of the scene where a nude Brian addresses the crowd from his window, actor, writer, and director Terry Jones pulled Graham Chapman aside and said, "I think we can see that you're not Jewish", referring to Chapman being uncircumcised. It was corrected in subsequent takes with a rubber band.
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When Brian appears nude in front of a huge crowd, Graham Chapman was actually nude in front of two thousand people. Many Muslim women shrieked when they saw Chapman nude.
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To receive a "AA" certificate in the U.K., allowing audience members under 18, the word "cunt" had to be removed from the scene where Reg blames Brian for allowing the Romans to almost discover the resistance's secret hideout. "Klutz" was overdubbed, though it's quite obvious to the audience what John Cleese is saying.
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Eric Idle originally recorded "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" in his normal singing voice. After deciding this was not quite right, he re-recorded it with a Cockney accent, singing the new dub in a hotel room with mattresses pushed up against the walls. The line, "Bernie, I said, they'll never make their money back" refers to Lord Bernard Delfont pulling out of financing the movie at the last minute. In the 2000s, the song was re-used in the musical "Spamalot!", adapted from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).
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The Pythons all seem to agree that they were at their peak with this movie. They wrote in beautiful surroundings by the sea, Graham Chapman had finally beaten his alcoholism, there were no last-minute directorial changes (unlike Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)), they filmed in a location with very agreeable weather, and they all feel that it was their best writing effort.
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Originally financed by EMI, who backed out because they considered the script blasphemous. The Pythons sued EMI and settled out of court. George Harrison, a huge Monty Python fan, thought it was the last chance to have another Python movie. He created Handmade Films, and "pawned" (his words) his home in London and his office building to raise the £4 million needed. When asked why, he said "because I want to go see it." Eric Idle joked that it was the highest price ever paid for a cinema ticket.
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The script was written in the Caribbean, where the Pythons hobnobbed with, amongst others, Keith Moon, drummer from The Who. Moon was slated to play a street prophet in the scene where Brian hides amongst them. Eric Idle saw Moon the night of his death, and remembers him expressing excitement about the role, which eventually went to Terry Gilliam. The published version of the script is dedicated to Keith Moon.
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According to Sir Michael Palin's diaries, he, Graham Chapman, and Eric Idle strongly favored the title "Brian of Nazareth." It was never used, perhaps to avoid comparisons with Jesus of Nazareth (1977), whose leftover sets were used for parts of this movie. When this movie was released in Italy in the early 1990s, it was titled "Brian di Nazareth", with no mention that it was made in 1979. It was so successful, that And Now for Something Completely Different (1971) was also released theatrically.
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Despite persistent rumors, the Pythons never intended to use the title "Jesus Christ's Lust For Glory". During production of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), they became increasingly irritated by the press, who seemed to always ask the same questions, such as "What will your next project be?" One day, Eric Idle flippantly answered, "Jesus Christ's Lust For Glory". It quickly shut up reporters, and the group adopted it as their stock answer. After production completed, they realized that while satirizing Christ was out of the question, they could create a parody of first-century life. An early idea for a scene involved Jesus, a skilled carpenter, frustrated by being crucified on a poorly-built cross.
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The scene with Brian and the others on their crosses was recorded early in the morning, and it was very cold. John Cleese is wearing clothes, while the others are not, because he couldn't stand the cold.
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John Cleese originally campaigned for the part of Brian, eager to expand his range with his first sustained movie role. The rest of the group favored Graham Chapman, and felt that Cleese would be missed if he didn't play several of the ensemble roles. Cleese soon agreed that Chapman was better suited, and stepped aside.
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John Cleese wanted George Lazenby to play the part of Jesus. He said it would be absolutely hilarious, and he wanted this movie's tagline to be "George Lazenby IS Jesus Christ". When the producers contacted Lazenby's agent they found out Lazenby was overseas working on another movie project.
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Graham Chapman, a qualified doctor, held clinics for the cast and crew after a day's work on the set.
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In 1982, during the Falklands War, sailors aboard the destroyer H.M.S. Sheffield, severely damaged in an Argentinean Exocet missile attack on May 4, started singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" while awaiting rescue.
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The shots of the crowds walking toward the Mount at the beginning of this movie were accidental. The scene was shot in the late afternoon, and all of the Tunisian extras left suddenly because the women had to prepare dinner for their families. The sweeping shots at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount sequence are the extras returning to the set.
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Anti-Scientology protesters chant "He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!" outside the cult's shops, with reference to L. Ron Hubbard.
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The English town of Bournemouth banned this movie in 1979. It was finally shown there in 2015, when the ban was lifted.
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Several scenes were filmed involving a group of Jewish zealots led by a psychopath named Otto, whose symbol was a combination of the Nazi swastika and a Star of David. The scenes were cut from the film during post-production, largely because several cast members decided that an analogy of Nazism and extreme Zionism, even if played for laughs, was too incendiary for a movie that was already going to be extremely controversial. In "The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons," Terry Gilliam, said he thought it should have stayed, saying "Listen, we've alienated the Christians, let's get the Jews now." Idle himself was said to have been uncomfortable with the character. "It's essentially a pretty savage attack on rabid Zionism, suggesting it's rather akin to Nazism, which is a bit strong to take, but certainly a point of view". Michael Palin's personal journal entries from the period when various edits of Brian were being test-screened consistently reference the Pythons' and filmmakers' concerns that the Otto scenes were slowing the story down and thus were top of the list to be chopped from the final cut of the film. However, Oxford Brookes University historian David Nash says the removal of the scene represented "a form of self-censorship" and the Otto sequence "which involved a character representative of extreme forms of Zionism" was cut "in the interests of smoothing the way for the film's distribution in America."
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Spike Milligan was on vacation in Tunisia while this movie was being shot. When the Python team realized he was nearby, they offered him a part in the movie.
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This movie pokes fun at revolutionary groups and 1970s British left-wing politics. The groups in this movie all oppose the Roman occupation of Judea, but fall into the familiar pattern of intense competition amongst factions that appears, to an outsider, to be over ideological distinctions so small as to be invisible, thus portraying the phenomenon of the "narcissism of small differences". Sir Michael Palin said that the various separatist movements were modelled on "modern resistance groups, all with obscure acronyms which they can never remember and their conflicting agendas."
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Originally banned by Frank Hall, the Irish movie censor, in 1979. He described as "offensive to Christians and to Jews as well, because it made them appear a terrible load of gobshites." It has been widely available on PAL U.K. videocassette in Ireland since 1980, and later on DVD to this day (legally and uncut).
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Sonia Jones, singing the opening song, is often incorrectly believed by fans to be Dame Shirley Bassey. The song was done in the style of John Barry, and fans often comment how it sounds like Dame Shirley Bassey singing the Goldfinger (1964) theme song. Though she sounds mature when she sings the song, Sonia Jones was 16 years old at the time it was recorded.
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Shortly after this movie was released in 1979, the BBC talk show "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" hosted a televised debate between John Cleese and Sir Michael Palin versus Catholic Bishop Mervyn Stockwood and broadcaster and Christian convert Malcolm Muggeridge. The latter two men had agreed to view this movie earlier that day and discuss it with the Pythons. The show was hosted by Tim Rice, who composed the lyrics to "Jesus Christ Superstar". The Pythons defended the movie as not an attack on Jesus, but rather a satirical commentary on his followers and the institutions they created, but without questioning anyone's beliefs. Stockwood and Muggeridge, meanwhile, derided it as "a little squalid number", "tenth-rate", "buffoonery", and "unworthy of an educated man". In one tense exchange between Muggeridge and Cleese, the former affirmed his position that Christianity had provided the most good in the world where Cleese responded "You mean like the Spanish Inquisition?" Stockwood dismissed Cleese and Palin with "You'll get your thirty pieces of silver", which drew an audible gasp from the audience. In 2013, Cleese and Palin watched the debate again after which Cleese remarked that they had not only won, but added that he "was astonished, first of all, at how stupid (the two members of the Church) were, and how boring the debate became." The debate was subsequently spoofed by Rowan Atkinson in a sketch where he played a Bishop debating whether or not Jesus making fun of Monty Python was blasphemous.
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The only character who appeared in all four Monty Python movies (And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), The Meaning of Life (1983), and this one) is God.
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During the Venice Film Festival, the U.A.A.R. (Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics) assigns the Premio Brian (Brian Award) to the most rationalist/atheist movie presented to the Festival. The name of the award is dedicated to this movie.
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Voted the funniest comedy ever in Channel Four's (U.K.) "The 50 Greatest Comedy Films", beating American Pie (1999), Groundhog Day (1993), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), and The Full Monty (1997).
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Eric Idle dubbed one of his characters "Loretta" as a reference to friend Marty Feldman's wife.
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According to the memoir "Gilliamesque", Terry Jones wanted Terry Gilliam to co-direct this movie, but he wasn't interested after facing some tension with the Monty Python group (apparently they wouldn't take his directions as seriously as actors he worked with after, and said he got a different experience on Jabberwocky (1977)), so he was brought on as production designer instead.
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Brian sells "Wolf nipple chips, get 'em while they're 'ot. They're lovely!" This is a reference to the famous myth that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf when they were babies - a story commemorated by ancient statues.
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In the stoning scene early in the movie, the man is condemned for speaking God's name "Jehovah". In fact, Jehovah was not used until the English translations of the sixteenth century. "Jehovah" Is a hybrid form derived by combining the Latin letters JHVH (for the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, YHWH,) with the vowels of Adonai (or Lord.)
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Theatrically re-released in the U.S. on April 30, 2004 for its 25th anniversary, two months after the theatrical release of The Passion of the Christ (2004).
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The scene towards the end where Brian can go free from the crucifixion, and everyone begins shouting, "I am Brian!" was a parody of Spartacus (1960), in which all of the rebels begin standing up and saying "I am Spartacus!"
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Some of the snack items that Brian sells at the games: Wolf Nipple Chips, Dromedary Pretzels, Jaguar Ear Lobes, Tuscany Fried Bat, Badger Spleens, and Otter Noses.
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Stan wants to be a woman, and insists on being called "Loretta". As a member of The Beatles, executive producer George Harrison performed the song "Get Back", which included the lyrics "Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman/But she was another man."
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Its highly plausible, though not officially confirmed, that the television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth (1977), and the later 1979 extended version, inspired Monty Python to later create this movie. Both have a similar plot, some of the same sets were re-used, and in particular the scene with John the Baptist declaring he's not the Messiah, is obviously part inspiration for the later "he's a very naughty boy". In fact, this movie was shot on the same sets as the mini-series and with the same extras. Terry Jones recalled that some said to him, "Well, Franco Zeffirelli wouldn't have shot it like that, you know."
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Diana Quick, Maureen Lipman, and Judy Loe auditioned for the role of Judith. Quick was offered the role, but had to withdraw because of commitments with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
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This movie is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #61.
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Terry Jones, who played Graham Chapman's mother, was not only actually a man, but was also one year younger than Chapman.
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Rated "12A" (suitable for twelve-year-olds and over) by the British Board of Film Classification in March 2019 for "infrequent strong language, moderate sex references, nudity, and comic violence."
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Included amongst the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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The famous 'Biggus Dickus' scene required a fair bit of planning. Michael Palin, John Cleese and Graham Chapman rehearsed it many times the day before the shoot, with other extras playing the Roman centurion guards, so as to get their timing and movement right and to allow director Terry Jones to ensure the lighting, camera blocking and positioning were all correct. On the day of shooting the extras were changed at the last minute as Jones knew that the only way the scene would work was if the extra's did not know in advance what was going to be said to them so as to capture their reactions to the dialogue and Palin's delivery of it. The resulting comedy gold from this scene is mostly down to he unrehearsed reaction of the new extras (one of whom was comedian Chris Langham), who were told that under no circumstances were they to react to what Palin would say to them. The new extras really did break down laughing on set and the ones who were ordered to take the laughing guards away were the ones who had been present at the rehearsals the day before, so were less likely to crack up laughing. In order to keep these reaction shots as fresh and natural as possible ,Terry Jones made sure that the whole scene was shot in just two takes. It is believed the second take for most of the set ups were the ones used in the film.
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The cast features three Oscar nominees: John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Charles McKeown.
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Opening theme song lyrics:

Brian. The babe they called 'Brian', He grew,... grew, grew, and grew-- Grew up to be-- grew up to be A boy called 'Brian'-- A boy called 'Brian'. He had arms... and legs... and hands... and feet, This boy... whose name was 'Brian', And he grew,... grew, grew, and grew-- Grew up to be-- Yes, he grew up to be A teenager called 'Brian'-- A teenager called 'Brian', And his face became spotty. Yes, his face became spotty, And his voice dropped down low And things started to grow On young Brian and show He was certainly no-- No girl named 'Brian', Not a girl named 'Brian'.

And he started to shave And have one off the wrist And want to see girls And go out and get pissed, A man called 'Brian'-- This man called 'Brian'-- The man they called 'Brian'-- This man called 'Brian'.
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Cameo 

George Harrison: Mr. Papadopolous, owner of "The Mount", who shakes hands with Brian and gives a very Liverpudlian "'ullo". The original recording proved to be unusable, so Sir Michael Palin dubbed it in post-production.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Though this movie was directed solely by Terry Jones to avoid the frictions and conflicts of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Terry Gilliam directed at least two scenes: the arrival of the Wise Men and the Nativity, and the abduction of Brian by the aliens, as explained in the commentary.
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Charles Knode: The costume designer appeared as the passer-by who sees Brian emerge from the crashed spaceship and said, "Oooh, you lucky bastard!"
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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