A FILM producer won a High Court royalty fight yesterday with the Monty Python comedy team – but he said his victory was tinged with sadness.
Mark Forstater, who produced the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, claimed a share of profits from the spin-off musical Spamalot at a trial in London.
Python stars disputed his claim and three – Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones – gave evidence at the trial.
Mr Forstater argued that for “financial purposes” he should be treated as “the seventh Python”.
Palin, Jones and Idle – who formed the comedy outfit with John Cleese, anima tor Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman more than 40 years ago –disagreed.
Judge Mr Justice Norris yesterday ruled in Mr Forstater’s favour.
Mr Forstater said afterwards that justice had won. However, he said he was sad that friendships had ended.
“I have always been adamant I was correct. I have been proved right – justice has prevailed,” said Mr Forstater, 69.
“There is a sadness, though, about having to face people who were my friends in court.”
He added: “The friendship has gone. Terry Gilliam and I used to share a flat. We go back 51 years.”
He said final figures would be worked out at follow-up hearings but estimated he was “due” about £220,000 plus interest.
No members of the Python team were at court to hear the ruling.
Mr Justice Norris said he had been asked to make decisions in the wake of disputes about the terms of an agreement made in 1974.
The judge said Mr Forstater had given evidence in a “measured way”; Palin had been a “balanced and trustworthy” witness but acknowledged that his recollection was “hazy and dependent to a significant degree upon his diary”, and Jones had been a “trustworthy” witness – although his evidence had been “suffused with a sense that Mr Forstater had done very well out of his brief connection with the Pythons”.
And he said of Idle: “Eric Idle was frank enough to acknowledge that he now disliked Mr Forstater, but he expressed the hope that, in his evidence, he was being honest and thathis dislike did not affect his honesty.
“I think he largely achieved that aim so far as conscious effort could take him. He undoubtedly regarded Mr Forstater as ungrateful.”
Mr Justice Norris added: “The agreement was entered into in 1974. Memories of events from that time are bound to be hazy, and are bound to be recollected through the prism of subsequent events – both as regards developments in the relationships between the principal participants and as regards knowledge of the actual occurrence of events which might in 1974 have seemed distant hopes.”