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Trivia / Monty Python's Life of Brian

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  • Acting for Two: The six Pythons played forty roles between them.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: George Harrison didn't just make a cameo — he provided the finances to complete it when the Pythons ran out during filming. Both he and they liked to joke that it was "the most expensive movie ticket in history". He was that big a fan.
  • Banned in China: The film continues to remain banned in nations including but not limited to: Bhutan, Oman, Singapore and South Africa. It used to be banned in Ireland, Chile and Norway. Swedish theatres advertised it as "The film so funny they banned it in Norway."
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  • Breakaway Pop Hit: Not a pop hit, per senote , but the popularity of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" has long surpassed that of the film is was from. note 
  • Cast the Expert:
    • Kind of. John Cleese used to be a Latin instructor, so when the centurion gives Brian an impromptu Latin lesson during the 'Romanes Eunt Domus' scene, his grammar is spot on.note 
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    • A behind-the-scenes example; Graham Chapman was training to be a doctor before branching off into comedy, and was still licensed to practice when filming began. So on top of playing the lead, he also served as the on-set doctor for the cast and crew.
  • Cast the Runner-Up: John Cleese originally campaigned for the part of Brian, eager to expand his range with his first sustained film role. The rest of the group favoured Graham Chapman, and felt that Cleese would be missed if he didn't play several of the ensemble roles. Cleese soon agreed that Chapman was better suited, and stepped aside. Michael Palin was considered for Brian as well.
  • Completely Different Title:
    • Greece: A Prophet... But What a Prophet!
    • Italy: Brian of Nazareth
    • Norway: The Life and History of the Prophet Brian
    • Taiwan: Magic Star
    • Ukraine: Genesis of Brian by Monty Python
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  • Creator Recovery: Graham Chapman's alcoholism was so bad he'd suffered from DT's filming out in the countryside for Holy Grail. He knew playing the lead as Brian would be more demanding, so he quit drinking for good before filming began.
  • Deleted Role:
    • George Harrison originally had a larger role, but it got cut to him just being introduced as the manager of the Mount and saying "Hello." Pilate's wife, only mentioned in the final cut, was to have been played by John Case, a very tall actor who had another bit part that remained in the filmnote .
    • Also, a scene setting up Otto and the Judean People's Front was deleted, so their Big Damn Heroes (Subverted) moment at the end comes out of nowhere.
  • Deleted Scene:
    • Three shepherds discussing sheep and completely missing the arrival of the angel heralding Jesus's birth, which would have been at the very start of the film.
    • A segment showing the attempted kidnap of Pilate's wife (a large woman played by John Case) whose escape results in a fistfight.
    • A scene introducing a hardline Zionist Otto, leader of the Judean People's Front, and his men who practice a suicide run in the courtyard.
    • A brief scene in which Judith releases some birds into the air in an attempt to summon help.
  • Denied Parody: The Pythons have always denied that the film was a parody of the Jesus story - instead it's just a story about a guy called Brian living around the same time who is mistaken for the Messiah. The parody is about the various trappings of the religion - things like emphasis on symbols and extreme sectarianism and interpretations of Jesus's teachings that completely miss the point, while the teachings themselves are left intact. They never said they weren't making fun of religion, they just said they weren't making fun of Jesus. And they weren't. At least, not more than a couple of times. ("Bloody do-gooder.") They rejected their initial concept of Brian as a forgotten disciple of Jesus because the laughs stopped dead whenever Jesus was around, not because they felt it was in poor taste but because they literally couldn't think of anything funny to say about someone who preached sincere kindness and empathy.
    Eric Idle: "We realized we couldn't really write about J.C. because there's nothing you can complain about, the man saying "Blessed are the poor, feed and help people..." There was something more interesting about exploring what followers of a religion do."
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • The extras playing the guards in the Biggus Dickus scene were told that if they laughed during filming, they would not get paid for their work. Thus their desperate attempts to keep a straight face are genuine. One can even be seen trying not to cry. Palin also used a different punchline at the end for every take, so the poor extras weren't even given the chance to get used to hearing it.
    • A small one, but in the scene where the crosses are being carried up the hill, the guard (apparently named Parvus) hits Idle's annoying character. It was supposed to be only a tap and not meant to hurt, but the actor was annoyed with him that day and whacked him instead. Eric's brief look of surprise is genuine.
  • Executive Meddling: A rare positive example. The original production company canned Brian at the last minute, fearful that the religious subject matter would offend people. So ex-Beatle George Harrison stepped in, paid a few million pounds, and more or less let the Pythons do whatever they wanted... for the sole reason that he was a huge Python fan and wanted to see their next movie. Idle later described it as "the most expensive movie ticket ever purchased."
  • From Entertainment to Education: If you learn Latin, be prepared to see the "Latin grammar correction" scene.
  • Inspiration for the Work: The film's concept came when Idle, frustrated by paparazzi badgering them about what their next project would be, said in a post-Holy Grail interview that their next film would be Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory. He only said it to shut them up, but John Cleese was intrigued and suggested developing it.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: The Monty Python crew consider this to be their masterpiece, but most other people say that the less controversial Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the best thing they've made. Cleese once stated that most of Great Britain are fans of Life of Brian, while Americans like Holy Grail better.
  • Orphaned Reference: There was originally a whole subplot about King Otto, who was to have been A Nazi by Any Other Name. The only mention of Otto in the finished film is when his crack suicide squad show up in the final scene.
  • Quote Source:
  • Recycled Set: The film reused the sets from Jesus of Nazareth. A lot of the extras were locals who had worked on that too. They'd frequently tease Terry Jones by saying, "That's now how Mr. Zeffirelli did it..."
  • Referenced by...: Nam Nguyen and Keegan Messing performed to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" for their exhibition number at the 2020 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. They were the heavy favourites coming into this competition, but they both lost the national title to Roman Sadovsky by a large margin, so Nguyen and Messing worked together on this program to try to cheer themselves up.
  • Throw It In
    • The scene of all the people trudging uphill to listen to the Sermon on the Mount. It was getting late in the day and the extras all started to leave during a lull in filming and had to be herded back, and it was Idle who noticed that it looked really good and said to turn the cameras on.
    • The lone man in the "We are all individuals" scene, who plaintively comments "I'm not!"? That was improvised. He ended up getting a pay raise to speaking actor for his improv. The other extras in the scene were genuinely shushing him, thinking he'd screwed up the scene.
    • Whilst filming the last scene, the actors were all bored and hot sitting up on their crucifixes. So Idle started singing a little ditty. Everyone (but Eric) liked it so much that they decided to use it.
    • Spike Milligan was on holiday in Tunisia while the film was being shot. When the Pythons realized he was nearby, they offered him a part in the film.
  • Trope Namer
  • What Could Have Been:
    • In another draft, the movie was about Jesus, who, being an experienced carpenter, nitpicked the construction of his crucifix.
    • Originally, Brian was the unknown thirteenth Apostle, who was always slightly late to important moments of Jesus' life.
    • A proposed ending saw Brian inadvertently become the founder of the Roman Catholic Church.
    • John Cleese wanted George Lazenby to play Jesus. He said it would be absolutely hilarious, and he wanted the film's tagline to be "George Lazenby IS Jesus Christ". When the film's producers contacted Lazenby's agent they found out Lazenby was overseas working on another film project.
    • The role of the "blood and thunder" prophet was originally offered to The Who's drummer Keith Moon, whom the Pythons had met while writing the script in Barbados. Moon was excited to play the part, but died of a drug overdose before filming began, and Terry Gilliam was cast in his place.
    • Michael Palin wrote in his diaries that actresses considered for the role of Judith included Gilda Radner (according to Palin, the idea of an American Jewish Judith didn't attract much support), Penelope Wilton, Maureen Lipman, and Diana Quick. Gwen Taylor, who played some of the female ensemble roles, was initially cast as Judith, but the Pythons felt she didn't quite project the strong personality they had in mind for the character and recast the role with Sue Jones-Davies.
  • Working Title: According to Michael Palin's diaries, he, Chapman and Idle strongly favoured the title Brian of Nazareth. It was never used, perhaps to avoid comparisons with Jesus of Nazareth, whose leftover sets were used for parts of this film. When the film was released in Italy in the early 1990s, it was titled Brian di Nazareth, with no mention that it was made in 1979.