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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
When Peter Sellers is in the car having sex with Sophia Loren's body double, the song being played is "Goodness Gracious Me". This particular song was performed as a duet between the real-life Sellers and Loren, and was a hit in late 1960 throughout Europe. See more »
When Sellers finds out (via the newspaper) that Britt Ekland is arriving in London it is the early 1960s, yet on the wall of his room at the start of the scene is the UK film poster for his film Undercovers Hero. 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.
It might be impossible to capture every aspect of a man's life in a two-hour film (A & E Biography frequently fails at this in the one-hour format with the bigger stars) while giving everything its proper weight. Peter Sellers' life is of such extraordinary dimensions that "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" even fails at being a scrapbook. This is not necessarily the film's fault; the movie is mostly well-cast (only John Lithgow as Blake Edwards didn't seem quite right) and beautiful to look at, from the opening credits on.
The movie serves mostly as a sampler of Sellers' oddball behavior. Incidents are selected from his life (or slightly fabricated) to stand for the whole; one slap across Britt Ekland's face is meant to represent a lifetime of spousal abuse, but those unfamiliar with Sellers personal life will assume that he was merely temperamental off-camera. In fact, it doesn't even come close to the truth: Anne Sellers reported that Peter once fought her for 14 hours straight (she took a nap in between) and Britt says Peter pointed a loaded gun at her in Rome, only capitulating after she told him 'if you shoot me, you'll ruin your own career'. His mistreatment of his family is grossly underweighted compared to such trivial items as Sellers not quite getting the Texas accent required for the bomber role in Dr. Strangelove, then faking a broken leg to Kubrick so he wouldn't be able to climb the ladder to the elevated cockpit on the movie set and avoid having to admit his failure with the voice. Other things are not clearly explained; for instance, that the "clairvoyant" Maurice Woodruff was in the employ of the movie studios to get Sellers to do the pictures they wanted him to do, or the fantasy sequence after his seven consecutive heart attacks in LA, which relates to Sellers insisting that he had an out-of-body experience during he time his heart stopped. The asides to the camera by the Kubrick and Bill Sellers characters, and Sellers (in funny voices) indicate the director straining for depth; perhaps a documentary on Sellers' life would have been better.
On the plus side, Geoffrey Rush is nothing short of superb as Sellers. Everything about Sellers seems exactly right, including the voice, which is no small feat, since I don't think Sellers is all that doable. The voice certainly wouldn't be recognized as Sellers if done out of context, say, as a stage impersonation, yet it works, even though I can't really recall what Sellers' actual voice did sound like. (It was this lack of personality that made him such a great instrument for creating characters) Charlize Theron is also a dead ringer for Britt, though she's not given much to do.
This movie is mostly for Peter Sellers enthusiasts, like myself, who can pick out the obscure trivia (like the Texas accent sequence), explain it to other people and feel superior. The movie isn't bad, really; its extremely well-acted and well-crafted, but it fails miserably at explaining the man. Why was he the way he was? How does one reconcile his genius with his brutality and selfishness. Sellers is of such depth and magnitude that a two-hour movie just doesn't cut it. For a true picture of the man, I would recommend the Roger Lewis book on which the movie is "based", Ed Sikov's more sympathetic biography on Sellers, and Michael Sellers' memoir "P.S. I Love You". Sellers once described himself as being an "empty vessel", a body through which one of his great characters came to life. I feel the same way about this movie.
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