Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, was the 1st feature-length motion picture made by the Monty Python troupe after they finished the filming of Monty Python’s Flying Circus (not counting And Now for Something Completely Different, which is just a collection of their sketches). They filmed the movie on a very modest budget, had it directed by a couple of men who had actually never directed a film before, and filled with an overabundant amount of difficulties during the movies production, it nevertheless became a cult classic and favourite motion picture for British comedy buffs. This year is the 40th Anniversary of the film’s theatrical release and in honour of that mark; here are 10 not commonly known facts about the film.
Rock and Roll Funding
As mentioned earlier the film was made on a shoestring budget, the Pythons secured movie funding from unlikely sources—rock bands. Groups like Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, and Pink Floyd assisted in providing the money up for the production of the film, to the extent that even a portion of the funds came from the Floyd’s album “The Dark Side of the Moon.” This actually is a trend that continued later with The Life of Brian, when a very large portion of the funding came from former Beatle George Harrison. When Harrison was asked why he decided to fund the film, he answered “Because I wanted to see it.”
It’s Only a Model
While the outsides of many castles (and a couple of models) are seen in the film, the Pythons only were able to get permission to use a single one for filming interior scenes. The original plan was to use a few castles owned by the National Trust of Scotland, however after the powers that be read the script, they denied the group the right to film in any of the Trust’s castles, which left the Pythons with only a single privately owned castle as an option. As luck would have it, the Earl of Moray, the owner of Doune Castle and fan of the troupe, had also given his permission. Which meant that all of the interior castle scenes shown in the film were filmed at Doune and redecorated to seem like different sets. These days the castle is open to the public and the audio tour is done by Terry Jones.
The motion picture also constitutes the directorial debuts of both Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, who decided that anybody named Terry got to direct the Pythons’ 1st film. Attempting to co-direct simultaneously led to a lot of fights, so the Terrys divided the responsibilities with Jones dealing with the actors while Gilliam worked exclusively on the film’s cinematography. They would go on to direct the remaining Python films together and Jones would in addition direct Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, while Gilliam’s lengthy directorial career would include such artistic classics as The Fisher King, Brazil, Time Bandits, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and more.
There are numerous great moments of casting in the movie. Beyond the Pythons doing their customary bit of playing multiple roles, numerous other notable persons appear in the flick. John Cleese’s then-wife, Connie Booth, appears as the witch for Sir Bedevere’s scene. Michael Palin’s own son William appears in the movie (as a photograph) for “Sir Not Appearing in this Picture”. Python songwriter Neil Innes appears 3 separate times as one of the self-flagellating monks, a squire who gets the Trojan Rabbit dropped on him, and Sir Robin’s lead minstrel. Lastly, though Cleese plays most of the Black Knight’s part, a local blacksmith named Richard Burton (really) plays the role after the Black Knight gets his leg chopped off, as Burton was missing a leg.
Talking to Himself
Besides playing Arthur, Graham Chapman additionally provided the voice of the Gilliam-animated God. God’s appearance was based upon celebrated cricketer W.G. Grace. Chapman was also in the middle of alcohol withdrawal while shooting the film. As such, no alcoholic beverages were allowed on set and the Bridge of Death scene had to be filmed with a body double because Chapman’s DTs caused him to freeze up during the shooting of it.
No Animals Were Harmed (Per Se)
The vicious Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog had pieces of its pelt dyed red to represent the blood of the knights that it spilt with its big, pointy teeth. Regrettably, the dye used would not wash out once the scene was completed and the rabbit’s owner was infuriated.
In spite of being very successful and one of the most-remembered films for all the Pythons, it Is not a favourite for the Pythons, who favour Life of Brian. Part of the reason for this was the wretched conditions on the set. In addition to Chapman’s withdrawal, the Pythons were all wearing wool and it was rather cold and damp. Beyond that, the hot-water heater at their hotel could not furnish enough hot water for everybody to get take a hot shower, so it was oftentimes a race to be the very first one back to the hotel. Jones said shooting the “Bring Out Your Dead” scene was one of the only instances he had seen Michael Palin upset, as the latter had to crawl around in mud and excrement, uncertain of which mud was really chocolate he had to eat for the film. When he was asked to do a seventh take, Palin threw such a tantrum it actually got a round of applause from Cleese and Chapman.
By the time the Pythons actually got around to doing the credits, they had run out of money for the film. As a result, the credits were very simple and Palin decided to spice them up a little by adding the Swedish captions and llama references. When the movie was shown for the very first time at Cannes, firefighters rushed in at the end of the credits to evacuate the audience due to a bomb scare. The crowd did not exit at first because they believed it was part of the show.
Everybody was Medieval Fighting
In part due to the humble budget, Chapman and Cleese did all their own stunts for the Black Knight scene. The 2 used heavy blades and some tumbling for added realism. Connie Booth had brought her and Cleese’s young daughter to the filming, who during the bout turned to her mother and said “Daddy doesn’t like that man, does he?”
You’re Using Cocoanuts!
Another result of the film’s depleted budget, the Pythons’ could not afford to ride real horses during shooting. The use of coconuts was dreamt up as a replacement and now happens to be one of the most well-known gags in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Stay tuned for a few more facts as soon as we are able to buy more coconuts.