George Harrison became an honorary member of Monty Python after the Beatles split, according to Terry Gilliam.
George, who died in 2001, struck up an unlikely friendship with the trailblazing British comedy troupe, made up of Terry, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman and Terry Jones, and even bankrolled their most famous film, 1979’s Life of Brian.
‘He was a joy,’ Terry said. ‘With George, he’s always referred to as the “quiet Beatle” – not at all! Just a jabber mouth. He was incredibly funny, that’s the other side that people aren’t aware of. They go “ohhh spiritual”. No, he was incredibly funny and we just had a great time. ‘Because I think he was so excited… the Beatles had broken up and there was Python, so he kind of joined another group. He was always a joiner, clearly, he went on to the Traveling Wilburys (with Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty).’
George paused his music career to become a movie producer in order to get the comedy classic made, setting up HandMade Films with business partner Denis O’Brien and mortgaging his house just to ensure Brian was financed after original backers EMI Films pulled out a week before filming was scheduled to begin.
Terry and George went on to forge a strong working relationship through HandMade Films, which also made his feature Time Bandits, as well as Withnail and I and Shanghai Surprise, among many others. And the Brazil filmmaker is adamant he wouldn’t have the career he’s had without the help of his friend. ‘I wouldn’t be here talking to you if it wasn’t for HandMade films,” the Oscar nominee declared. ‘The world wouldn’t have Time Bandit, A Private Function. It wouldn’t have any of these things… It’s very simple. To have a Beatle as a patron is what you need in life, it really was. I mean George stepped in and saved our a**es basically.
‘We were never respected I don’t think within the industry. I remember there was a book written by (film critic) Alexander Walker in the ‘80s, a history of British cinema; we were a footnote.’ The HandMade Films story is told in documentary An Accidental Studio, which charts the early years of the revolutionary production company. An Accidental Studio is on AMC on 15 September at 7.10pm.