15 Facts about Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Ni! Ni! Ni! In honor of the 40th anniversary of Monty Python’s quest for the Holy Grail, here are a few facts you may not have known about the legendary comedy.

1. THE NAME “MONTY PYTHON” DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING.

The name of the highly influential comedy troupe made up of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin was made up by the group when they were commissioned to make their BBC comedy show Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Numerous non-sequitur names were considered before that, including “Owl Stretching Time,” “The Toad Elevating Moment,” “A Horse, a Spoon, and a Basin,” and “Bumwacket, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot.” “Flying Circus” only stuck because the BBC informed the group they had printed their programming schedules with the name already and it couldn’t be changed. When they wanted a name to go before that, John Cleese suggested something slithery like “Python,” while Eric Idle came up with the name “Monty” to suggest a sort of drunken British stereotype.

2. THE OPENING CREDITS WERE MEANT TO SPOOF INGMAR BERGMAN’S FILMS.

The group ran out of money for an opening title sequence, and could only afford simple white text title cards over black backgrounds. Wanting to take advantage of the space without having to pay any money, Palin suggested adding the joke of increasingly absurd fake Swedish subtitles about a moose over stoic music as a way to send up the snooty foreign films they loved.

3. THERE ARE MULTIPLE DIRECTORS.

According to the credits, the movie is directed by 40 Specially Trained Ecuadorian Mountain Llamas, 6 Venezuelan Red Llamas, 142 Mexican Whooping Llamas, 14 North Chilean Guanacos (Closely Related to the Llama), Reg Llama of Brixton, 76000 Battery Llamas From “Llama-Fresh” Farms Ltd. Near Paraguay, and Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones.

It marked the first time Gilliam and Jones directed a feature film, and the pair were given directing duties simply because they were the only ones out of the group who wanted to direct after the group decided not to hire their Flying Circus and And Now for Something Completely Different director, Ian MacNaughton. Gilliam in particular has gone on to have a highly successful career directing films like Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO TAKE PLACE IN MEDIEVAL AND MODERN TIMES.

The film technically takes place in 932 A.D. but features modern characters anachronistically intruding on the hilarity. In the group’s original story idea there was going to be a more distinct setting with Arthur searching for the Holy Grail in both medieval and modern London, and in the end he and the Knights of the Round Table were to have found the Grail at a “Holy Grail Counter” at Harrod’s department store.

Gilliam and Jones suggested keeping the movie in the Middle Ages because Jones was interested in the time period (he would go on to write several books on the subject) and Gilliam was inspired by a trilogy of movies by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini that took place in medieval times.

5. THE COCONUT JOKE CAME OUT OF NECESSITY.

The running joke of the knights riding around on invisible horses with the sound of the horses’ hooves clopping coming from their squires’ clapping coconuts together came from the fact that the group didn’t have enough money in the budget to afford actual horses. The group came up with the coconut idea from an old BBC radio practice of using coconut halves as sound effects for horses.

6. ALL OF THE CASTLE INTERIORS ARE ACTUALLY ONE CASTLE.

During pre-production, Gilliam and Jones had scouted and secured a series of authentic medieval shooting locations throughout Scotland. But two weeks before production began the filmmakers found out that the National Trust had banned the comedy troupe from shooting in any national historical sites because, according to Gilliam, “we wouldn't respect ‘the dignity of the fabric of the building,’ where the most horrible tortures, disemboweling had gone on!”

Forced to scramble to find a place to shoot the movie, the two Terrys secured two privately owned castles to shoot all of castle interiors and most of the exteriors. Castle Aaargh is actually Castle Stalker, which is located on the west coast of Scotland. The rest of the castles are actually Doune Castle (located about 30 miles north of Glasgow) shot from different angles.

Funny enough, just as the character of Patsy says, Camelot is only a model. It was a 12-foot high cutout of a castle, and Gilliam and Jones used forced perspective as a quick cheat during wide-angle shots to make it seem like an actual location.

7. THEY HAD A ROUGH FIRST DAY OF SHOOTING.

Gilliam and Jones, the two rookie directors, had a rude awakening when they showed up to work on the movie. On the first take of the first shot during the very first day of filming in Glen Coe, Scotland for the Bridge of Death sequence over the Gorge of Eternal Peril, their camera broke. It was the only camera the production could afford. When they managed to get the camera working again, the sync sound wouldn’t work, so they could only shoot non-dialogue close-ups until they got the camera fixed.

8. THE BOOK OF THE FILM IS A FAMILY AFFAIR.

The insert shots of the Book of the Film were shot on Gilliam’s living room floor. The fingers turning the pages belong to Gilliam’s wife, Maggie Weston, a makeup artist who worked on Flying Circus and would go on to work on some of her husband’s films like Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (for which she earned an Oscar nomination in 1990).

Gilliam himself was the gorilla hand, which he bought at a local London joke shop. Sir Not Appearing in This Film is a baby photo of Michael Palin’s son, Thomas.

9. THE BLACK KNIGHT SEQUENCE CAME FROM AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STORY TOLD TO JOHN CLEESE.

Cleese was inspired to write the Black Knight scene from an elementary school story he remembered about two Roman wrestlers. During an extremely intense and scrappy match, one wrestler finally tapped out only to discover that his opponent had died during the struggle, meaning he had posthumously won the match.

The moral of the story was that if you don’t give up you couldn’t possibly lose, which was an idea Cleese hated, so he lampooned the quasi-sadistic tale in the movie with supposedly noble knights.

10. PINK FLOYD, LED ZEPPELIN, AND GENESIS INVESTED IN THE FILM.

The film’s initial budget of approximately £200,000 was raised by convincing 10 separate investors to pitch in £20,000 apiece. Three of those investors were the rock bands Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Genesis, who were persuaded to help the Monty Python group after Tony Stratton-Smith, head of Charisma Records—the record label that released Monty Python’s early comedy albums—asked them to contribute.

11. THE FRENCH SOLDIERS WERE BASED ON REAL HISTORY.

Cleese had the idea for the taunting French soldiers after something he read in a history book about medieval troops whose sole purpose was to taunt opposing enemies before battle. He combined that with the Roman practice of catapulting dead or rotting animals into castles to draw enemies out as well as the practice of dropping feces on enemies who attempted to storm castles.

12. THE EXTRAS IN THE MOVIE WERE EITHER STUDENTS OR TOURISTS.

To get extras for the wedding scene between Prince Herbert and his bride, the producers simply asked tourists visiting Doune Castle if they’d like to appear in a movie. Anybody who agreed was given basic medieval clothes and told to join in the insanity.

Arthur’s army at the end of the movie was made up entirely of 175 students (shot from various angles to make it seem as if there was double that number) from Scotland’s University of Stirling. According to a casting call sent to the school by the production, each student was paid £2, and got free transportation, food, and “an abundance of crazy antics” for a single day’s work.

13. IT HAD A UNIQUE PREMIERE SCREENING AT THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL.

Someone called in a bomb threat to the theater playing Monty Python and the Holy Grail during its premiere at Cannes, which forced festival workers to evacuate the theater just after the opening credits. People were expecting hijinks from the Pythons, and some audience members even reportedly thought the evacuation was part of the movie.

14. MICHAEL PALIN PLAYS THE MOST ROLES, WHILE GRAHAM CHAPMAN PLAYS THE LEAST.

The Pythons originally wanted to play every role in the movie until they realized that wasn’t feasible. Still, every member of the group plays multiple roles, with Palin playing a grand total of 12 different characters: Sir Galahad, the soldier who argues about swallows in the opening scene; Dennis the repressed peasant; a mud villager; a singing Camelot knight; the right head of the Three-Headed Knight; the King of the Swamp Castle; a wedding guest at Swamp Castle; Brother Maynard’s assistant; the main Knight who says “Ni”; a French taunting knight; and the narrator.

Graham Chapman has the fewest number of characters, appearing as four different people: King Arthur, the voice of God, the hiccupping guard, and the middle head of the Three-Headed Knight.

15. THE IDEA FOR THEIR NEXT MOVIE CAME FROM HOLY GRAIL’S PROMOTIONAL TOUR.

According to the Pythons, the one question that was asked the most on the promo tour for Monty Python and the Holy Grail was what their next movie would be. When asked the question while screening Holy Grail in Paris, Eric Idle jokingly answered by saying, “Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory.”

The other Pythons ended up actually liking the idea, and they eventually made their next movie in 1979 called Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which was about a man named Brian who is mistaken for the Messiah because he was born on the same day in the manger next door to Jesus Christ.

Additional Sources:
Blu-ray special features
The Pythons: Autobiography by the Pythons

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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MGM Home Entertainment
11 Fun Facts About A Fish Called Wanda
MGM Home Entertainment
MGM Home Entertainment

In 1988, the British heist comedy A Fish Called Wanda had audiences in the UK and across the pond rolling in the aisles. Thirty years later, the Oscar-winning ensemble movie about a clueless (but don’t call him stupid) weapons expert, a bumbling barrister, a quick-witted femme fatale, and a stuttering con artist remains a cult favorite. Starring John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and of course, the eponymous fish, the film is packed with smart writing, silly slapstick, and some of the strongest comic performances of its starring actors’ careers. Here are 11 facts about A Fish Called Wanda for your unreserved enjoyment (just don’t ask us to repeat the part in the middle).

1. IT WAS DIRECTOR CHARLES CRICHTON’S FIRST FILM IN TWO DECADES.

Back in the 1950s, Charles Crichton was a famous director of Ealing Comedies—a series of comedy films produced by London’s Ealing Studios—who was known for his work on films like The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), Hue and Cry (1947), and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). By 1988, however, he hadn’t directed a feature film in two decades (though he had worked on TV shows and documentary shorts). He came out of semi-retirement to work on what would become his final film at the behest of John Cleese.

2. CRICHTON AND JOHN CLEESE SPENT FIVE YEARS WRITING THE FILM.

A Fish Called Wanda was years, even decades, in the making. Cleese and Crichton first met and began discussing ideas for a comedy heist film, inspired by The Lavender Hill Mob, all the way back in 1969. Though they parted ways professionally, Cleese continued to look for opportunities to collaborate on a film with Crichton. More than a decade later, he finally got his chance when he found himself working with Crichton on a series of business management training videos.

Though Crichton was already in his late seventies, Cleese managed to convince the semi-retired director to brainstorm ideas for a feature film with him. For the next few years, the two met periodically to throw around ideas and work on the script. All in all, the entire scriptwriting and pre-production process took more than five years and cost $150,000 of Cleese’s own money.

3. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE EALING COMEDIES.

Unsurprisingly, A Fish Called Wanda was heavily indebted to the Ealing Comedies, especially Crichton’s own The Lavender Hill Mob, a heist comedy which starred Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway as a pair of bumbling bank robbers. Cleese, however, claimed the parallels between the Ealing Comedies and A Fish Called Wanda were unintentional, but embraced the comparison.

“I knew that my memory of all these great Ealing films was very present, although I wasn’t consciously trying to write an Ealing comedy,” Cleese explained. “But I do remember when we interviewed Johnny Jympson when we were looking for an editor, and Johnny’d read it, and he came in and sat down, and Charlie said, ‘What’d you think?’ and Johnny was almost nervous and he hemmed and hawed a little bit and then he said very uncertainly, ‘Well, it’s an Ealing comedy, isn’t it?’ and we both said, ‘Yes!’”

4. THE ACTORS HELPED SHAPE THEIR CHARACTERS.

Cleese encouraged Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Jamie Lee Curtis to contribute ideas and help develop their characters. Curtis, in particular, was responsible for major changes to Wanda’s personality. "She was a sexually brazen, cold-hearted manipulator, who simply wanted money,” Curtis told The New York Times. “I didn't find that real. I decided she didn't altogether know what she wanted, but finds a wonderful power in manipulating people and feels personal satisfaction in trying to fool them. She plays a slightly different role for each man, yet she enjoys being herself, and she's not cold-hearted, not vicious.''

Curtis told The New York Times she reveled in the rare opportunity to shape her own character: ''Most films, one person is in charge, and you're afraid even to raise your hand with a suggestion,'' she explained. ''That's frustrating if you're a bright person and trust your instincts. But this was totally a collaborative effort, and I'm afraid it's spoiled me.'' She was, apparently, so enthusiastic a contributor over the course of a two-week rehearsal period that Palin gave her a shirt that read, “Wait, I have an idea.”

5. KEVIN KLINE’S CHARACTER WAS INSPIRED BY A LOS ANGELES SELF-HELP GURU.

In A Fish Called Wanda, Kline’s Otto is a pseudo-intellectual who constantly misinterprets everything from the teachings of Buddhist philosophy to the writings of Nietzsche. According to Cleese, his character was inspired by the real-life self-help guru Zen Master Rama, sometimes called the “yuppie guru.”

“I got the real key to the character out of Los Angeles Magazine,” Cleese explained in an interview. “I found a double-page spread for a guru, and I’m pretty sure his name was Zen Master Rama, and he looked about 32 and very unsure of himself, and he had a funny sort of hairstyle like a dandelion at the end of September. But the key thing was the line across the top of this two page advertisement for the seminars he ran at weekends, which was ‘Buddhism gives you the competitive edge.’ And I thought this was unbelievably funny.”

6. CLEESE’S CHARACTER WAS NAMED AFTER CARY GRANT.

Cleese named his character Archie Leach after movie star Cary Grant, who was born Archibald Leach. Though Cleese’s bumbling lawyer has little in common with the famously debonair Grant, Cleese explained that he chose the name because he and Grant shared a hometown, and because it was the closest he would ever get to “being Cary Grant.”

7. THE ORIGINAL ENDING WAS MUCH DARKER.

A Fish Called Wanda started off as a much darker comedy, but test audiences in America were apparently uncomfortable with the film’s cruelty, and lack of romantic payoff, so Crichton and his cast went in for a few re-shoots. In addition to softening Palin’s character a bit, they ended up re-shooting the film’s ending three times.

“We played the whole movie with this very sort of dark intent—it was a very black comedy—and of course, when they tested the movie in America, it tested very funny, except that people didn’t like that there was no real love story,” Curtis said, further explaining:

“The original ending of the movie was much darker. The costume designer and I had a really great time costuming this character, and in a department store in London on sale, we found a pair of shark shoes, and we bought them because we just thought, ‘Well, she’s just a shark.’ And we wore them in that last scene, and literally the last shot of the movie was going down my leg and freeze framing on the shark shoe. And right then, you knew she was going to take him for everything. The minute they got off the plane, she was going to bop him on the head, take the stuff, and leave.”

8. CLEESE CUT A BIG CHUNK OF THE CATHCART TOWERS SCENE.

In addition to changing the ending, Cleese cut several minutes from the film’s penultimate scene, in which Archie tries to get the stuttering Ken (Palin) to telling him where Wanda, Otto, and the diamonds are. Ken, whose stutter gets worse under pressure, can’t seem to utter the two words “Cathcart Towers.”

Initially, the scene was a Monty Python-esque series of increasingly absurd stunts—Ken attempting to sing the words (which remains in the final film), Archie trying to feed a tissue through a typewriter, Ken writing in toothpaste on a window—but Cleese worried the scene, which arrives at the climax of the film, was overly long and dragging the plot down, and so deleted most of it.

9. ONE AUDIENCE MEMBER LAUGHED HIMSELF TO DEATH.

Ole Bentzen, a Belgian audience member, was so tickled by the scene in which Ken has French fries stuck up his nose, that he actually laughed himself to death. The scene reminded him of a similar experience at a family dinner, in which his family had shoved cauliflower up their noses to great comic effect. He began laughing so hard, his heart rate escalated dangerously, causing a fatal heart attack.

10. IT WAS NOMINATED FOR THREE OSCARS.

Comedy movies rarely fare well at the Oscars, but A Fish Called Wanda was an exception. The film was nominated for three awards: for Best Original Screenplay (for Cleese and Crichton), Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Kline, who took home the statuette.

11. IT WAS THE TOP VIDEO RENTAL OF 1989.

A Fish Called Wanda beat a number of higher-budget blockbuster movies, including Die Hard (1988) and Coming to America (1988), as well as the Oscar-winning Rain Man (1988), to become the top video rental of 1989. Its success was due, in part, to an advertising partnership with Cadbury Schweppes, which plastered grocery stores for weeks with ads for the film.

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