We all know and love Peter Sellers for his iconic role as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. On what would have been Sellers' 90th birthday, here are 10 surprising facts about the actor.
1. HIS FIRST CAREER IN SHOW BUSINESS WAS AS A DRUMMER.
At age 16, Sellers toured the U.K. with several jazz combos. Later, when gigs were harder to find, he branched out, printing up business cards that hinted at his future as a man of a thousand voices. They said: Peter Sellers, Drums and Impressions.
2. HE MADE TWO COMEDY ALBUMS BEFORE HIS FILM BREAKTHROUGH.
Before he made it in the movies, Peter Sellers recorded two solo comedy albums for EMI Parlophone that were produced by George Martin, who would go on to work with The Beatles.
3. HE AND SOPHIA LOREN TEAMED UP FOR AN ALBUM.
In 1960, Sellers recorded an album with Italian actress/sex goddess Sophia Loren, entitled Peter & Sophia. It yielded a novelty hit, “Goodness Gracious Me,” that went to number four on the U.K. pop charts.
4. SELLERS DUBBED BOGIE'S VOICE IN BEAT THE DEVIL.
During the filming of John Huston’s Beat The Devil (1953), lead actor Humphrey Bogart was in a serious car accident and had several teeth knocked out. When he was unable to provide some of his dialogue, Sellers was hired to dub his voice. It remains undetected in the movie to this day.
5. THERE WERE A LOT OF CONNECTIONS TO THE FAB FOUR IN SELLERS' LIFE.
In addition to being good friends with both George Harrison and Ringo Starr, in 1965 Sellers made the pop charts again with a comic version of “A Hard Day’s Night,” recited as if he were Shakespeare’s Richard III. Further, during the making of The Beatles’ White Album, Ringo gave Peter a tape of rough mixes. Auctioned off after Sellers’ death, it became the source of one of the most sought-after Beatles bootlegs ever—usually called “The Peter Sellers Sessions.”
6. SELLERS TALKED TO GOD. AND GOD GAVE HIM SOME BAD ADVICE.
After a long day of grappling with a troublesome scene in one of the Pink Panther movies, Sellers phoned director Blake Edwards in the middle of the night. “I just talked to God!” the actor exclaimed. “And he told me how to do the scene.” The next day, on set, Edwards let Sellers demonstrate the divine intervention, and it was a disaster. Edwards said, “The next time you talk to God, tell him to stay out of show business!”
7. SELLERS HELPED THE PRODUCERS FIND DISTRIBUTION.
When Mel Brooks had difficulty finding a distributor for his first film, Sellers stepped in. He urged top producers to watch the movie, and took out full page ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “This is one of the greatest comedies that’s been made recently.” His championing of The Producers gave it the industry buzz that turned it into a hit. Ironically, the year before, Brooks had pitched Sellers on playing a lead role, but Sellers was supposedly too busy at the time shopping at Bloomingdale’s to really listen.
8. SELLERS WAS SUPERSTITIOUS ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS, ESPECIALLY COLORS.
Green gave Sellers “strange vibrations” and disturbed him. He never wore it, and refused to act with anyone wearing green. Purple was even worse. During the making of After The Fox, director Vittorio De Sica flew into a rage one day when a script girl showed up in a purple outfit. “It’s the color of death!” De Sica told Sellers, and Sellers was haunted by this for the rest of his life.
In later years, Sellers' aversion to purple produced such volcanic tantrums that publicists would scour his proposed hotel rooms in search of the color, and if they found it, change the room.
9. HE BASED CHANCE THE GARDENER ON STAN LAUREL.
For his Oscar-nominated role as Chance The Gardener in Being There, Sellers based the tone and cadence of the character’s speaking voice on one of his comic idols: Stan Laurel.
10. HE HAD 15 HEART ATTACKS.
In 1980, Peter Sellers died from a massive heart attack. But it wasn’t his first—it was his fifteenth. He’d had one in 1977. And in 1964, during the filming of Billy Wilder’s Kiss Me, Stupid, Sellers suffered a series of 13 heart attacks over a period of a few days. At one point he was pronounced dead for a minute and a half.
This post originally appeared in 2011.