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Film

Michael Palin discusses how George Harrison funded ‘Life of Brian’

@Russellisation

Whilst the iconic Beatle and influential musician George Harrison was best known for his time in the four-piece rock band, the late 20th-century figure also had a hand in changing the world of popular culture on the whole. 

Along with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Harrison helped change the way music was produced, films were made and even how society functioned. A particular fan of cinema, Harrison had made Let It Be, A Hard Day’s Night and Yellow Submarine, and went on to produce a collection of others, including the Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren classic The Long Good Friday

When it came to his own pick for his favourite film, the actor opted for the Mel Brooks classic The Producers, with the musician able to quote the film on demand. In fact, his love for the 1967 comedy went so far that Harrison even references the film in the song ‘Horse to the Water’ from the album Small World, Big Band when he sings, “A friend of mine in so much misery, some people sail through life, but he has struck a reef,” a call back to Zero Mostel’s line in The Producers, “Other men sail through life. Bialystock has struck a reef!”. 

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His love of cinema extended to the comedy troupe Monty Python who were thriving around the same time as The Beatles’ influence was gradually decreasing towards the end of the 1970s. Throughout the ‘70s, Python released some of their most celebrated work in the movies, And Now for Something Completely Different in 1971, Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1975 and the iconic Life of Brian at the end of the decade in 1979. 

Such films were no easy feat to fund, however, particularly as the religious themes of Life of Brian were rather contentious, so, in an effort to help some of his favourite filmmakers, George Harrison put up the majority of the budget for the 1979 movie. 

Speaking at Film Feast Suffolk in 2018, Life of Brian star and Monty Python member Michael Palin, revealed his surprise at Harrison’s generous act. Explaining the situation, Palin reveals how Eric Idle was in Los Angeles and happened to meet up with George Harrison, stating, “George was a great fan of [Monty] Python as it turned out. George said that he would find five million dollars to get the movie made”

Calling the funding “the most extraordinary lavish gift of generosity,” Palin explained that George was asked why he put so much money behind the film, to which he memorably replied, “Well you know I just wanted to see it”.

“If you’re a Beatle, you can pay five million for a ticket,” the Monty Python star added, finalising his thoughts on the funding by gushing over the Beatles star, calling him, “A man of many parts lots of things not just his music, he was also interested in the environment, he was also interested in films”. 

Without the influence of George Harrison there’s many things in this world we would not have, not least the comedy classic Life of Brian.