It's 22 years since the sad death of Graham Chapman, but with Pythonesque logic, he's about to star in a new film. A recording of Chapman reading his memoirs has been unearthed and used as the backbone for a new animated biopic, with the involvement of almost all the surviving Monty Python crew.
Chapman's roles in the Flying Circus tended towards preposterous authority figures and intellectuals, which he wrote in collaboration with John Cleese. He's Brian in Life of Brian and King Arthur in Holy Grail: both central, exasperated figures that events happen to and around. He studied Medicine at Cambridge, was one of the first celebrities in Britain to be openly gay, and struggled with alcoholism for much of his life.
All of which, in some way or other, is dealt with in his book, A Liar's Autobiography: Volume VI, which was published in 1980. Co-Python Terry Jones says the entire book is nonsense - "a downright, absolute blackguardly lie; there isn't a single word of truth in it" - but he's probably joking.
The film is the brainchild of Jones' son Bill (who made the Monty Python: Almost the Truth documentary series), Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson, who was looking to make a more conventional documentary before discovering the Chapman audio recording. It has fifteen animation companies working on it, and will be told in chapters ranging from three to twelve minutes in length.
“Graham’s is the story of a man who was openly gay but secretly alcoholic,” says Simpson. “This is not the story of Monty Python, it is a man’s life.” It's set up as a conversation between Chapman and Cleese on a long bicycle ride. Cleese, naturally enough, is playing himself, with Michael Palin and Terry Jones as Chapman's father and mother, and Terry Gilliam playing various parts. Of the original Pythons, only Eric Idle is not so far involved, but the producers are "working on him."
The film should get a theatrical release in the UK sometime next year.