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
In the original concept, the screenwriters wanted Peter Sellers to comment on himself through his own characters as they sat around the War Room set from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). The idea was dropped, because it would have been prohibitively expensive in royalties. As an alternative, they decided to have Sellers speak about himself through the characters, from family and colleagues. See more »
[Peg visits Peter on the Dr Strangelove set, but he stays in character as Strangelove the whole time]
How was lunch with your son, Mrs Sellers?
I don't know really. I didn't see him.
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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.
Stephen Hopkins' "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" is a monumental film that undertook the difficult task of understanding the late Peter Sellers. This unique actor, with such a complicated personality and who lived such a turbulent life, comes alive in this HBO production based on the book by Roger Lewis, with an adaptation by Christopher Markus.
Peter Sellers covered quite a lot of ground during his life. He was one of the best actors working in the England of the fifties, working in all those charming comedies that made him a star in his native land, but alas, was not well known in America because he had not yet been hired by Hollywood until his "discovery" by director Blake Edwards, who offered him the part of Inspector Clouseau after Peter Ustinov had turned down the role.
Prior to his worldwide recognition, Mr. Sellers had to work a lot in order to make ends meet. Life with his first wife Anne came to an abrupt end, when he discovered she had fallen for the interior decorator the couple had hired. Then, there is the fascinating episode with Sophia Loren, in which Mr. Sellers, in his mind, begins to think he is in love with her, only to be rebuked by Ms. Loren, a woman who was happily married to Carlo Ponti, and had no desire to become the second Mrs. Sellers.
The third woman in Mr. Sellers life is the beautiful, but much younger, Britt Ekland. From the start, one can figure this union was not to last. The age difference and the different cultures indicate these two were completely mismatched, as we get to watch in painful detail how the marriage disintegrates.
Mr. Hopkins makes his star, Geoffrey Rush, assume a lot of roles in addition of the main one, Peter Sellers. Geoffrey Rush shows his versatility in playing them with great style. His biggest achievement seems to be how he captures the essence of Peter Sellers, the man, and expose him to us in all his complexity.
The acting is superb. Emily Watson and Charlize Theron are seen as Anne and Britt, two women that left their mark in the life of Mr. Sellers. Both are excellent in the film. Miriam Margoyles plays Peg Sellers. John Lighgow is Blake Edwards, the man who elevated the actor to an international acclaim.
The film is a documentary, as well as a biopic about this man who gave a lot of joy to movie fans through his films. Geoffrey Rush has to be thanked for bringing him to life, as well as the director, Stephen Hopkins for giving us an understanding on what it was to be Peter Sellers.
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