Best Movie of the Year (so far)…

…doesn’t have dinosaurs or superheroes or any of the usual superstars. Nevertheless, I HIGHLY recommend that you see Love and Mercy, the Brian Wilson biopic starring both Paul Dano and John Cusack as the leader of the Beach Boys. I thought I knew the whole story, but I never thought it could be told as well as this. It’s not likely to be in theatres very much longer; it’s drawn great reviews but small crowds, but it’s well worth going out of your way to find. You will thank me.

loveandmercy

Cleese and Idle…together again for the first time!…

When I saw @johncleese recently, he told me that he would be touring around Florida this fall with @ericidle. And now, the official announcement has been made here. If you saw John and Eric in LA last November, you know this is not to be missed. Say no more.

Christopher Lee R.I.P.

imageI only met him once, but for this Famous Monsters of Filmland, horror loving kid, my mind still reels.

I was in England, writing for one of Jim Steranko’s magazines, and visiting a number of movie sets. Most of them were at various British studios, but one was being shot on location at a castle, out in the British countryside. It was a genre movie called House of the Long Shadows. When I learned who was in the cast, I would have paid Steranko for the opportunity.

Because who wouldn’t have loved to be on a movie watching Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and Vincent Price work together? (The fourth star–John Carradine–had the day off.) Outside it was uncharacteristically bright and sunny, but the interior of the castle was appropriately creepy, and the stars fit it like a glove.

Christopher Lee was tall and could certainly be intimidating (as anyone who ever saw him as Dracula, Scaramanga, or even, much later, Saruman, could attest). But off-screen, he was the model of a warm, cultured English gentleman, and even if I hadn’t known their history, it would have been easy to tell they were old friends and colleagues. When the director shouted “Cut!” they dropped their characters instantly and began enjoying each others’ company. At one point, I remember being engrossed watching Lee and Cushing walk through a scene, realizing how many great Hammer films they had made together, and being slightly annoyed because I was suddenly pulled away from the scene by Vincent Price because he was ready to do our interview. (I quickly realized I didn’t have much reason to be annoyed.)

The entire cast and crew eventually adjourned to a nearby pub in the English countryside for lunch, and I ended up sitting near Lee, Cushing, and Price. They were in great spirits, and I remember at one point their discussion centered not on Dracula, but on Russian art and their favorite museums. One of their other co-stars, Desi Arnaz Jr., mentioned that he had never had a scone, and so they all made a great show of ordering and presenting the young actor with his very first scone.

Somewhere I still have the tape of my interview with Christopher Lee (as well as Cushing and Price). I’ve visited a lot of film sets, but few as memorable as that day, for which I have to thank Steranko and his then-assistant and my long-time editor and pal David McDonnell. From serving in WW2 to starring as Dracula, all the way through to Saruman–well, amazing is the word that comes to mind. We hear a lot of “end of an era” statements, but to me, Christopher Lee’s passing is just that. Thanks for everything #christopherlee

For those of you who have been asking what some of my incredibly talented classes have been up to: well, this is what some of my incredibly talented classes have been up to.

Yes, the next step for my Python Process class at the iO Chicago appears to be videos, specifically, writing sketches and then recording them. My class is called Sketch to Video, and signup is about to begin. Get ready…

Personal Python Process…

Big thanks to dear Terry Jones for saying hello (via long-distance) to my Python Process class at the iO today. Nothing motivates a group of young writers (and Python fans) like a word of encouragement from Mr. Creosote, Brian’s mum, and Sir Bedevere!

Mandy

Absolutely Anything…

…is the name of my pal Terry Jones’ new movie, which stars Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, and the voices of Robin Williams and most of the Pythons. The US release date hasn’t yet been announced, but the trailer is out for the rest of the world, and it looks great. Take a peek.

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The green room at the Beacon (actually, under the Beacon) Theatre was well-stocked with food and drink after the Q & A, as the Pythons and friends made their way downstairs (thanks to Jeff Slate for the photo!). One of the nicest things about a Monty Python party (and, to paraphrase from Life of Brian, I should know, I’ve been to a few) is how so many familiar faces and members of the Python family seem to turn up. It’s always particularly happy to see the various family members, former co-workers and devoted friends that only seem to turn up every few years at these kinds of events. Strange as it may sound, Python is a family (and of course, the fans are a valued part of that family. But it was delightful to see folks like Roger Graef, Simon Jones and his wife Nancy, and John and Linda Goldstone.

I followed Terry Jones and John Oliver into the room and we all had a drink as the rest of them poured in, and everyone had a chance to catch up properly. I was approached by several people whom I had forgotten, and had to be reminded that I knew because they were “friends of Graham.” I took them at their word because, well, Graham certainly had a lot of friends.

A few famous faces made their way in, and I saw John talking to Hank Azaria. It soon became rather crowded, and Terry J suggested that we head down the block to the Amsterdam Ale House for dinner, where I mentioned earlier that they were serving Stone Dry Hopped IPA on cask. Terry hadn’t forgotten. I made my way over to John to let him know I was leaving, and I saw him talking to John Goldstone. As I approached him, however, I realized it was not John Goldstone, but in fact Kevin Kline and his son. I apologized for my intrusion, but Kevin was glad to see me, as we had spoken on the phone several times when I worked for John, but we had never met. We also joked about how John used to make fun of his acting, noting that while he felt Kevin was a great actor, he was an even greater over-actor.

And so with that, Terry J and I and a couple of other friends headed up to the Ale House for dinner and drinks. Despite the jet lag and general lack of sleep (I had gotten up at 3 a.m. for my flight), we found some extra adrenalin that kept us going well past midnight for a successful day, and a memorable Python anniversary.

@montypython #montypython