Graham Chapman, the twisted heart of the infamous British comedy troupe Monty Python, has been described as many things: “a comedian, actor, physician, mountaineer, rugby enthusiast, pipe smoker, alcoholic and consummate Englishman – the late Graham Chapman was a man for all seasons”. Best of all was John Cleese’s description of him at his memorial service as “a freeloading bastard”. Thanks to the new film A Liar’s Autobiography he can now be described as posthumously narrating his own life (and death) on screen.
That’s right folks, Chapman is back from beyond the grave in a new animated film A Liar’s Autobiography: The Unique Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman based on his own fictionalized, comedic autobiography written in 1980. The 82-minute film, directed by Bill Jones (Terry Jones’ son), Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson, details Capman’s personal and professional history through animation created by 14 different studios, and with a little help from Chapman himself.
Shortly before his death from cancer in 1989, Chapman recorded an audio version of his memoir ‘A Liar’s Autobiography (Volume VI)’ at Harry Nilsson’s studio. Forty-five minutes of recordings reading from his own highly fictionalized, but unfailingly hilarious autobiography. It was a treasure the directors of the film simply couldn’t pass up – the opportunity for Graham Chapman to star in the film of his own life… more than twenty years after his death. A Pythonesque concept if ever there was one. However, don’t get the wrong idea, the directors of the film say it’s “not a Python film” and “not a documentary”.
Although it’s not a Python film it does manage to bring back most of the Python troupe to collaborate with their old friend one last time. Fellow Python’s Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam all participated in recording for the film, playing themselves as well as providing the voices of additional characters. The only thing preventing this from being a bona fide Python reunion is the unfortunate absence of Eric Idle. Regardless, A Liar’s Autobiography provides a rare opportunity for any fan of the Pythons to revisit the delightful absurdist spirit and humor that was the hallmark of Britain’s famous comedy troupe.
Based on Chapman’s unapologetically false memoir ‘A Liar’s Autobiography (Volume VI)’ – credited to Chapman and four others: David Sherlock (his partner of some 20 years), David Yallop, Alex Martin, and ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ author Douglas Adams – the film recounts Chapman’s life from adolescence through his years in medical school, his first meeting with longtime writing partner John Cleese at Cambridge, the glory of the Python years, his coming-out as a gay man (or seventy percent gay, according to a survey he conducted on himself), and finally culminating in his abduction and transport to the heavens at the end of the eighties.
The film’s premiere screening was in September at The Toronto Film Festival. It will debut on EPIX and in select cinemas November 2 in the UK, and have a limited 3-D theatrical release in the US and Canada.
“It’s the greatest movie Graham Chapman has been in since he died!” So claims the trailer which is, ultimately, a lifetime of insanity squeezed into 2 minutes. Have a look for yourself, but be warned it’s “naughty in the extreme” and probably not a good idea to view at work unless your boss is a Python fan, too.