Monty Python’s Terry Jones has revealed that he would shy away from making the comedy Life Of Brian today, because of a resurgence in religious belief.
Jones directed and acted in the 1979 film, starring John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle, which sparked a religious storm and accusations of blasphemy.
Opponents of the comedy, which was a worldwide box-office success, claimed it made fun of Jesus.
But Jones told the Radio Times: “I never thought it would be as controversial as it turned out, although I remember saying when we were writing it that some religious nut case may take pot shots at us, and everyone replied: ‘No’.”
The 69-year-old said: “I took the view it wasn’t blasphemous. It was heretical because it criticised the structure of the church and the way it interpreted the Gospels. At the time religion seemed to be on the back burner and it felt like kicking a dead donkey. It has come back with a vengeance and we’d think twice about making it now.”
Asked whether he would make a similarly satirical film about Muslims, he said: “Probably not – looking at Salman Rushdie [whose controversial book The Satanic Verses forced him into hiding for 10 years].
“I suppose people would be frightened. I think it’s whipped up by the arms industry.”
Jones was interviewed by the magazine to mark a BBC4 comedy drama, Holy Flying Circus, about the opposition to the film.
The BBC is also reconstructing the TV debate Friday Night … Saturday Morning, which took place between Cleese and Palin and the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, and Malcolm Muggeridge, who thought the film was blasphemous.
Jones said of Monty Python’s Life Of Brian: “I’m amazed we’re still discussing it, and I don’t know why. There’s lots of other good stuff around. I suspect it’s overrated although it’s pretty good. Our aim was to make a funny film, but there’s nothing wrong with giving a bit of offence as well.
“I’ve seen it a couple of times and probably enjoy it more now because of its celebrity. Personally, though, I prefer Buster Keaton.”He added: “It was one of the first comedy shows made in colour. If it had been scheduled a month or two earlier it would have been in black and white.”
He said of the BBC’s new drama: “The programme is very funny, but it’s a mix of fantasy and reality. The portrayal of BBC executives (as over-the-top and dim-witted) is probably the only realistic part.”