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Actor John Cleese Ponders Duo of Python Releases

23 Aug, 2003 By: Fred Topel

September sees two Monty Python special edition DVDs coming to retailers. Sept. 2 Monty Python's The Meaning of Life makes its first-ever appearance on DVD (two-DVD set $26.98) from Universal Studios Home Video, and Sept. 16 the third release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail gets a two-disc collector's edition presentation ($49.95) from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. This comes after the first movie-only release, and the second two-disc special edition.

Monty Python member John Cleese said when he does commentaries for the DVDs -- as he did for both of these -- he approaches them with the fans in mind, trying to think of specific anecdotes.

“[I might tell] some little story about what happened on the set or why Michael [Palin] got fed up with eating mud or why Terry Jones did so astonishingly well shooting the Creosote sketch when he must have been so uncomfortable and had to direct the movie while playing the main part,” Cleese said.

Since the members of the Python crew are scattered around the world working on individual projects, it was up to DVD producer John Goldstone to put all the pieces together. Cleese recorded all of his material alone and thinks no more than two Pythons were ever together at the same time.

“[Goldstone] is the one who came up with lots of ideas and visited each one of us in turn,” Cleese said. “I think he saw Mike [Palin] and Terry [Jones] together, but most of the time, we are so divided up. I mean, right at the moment, Michael's in the Himalayas making a travel program. Terry Gilliam's in Prague shooting the Brothers Grimm movie. I'm sitting here [in the United States]. So, John basically has to go around, and he comes up with ideas, gets ideas for us and then he e-mails everyone and he brings the whole thing together.”

One Cleese-specific idea for the Meaning of Life DVD is “The John Cleese Version.”

“The conceit is that this is a trailer that I have made trying to get more people to watch the movie. Of course, I am quite convinced that the way to do that is to tell people that I'm in lots of sketches, that I'm particularly good and not to mention the others' names.”

Years of experience have also taught Cleese to accept that studios may continue to re-release his old work again … and again.

“What happens is when you sign the original contract, you suddenly find that they have the rights to issue a ‘Best of' and then another one that's ‘The Best of the Best of,”;' he said, “and then another one which is all the sketches that start with the letter R. You kind of say, ‘Okay.’

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