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Terry Jones On His New Sci-Fi Comedy Absolutely Anything
The former Python reveals what Simon Pegg and company will be up to...

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The shoot for Terry Jones' new film, a sci-fi comedy starring Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Eddie Izzard, Joanna Lumley and Rob Riggle, starts this Monday on March 24 - but just before he gets the cameras rolling, Jones took the time to speak to Empire about the project. Here's what to expect from a story that sees Robin Williams playing a talking dog and the Monty Python boys voicing all-powerful aliens...

Terry Jones On His New Sci-Fi Comedy Absolutely Anything

What is Absolutely Anything about?
It's about a man called Neil, a teacher in a sink secondary school, who gets given magic powers by aliens. And he doesn't know he's got them in the beginning, so though he can make anything happen, he doesn't realise until, well, his colleague says, "What would you do if you could do anything?" and Neil responds with, "I'd make an alien spaceship hit class 4C and vaporise them."

Then there's an explosion in the school, and they run to 4C's classroom, open the door and there's a vast hole in the ground.

He turns the TV on when he gets home, and starts watching with his dog Dennis. He's still saying to himself, "It can't be true...". To make his day worse, it turns out Dennis has done a couple of poos on the floor. Neil says, "I wouldn't be clearing up this mess, if I could do anything. I'd say: 'Dog mess, clear yourself up.'" And the dog mess quivers, then goes up on two little fat legs and jumps into the loo.

Then Neil gets himself a bottle of whisky and starts shaking. He spills the whisky, and says, "Whisky, change yourself into malt whisky." So the whisky bottle jumps off the table, goes out of the door, down the hall and smashes itself into the off-licence. Then the alarms go off and Neil, who's run out to see where the whisky has gone, gets chased by a policeman.

So Neil says, "Make me be at home, having dinner with Dennis." Cut to home and he's got his face in the dog bowl, having dinner with Dennis.

What originally inspired you to write the script?
I'm really excited! There's real chemistry between Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale. So yes, I'm very excited..
I thought I'd do the H. G. Wells story The Man Who Could Work Miracles, but it just changed out of all recognition from that.

At this point, are you excited or scared, or are you a bit of both?
I'm really excited! Simon Pegg, who I've been a fan of for a long time, gets on with Kate Beckinsale - who plays Neil's love interest - like a house on fire. There's real chemistry between them. So yes, I'm very excited.

So are you rehearsing at the moment?
Well, due to Equity rules, we've got to pay the actors for rehearsals, so we can't afford to do too much of that. We're getting through the rehearsals in no time at all. We've done storyboards, and we'll stick rigidly to them. When the American Colonel gets splattered onto a wall and gets stuck to a ceiling... you can't not look forward to that.

The American Colonel?
Yes! There's an American Colonel involved with the story, played by Rob Riggle, who was once a Marine actually, so he's pretty suited to the part. He turns up like a bad penny after Kate Beckinsale's character has a one-night stand with him in the States.

And what's the plan for Dennis The Dog?
I think he's going to steal the show. We've got a real dog, Mojo, who is very obedient, and a wonderful dog, a mongrel, but CGI work will be done. Simon Pegg is a big dog fan, and him and Mojo get on very well. Before Douglas Adams died, he looked over the script and he said that Dennis the Dog's scenes were the funniest scenes...

The script for this film has been around for nearly 20 years. How many people have taken a look at it over that time?
Before Douglas Adams died, he looked over the script and he said that Dennis the Dog's scenes were the funniest scenes...
I just think it's my own baby really. But I wrote it with (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles writer) Gavin Scott, and we've been writing it for 20 years, then (producer) Mike Medavoy rang up in 2010 or so and asked what scripts I had hidden in my bottom desk drawer. So I pulled out Absolutely Everything - not literally, of course - and here we are.

Was Robin Williams keen to improvise in the recording booth?
He's already done it, and he's stuck to the script. We won't play Robin Williams' voice on the set; we will have an actor there, delivering his lines.

How are the aliens looking?
(Man Of Steel production designer) James Acheson is doing the costumes, and he has already got a wonderful array of aliens of different sizes and shapes. The story behind the aliens is they intercept the Voyager space craft as it leaves the solar system [and] comes into intergalactic space - well it isn't really intergalactic space, but we pretend it is, anyway - and they say they have to assess one Earthling at random by giving them these powers. They pick Neil.

Have the aliens already been paired up with Terry Gilliam or Michael Palin or Eric Idle or John Cleese? Do they resemble their extra-terrestrial counterparts in any way?
(Laughs) Not at all! We've already voiced the aliens, but they won't look like them, no.

And what will the spaceship look like? Anything like the one in Life Of Brian?
Ah, well, hmm... I designed the shots but it's really Jim Acheson's creation again. He's made this space ship like look like a jellyfish. You can see through it. But it's a Portuguese man o' war, basically.

You've also got Eddie Izzard, another actor famed for his improvisation. Do you think he will keep to the script?
I reckon he will! Here's the sort of thing he'll be doing as Neil's boss, the headmaster: he tells Neil off when he falls off his bicycle but soon Neil gets struck by the alien power. And Neil says, later in the film, "Headmaster - be nice to me for a change!"' And the headmaster is telling off some other teachers at that very moment but then he suddenly sees Neil and says, "Oh, hey there Neil! Let me get you a cup of tea! I'm proud to have you on my staff!" All the other teachers stare at him...

With shooting about to start, is there any room in your head to think about the Monty Python stage show?
I can't find room for it! I just can't think about it...

Interview by Ali Plumb

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