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The John Cleese Bio

The John Cleese Review –

by Nate Lee

Best Film:

A Fish Called Wanda

Besides the Monty Python movies, Cleese has been a valuable ensemble player in a dozen great films. His contribution to the hilarious and startlingly brilliant "Wanda," though, besides writing it, is perfect. "Time Bandits" is the most worthy of the films in which he was an ensemble member, even including, perhaps, the Python work (but definitely not including the Harry Potter films).

Great Performances You May Not Have Seen:
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (Toad's lawyer)
Privates on Parade (WWII Maj. General in charge of a suspect unit which is supposed to entertain the troops)
Clockwise (a perfectionist headmaster trying to get to an important meeting)
Fierce Creatures (a crazy zoo director)
The Monty Python Cleese:
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (multiple characters)
The Life of Brian (multiple characters)
And Now for Something Completely Different (multiple characters)
The Meaning of Life (multiple characters)
Time Bandits (Robin Hood, in Terry Gilliam's classic fantasy)
A Fish Called Wanda (Golden Globe-nominated performance as attorney Archie Leach, in love with con woman Jamie Lee Curtis; and Oscar-nominated writer)
Silverado (Sheriff Langston)
Frankenstein (Professor Waldman)
Around the World in 80 Days
The Day the Earth Stood Still (a smart professor)
The James Bond series (Q's successor, R)
The Harry Potter series (Nearly headless Nick)
The Real John Cleese:
A Fish Called Wanda / the sales training films

Trained in law, and at one time a practicing barrister, Cleese is also a brilliant teacher. His sales training films, which he also writes and produces, are the best, as are his more accessible films that train you in such things as understanding wine, or playing and appreciating soccer.
Acting Style:
The businessman. From the earliest Python days, Cleese has loved to play businessmen and bureaucrats –variously officious, aggressive, rude, stiff or even mean. When not this, he can be counted on to be the stiff upper-crust Brit. In his many voice roles, in fact, he is usually a king, lord or professor, with an even more biting and "lordly" tone than in his live-action roles.
Bits and Quirks:
Other than the enormous (and famous) variety of bits and quirks in his many Python characters, Cleese often does the arched back and the back-tilted, looking down his nose bit, to make himself even taller than he is. Extremely biting way of saying lines to accentuate the bite in the words themselves. A harshly, usually comic stare. Often disdainful tone, combined with subtly derisive comment.
Great Scenes:
A Fish Called Wanda

> Getting caught naked by the family
> Kevin Kline hanging him out of the window
> Kline beating him up, thinking he is a robber
> His wife returning when he is with Jamie Lee Curtis
> The finale in the cement


> His first appearance, in the saloon, laying down the law, then drinking with Kevin Kline and Scott Glenn
> The burning of the gallows
> Chasing, with the posse, until his hat is shot off his head

Harry Potter

> Introducing himself in the first film, and being offended by Ron

James Bond

> The general repartee with Bond
> Showing Bond the invisible car

The Day the Earth Stood Still

> Talking with Keanu Reeves about why humanity is worth saving

The Meaning of Life

> Demonstrating sex to a class of bored boys
> The ever-cool British officer in a war with the Zulus
> The waiter serving a man who throws up and then blows up

And Now For Something Completely Different

> The famous "dead parrot" scene
> The Department of Silly Walks
Go to the... John Cleese Bio