The professional and personal life of actor and comedian Peter Sellers was a turbulent one. His early movie fame was based primarily on his comic characterizations, often of bumbling and foreign-accented persons, characters which he embodied. As his movie fame rose, he began to lose his own personal identity to his movie characters, leading to self-doubt of himself as a person and a constant need for reassurance and acceptance of his work. This self-doubt manifested itself in fits of anger and what was deemed as arrogance by many. In turn, his personal relationships began to deteriorate as his characterizations were continually used to mask his problems. His first wife, Anne Howe, left/divorced him and his relationships with his parents and children became increasingly distant. His relationship with his second wife, Swedish actress Britt Ekland, was based on this mask. In his later life, he tried to rediscover himself and his career with what would become his penultimate film role, ...Written by
While on his way to the set of The Pink Panther (1963), Peter (Geoffrey Rush) tries out his Inspecter Clouseau persona on an unsuspecting stewardess. He in fact incorporates much of the mannerisms and trademarks that Clouseau wouldn't display until the sequel A Shot in the Dark (1964) and beyond, such as the long coat, the played-up arrogance and the exaggerated French pronunciation of words. The real Sellers had reportedly picked up the odd pronunciation from a French hotel manager one week into filming 'A Shot in the Dark'. See more »
In the scene where Peter Sellers is working out, he is not wearing glasses. But in the next shot, while talking to Britt Ekland, he is suddenly mysteriously wearing the glasses. See more »
[on the lawn of his new house at his wedding reception after marrying Britt]
What do you think of the new cottage?
You're watering the gin.
In your case, it's not a bad idea.
See more »
The frame freezes and the end credits start. After some informations about the last part of life of Peter Sellers have scrolled up the screen, the credits stop and the camera suddenly pulls back, revealing Geoffrey Rush watching the end titles sitting in front of a monitor on a studio set. He turns toward the camera, waves, gets up, leaves the set and walks to a trailer. The camera tries to follow him inside, but he turns and says "You can't come in here". The door closes, and the camera zooms in on the sign with the name "Peter Sellers". The film again fades to black and we see the rest of the end credits. See more »
The BBC broadcast a version with some scenes rearranged, some scenes shortened and a few other edits:
The montage of Peter Sellers' earlier films is cut together with the scene where he moves into a big new house with Anne and the children. Also the song 'I Haven't Told Her, She Hasn't Told Me' sung by Peter is played instead of Frank Sinatra's 'Fly Me to the Moon'.
The first Maurice Woodruff scene and the car showroom scene are moved ahead to after Peter's father's death scene, swapping places with the scene where he phones Harry Secombe asking if he wants to come over for a beer. The car showroom scene also replaces the Shirley Bassey song 'Big Spender' with incidental music composed for the film.
The first Maurice Woodruff scene begins with a shot of Peter smoking a cigarette in the waiting room before cutting to a shot of Woodruff's book, which is where this scene begins in the original version.
The Harry Secombe phone call scene is shortened, cutting out the bit where Peter tells his son to go to his room.
A shot of Peter as Dr. Strangelove saying "Boom" is added after the Dr. Strangelove filming scenes.
Peter and Britt Ekland's wedding reception scene is shortened slightly, the shots of the children on the carousel are cut out.
The scene where Peter drives Britt to the hospital to give birth is shortened, cutting out footage of the car going past a church, pulling out in front of another car and Peter telling Britt to keep breathing.
The very brief scene of Peter seeing a plastic surgeon followed by shots of him in a makeup chair and taking pills is cut out.
The scene where Maurice Woodruff tries to get Peter to do another Pink Panther film is shortened, the bit where he channels Peter's mother and tells him to do the film is cut out. Also a different take is used when Maurice gets out the film script, instead of saying "Are you absolutely sure about that?", he says "Are you sure about that?".
The scene of Peter in his trailer dressed as the old salty sea dog is moved back to in between the scenes of him agreeing to make The Pink Panther Strikes Again and the film's premiere, making it look as if this character is part of that film when actually he appears in Revenge of the Pink Panther. In the original version this scene takes place later on, after a shot of Peter picking up a Revenge of the Pink Panther script. Whereas this version changes this shot to show a Being There script.
The scene of Peter in character as Blake Edwards is shortened. The line at the end of the scene "What did he do after me? The only thing he never gave up on" is cut out.
The montage of Peter doing character preparation for Being There and burning his old movie stuff is arranged differently. The overlaid shots of him doing The Goon Show and playing Strangelove, Clouseau are removed, although a shot of him burning a photo of President Merkin Muffley and a shot of the Being There novel in his pocket are added.
In the first shot of Blake Edwards waiting for Peter at the restaurant, instead of starting with a close up of the script for The Romance of the Pink Panther and cutting just before a waiter pours water into a glass, it starts with the water pouring into the glass, using a different part of this same take.
At the ending, when after the closing text it zooms out to show Peter watching it on a monitor and getting up to go to his trailer after which the end credits roll, this version inserts after the text another shot of Peter standing in the snow, then the cast list rolls before the zoom out to Peter watching it on a monitor. Also in this version The Kinks' song 'A Well Respected Man' starts playing as Peter gets up to go to his trailer, in the original version incidental music is played here instead and 'A Well Respected Man' doesn't start playing until the credits roll.
Life imitating art imitating life imitating art imitating life
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers has to be one of the most creative, complex and revealing non-documentary movies ever made about an actual person, living or dead, and the inspired casting of Geoffrey Rush is spot on - he's magnificent in all the various and sundry Sellers guises, especially the ones from Dr. Strangelove and The Pink Panther's bumbling inspector. The rest of the casting is excellent too, particularly Charlize Theron as the second "B.E." in Seller's life, Britt Ekland.
The thing I liked most about this movie was how the script let us see how Sellers created his characters - how he was constantly "in character" or inbetween characters. He admits in the movie to being an empty vessel, with no personality of his own; this is what allowed him to be such an insufferably cruel bastard to all the people who were closest to him: he used his immersive, endlessly obsessive artistic process as a weapon and, ultimately, as a substitute for being human.
It's always brutally hard as an artist to find the balance - you have to be true to your work, naturally, and as an actor especially you're constantly redefining your inner reality, but you can't do it at the expense of the people who love you and whom you profess to love; there has to be emotional and mental discipline otherwise you become psychotically self-indulgent, as this film showed Sellers to be. The most poignant scene in the movie for me was when Sellers, in his typically childish and deranged state, tells his little daughter, "I'm an empty shell, there's nobody inside," words to that effect, and she answers, with a sad wisdom that no child should have to learn to possess, "Yes, daddy."
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