Misbehaving with John Cleese

2013-06-20 00:00

IN Spud 2: The Madness Continues, which opens in South African cinemas tomorrow, The Guv, played by the inimitable John Cleese, gets to misbehave, and the actor loved it.

“I love the naughtiness,” Cleese said. “The Guv is on the side of the boys at least three quarters of the time ... and he’s very anti-authority.”

He certainly is. During the film, the Guv, who is being bullied by the headteacher — The Glock, Mr Glockenshpeel (Jeremy Crutchley) — into taking early retirement, fights back by daubing red crosses on the doors of “boring teachers”, and helping Spud (Troye Sivan) and the rest of the Crazy Eight enact their revenge against their house master, Sparerib, aka Mr Wilson (Jason Cope).

The revenge involves video footage of Rambo (Sven Ruygrok) and Eve, aka Mrs Wilson (Tanit Phoenix), in compromising circumstances, and there is a lovely moment when The Guv turns to his tormentor, The Glock, pats his pocket containing a copy of the video, and says he’ll rethink his retirement.

Cleese seems perfectly cast as the English master and he said he loves acting in the Spud films.

Asked what attracted him to the project in the first place, the actor said it was quite simply the excellence of the script — and the fact that he gets to enjoy great weather while filming in South Africa, rather than doing a film in a cold and wet England, certainly wasn’t a drawback.

Cleese, who is in South Africa to do a series of live performances of his show, John Cleese Live, and for filming of the third Spud movie, said the cast and crew have become like a little family. “I’m very fond of the crew, the producer, and especially Troye and [Spud author] John van de Ruit,” he said.

“Troye and I have become really good friends. That may seem strange when you consider the big age gap, but I really have huge respect for him. His feet are on the ground and he has a wise head on young shoulders.

“We are interested in what the other has to say and we took that relationship, which developed naturally, on to set.”

Asked what his favourite scenes were from the film, Cleese said he loved working with the boys in the classroom. “They are all cast so well and I think they are wonderful actors. It’s very comfortable acting with them and we end up chatting afterwards,” he added.

Filming on the third Spud movie is due to begin in the next two weeks in Cape Town and Cleese admits that while he loves the Mother City, he really enjoyed filming the first instalment of the franchise in the Midlands.

“Whenever I had time off, I would visit some of the restaurants in the beautiful countryside and I really loved being on the [Michaelhouse] school grounds and going for walks,” he added.

Speaking about his stage show, John Cleese Live, which is at Durban’s ICC on June 25 and June 26, the comedian said it will be split into two halves. The first half will see Cleese in conversation with John Maytham from 567 CapeTalk, about his life up to, and including, his Monty Python career.

In the second half, he will speak about his work on Fawlty Towers and A Fish Called Wanda, and other controversial and hilarious matters. He will also answer questions from the audience.

Cleese began his career as a sketch writer for BBC Radio’s Dick Emery Show and The Frost Report. In the late sixties, stardom beckoned when he became a member of the Monty Python team responsible for the sketch show Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the films And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.

Asked if he keeps in touch with the other Pythons, Cleese said that while he, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam don’t see each other much, they send each other a lot of e-mails. “I chat to Michael quite a lot. When he’s not travelling, he’s in London and about four weeks ago we all met up,” Cleese said, adding that they would all love to work together again.

Cleese went on to play neurotic hotel manager Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, the hilarious comedy which he co-wrote with his then wife, Connie Booth. The show continues to delight fans and is on almost permanent repeat on BBC Entertainment (DStv channel 120) in South Africa.

Other key film roles include playing Q in the James Bond movies The World is not Enough and Die Another Day, the Hogwarts ghost, Nearly Headless Nick, in the Harry Potter films and voicing King Harold in three Shrek films.

• Catch John Cleese Live at the ICC in Durban on June 25 and June 26. Tickets are from R340 to R510 at Computicket.

The Witness is offering readers the chance to win four double tickets to see John Cleese Live in Durban. To win, simply SMS the words “WITNESS JOHN CLEESE” followed by your name and surname to 32697. The competition closes at 4 pm tomorrow.

Winners will be announced on Monday. Winners will be required to produce proof of identification.

The Witness staff and their immediate families are not eligible to enter. If you have won a prize in the past three months, you are not eligible to enter the competition. The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

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