Producer wins Spamalot legal battle
Published 05/07/2013 | 11:12
A film producer has won a High Court royalty fight with the Monty Python comedy team - but he said his victory was tinged with sadness.
Mark Forstater, who produced the 1975 film Monty Python And The Holy Grail, claimed a share of profits from the spin-off musical Spamalot at a trial in London.
Python stars disputed his claim and three - Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones - gave evidence at the trial.
Mr Forstater argued that for ''financial purposes'' he should be treated as ''the seventh Python''. Palin, Jones and Idle - who formed the comedy outfit with John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman more than 40 years ago - disagreed, but Judge Mr Justice Norris ruled in Mr Forstater's favour.
Mr Forstater said afterwards that justice had prevailed and estimated that he would be entitled to more than £200,000. But he said he was sad that friendships had ended. "I have always been adamant I was correct. I have been proved right - justice has prevailed," said Mr Forstater, 69. "There is a sadness though about having to face people who were my friends in court."
Mr Forstater said he did not think the litigation would harm the Pythons' reputation. "They're an institution," he said. "I still think they are very funny." He said final figures would be worked out at follow-up hearings but estimated that he was "due" about £220,000 plus interest. No members of the Python team were at court to hear the ruling.
Mr Justice Norris said he had been asked to make decisions in the wake of disputes about the terms of an agreement made in 1974. The judge said Mr Forstater had given evidence in a "measured way"; Palin had been a "balanced and trustworthy" witness but acknowledged that his recollection was "hazy and dependent to a significant degree upon his diary"; and Jones had been a "trustworthy" witness - although his evidence had been "suffused with a sense that Mr Forstater had done very well out of his brief connection with the Pythons".
And he said of Idle: "Eric Idle was frank enough to acknowledge that he now disliked Mr Forstater, but he expressed the hope that, in his evidence, he was being honest and that his dislike did not affect his honesty. I think he largely achieved that aim so far as conscious effort could take him. He undoubtedly regarded Mr Forstater as ungrateful."
Mr Justice Norris heard that Palin had made a 1975 diary entry which read: "...as we are a soft lot and not at all businesslike, I think it would be in the finest traditions of Python irrationality if we gave Mark an extra £1,000 and a silver tray with some cut-glass sherry glasses and told him to stop writing to us for more money. Beyond that even I am not prepared to go. Oh, all right, some cheese straws to go with the sherry glasses."
The judge added: "As I assess the evidence, the Pythons continued at that point to be 'a soft lot and not at all business-like'."