George Harrison wasn’t just the guitarist in the most successful band of all time, an acclaimed solo artist and songwriter, but he also was an accomplished film producer which begs the question: Was there anything that the late Beatle couldn’t do? This wasn’t just an exercise for Harrison to burn through some of the excess cash that he had built up, nor was it a vanity project, and the former Beatle was actually rather successful at it, even working on Monty Python’s Life Of Brian.
His vast career in film started in 1971 when he helped finance Ravi Shankar’s documentary Raga which he then went and released through Apple Films. Following this, he then teamed up with Apple manager Allen Klein for the Concert for Bangladesh film as Harrison continued to learn about the logistics attached to producing movies. In 1973, the former Beatle and Klein took on their biggest project yet when they produced the feature film Little Malcolm, however, the project was unfortunately lost amid the turmoil surrounding Klein’s departure from Apple—but Harrison wasn’t set to quit producing films anytime soon.
Following Klein’s departure, Peter Sellers introduced Harrison to Denis O’Brien and soon enough the two decided to head into business together after getting on like a house on fire. Then, in 1978, in an effort to be deemed as more professional as they vied to produce Monty Python’s Life of Brian, the duo formed the film production and distribution company HandMade Films together.
Their opportunity to produce the film was hopeful, to say the least, but somehow they got their opportunity after EMI Films withdrew funding at the demand of their chief executive, Bernard Delfont. Harrison jumped at the opportunity to finance the production of Life of Brian and even had to remortgage his home as he gambled everything on the film being a smash hit at the box office. Python star Eric Idle later called this “the most anybody’s ever paid for a cinema ticket in history”.
The former Beatle injected around $4million of his own money into the film which could have potentially ruined him if the bet didn’t pay off…but Harrison was convinced it would be a hit. Even a mind like Harrison however, can’t have expected the film to do quite as well as it did and, overnight, it became a bonafide box office hit. The film, not only the fourth-highest-grossing film in the United Kingdom in 1979, also became the highest-grossing of any British film in the United States that year.
Harrison, not just the financial muscle needed that gave the world received one of the greatest comedy films of all time, but he also makes an appearance in it as Mr Papadopoulis. The fact that he was willing to gamble his home to make sure this film was made proves that Harrison was a creative who made his decisions on passion rather than financial incentives and, fortunately on this occasion, his gut feeling would reward his wallet in due course.
Check out George Harrison’s cameo in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, below.