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John Cleese working on A Fish Called Wanda musical

Mon 06 Jun 2011 23:20


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At 71 John Cleese is well past running the Ministry of Silly Walks, but this hasn’t slowed him down. From writing a stand-up show with his daughter to working on a musical version of his classic film A Fish Called Wanda, this comedy legend is still very much alive.

Most famous for his roles in Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Harry Potter and the James Bond movies, Cleese has only recently left film and television for the stage and it was while working with his daughter Camilla in New Zealand that he was approached about writing a musical.

“They asked me if we could try and write a musical of A Fish Called Wanda,” he told The Hour. And originally I didn’t want to be inhibited or restricted by that, but then I thought: ‘It’s mine, I can change it’.

“So we changed the last 20 minutes completely, they now escape in a helicopter from London Zoo so it’s been great fun changing it.”

Co-written with his daughter, he attributed the off-the-wall ideas in the musical to her while he worked on the technical stuff like writing.

He went on: “So we’ve handed the book in - that’s everything except the music - and what we’re trying to figure out now is a deal with MGM, because they own the rights, and the other thing is to get a director in who’s going to help us integrate the music into it.”

The original screwball comedy starred Cleese alongside Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin as they attempt to get away with a jewel heist only to turn on each other.

Both critically and commercially successful, the film was named as the 41st greatest British film of all time by Total Film magazine and in a show of generosity Cleese joked that he would try to write a part for his one-time Python partner:

“[Michael Palin is a] very nice man and he hasn’t worked for years so I’ll try and write something for him that’s not too demanding.”

You can see John in An Evening With The Legendary John Cleese at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh on June 9, 10 and 11 or visit his website.


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