With a press conference, a screening of 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' and an uproarious on-stage reunion at Manhattan's Beacon Theater, plus an after-party that lasted until the wee hours, behind them the Pythons were back for more at the TriBeCa Film Festival on Saturday.
The day began leisurely, with the Pythons scattered around New York City. But soon it was time for work, and Terry Jones duly showed up at a screening of 'Monty Python’s Life of Brian' in Chelsea. Soon John Cleese joined him and there was a wonderful Q&A, moderated by one of the TFF’s own, Mara Webster. Terry J told the packed theater audience how happy he was to see 'Brian' on the big screen for the first time in many years, and said that his favorite moment was the "hermit in the pit." I was lucky enough to sit with Terry J for Friday's screening of 'Holy Grail' as well as Saturday's of 'Brian', and he wasn't lying when he said he enjoyed them. He'd laughed heartily and often throughout both.
For his part, John was in great form. At one point his microphone didn't work and he tossed it high in the air. It came crashing down and he then handed it to an audience member. Once the problem was rectified he recounted his reluctance at wearing a beard in the hot Tunisian sun for the stoning scene on the first day of shooting, and also how none of it would have been possible if former-Beatle George Harrison hadn't funded the film at the 11th hour, after backers got cold feet, telling the Pythons "I just want to see it."
After the screening both John and Terry happily chatted with fans and signed some autographs before Terry headed off for lunch and John took a party of friends out for coffee nearby as he was due back for a screening of the new Monty Python documentary, 'Monty Python - The Meaning of Live', and a Q&A with Mike and Eric.
At coffee John joked about the recurring sound problems and expressed excitement at attending 'Meaning of Live', which he'd yet to see.
Soon we were all off and, once he'd freed himself from a scrum of autograph seekers in front of the theater, John joined Mike and Eric inside. From my point of view, as your "man on the inside", I can tell you that John surely enjoyed himself as his hearty laugh could be heard throughout the film. Afterwards, John, Mike and Eric were joined onstage for a Q&A by filmmakers Roger Graef and James Rogan, producer Holly Gilliam and, once again, moderator Mara Webster.
John and Mike both said they loved the film, but Eric said that, while he did as well, it was hard to watch his younger self on the big screen and that the ending, with all the behind the scenes footage of the final O2 show, was sad but also fitting.
One fan, during the Q&A, said that he had money in his pocket and asked how much of it would it take to get the Pythons to do one show in New York City, perhaps a City Center anniversary show. Eric cheekily asked why, if he had money, he hadn't just come to the O2 shows rather than expecting the Pythons to come all the way to him!
We all soon made it back to the green room to shake some hands and take some pictures. Everyone was in a good mood, and Mike especially couldn't stop saying how much he'd enjoyed the "Meaning of Live", especially the scene where he films a PSA about censorship. This was it for John, Mike and Eric - the Terrys would be appearing on Sunday for a screening of 'Monty Python's The Meaning of Life' - so there were hugs all around and many warm goodbyes. Fittingly, Terry J called just as we broke up and said to give his best to his comrades.
Finally, on Sunday, the last day of the TriBeCa Film Festival, the Terrys screened 'The Meaning of Life' to a thrilled, packed audience. In the back of the theater, as the film wound down, Terry G could be heard saying, with a bit of nostalgia in his voice, "Wow, I haven't seen this in a long time."
During the Q&A afterwards, the two acclaimed directors agreed there wasn't anything they would change about the Pythons' last feature film, even though they had disagreed on an early version of it.
"I read the first version of the script on a flight down to Barbados," Terry J said. "I didn't like it."
"I really liked it!" Terry G countered.
Terry G also talked about 'The Crimson Permanent Assurance', the prelude to the film, and how difficult the process of integrating it into the 'Meaning of Life' was, as it was not really part of the film and he felt it just kept getting cut down more and more as the editing process went along.
Moderator Ash Havey, of TFF, asked if anyone there had seen 'Meaning of Life' for the first time that day and what they thought of it. Remarkably, several audience members were indeed newbies and said they loved it.
Terry G made a point to slam the current PC climate and, citing his tribesman costume as an example, said, "If I had my way I'd have unzipped that costume to reveal a Chinaman suit…" and so on!
Finally, the two Terrys were asked what they saw as the most offensive moment of their time together as Pythons, but when they struggled to answer the question the audience howled with laughter at their seeming inability to think of an answer.
And so the two remaining Pythons on hand at TFF went their separate ways, with only Terry J continuing his Python duties, catching an early morning flight on Monday to Toronto, for a Hot Docs screening, and the Canadian premiere, of 'Monty Python – The Meaning of Live.'