Page last updated at 02:54 GMT, Sunday, 29 March 2009 03:54 UK

Life of Brian still a huge draw

By Carl Yapp
BBC News, Aberystwyth

Terry Jones, Sue Jones-Davies and Michael Palin
We were led by a star... Terry Jones, Aberystwyth mayor Sue Jones-Davies and Michael Palin at the charity screening of Life of Brian


Monty Python's Life of Brian has lost nothing of its magic and neither have two of its stars, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, who joked before attending a charity screening of the film in mid Wales that they had walked through a town in disguise for fear of being stoned.

The Python pair were the guests of honour at the event in Aberystwyth, and their concerns, although obviously said in jest, may have been justified 30 years ago when the controversial film - accused of being blasphemous - opened in the UK.

They recalled memories of Monty Python's "most creative" piece of work, but confessed there was no plan to reunite as a group because they "get on too well nowadays".

Jones added that Life of Brian was more relevant now than ever as religion was back on the "political agenda".

More than 100 people turned out to see the charity screening of the film in Aberystwyth.

Jones and Palin were invited by the town's mayor, Sue Jones-Davies, who also appeared in the movie.

The Python stars were mobbed by autograph hunters, camera crews, newspaper reporters and fans.

(L-R) John Cleese, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman
In a way, it's kind of more relevant nowadays because religion has come back on the political agenda
Terry Jones

They took it all in their stride, despite being repeatedly asked the same old questions about the storm surrounding Life of Brian.

Opponents back in 1979 claimed Life of Brian mocked Jesus and ridiculed Christianity.

They accused the Python team of blasphemy with its story about a Jewish man who was mistaken for the messiah and then crucified.

Some towns banned the movie, which is what is thought to have happened in Aberystwyth between 1979 and when it was eventually shown there in 1981.

Jones, who directed the film, said: "I think it's only popular because it was banned - that's the real reason.

"But it's wonderful to see it is popular."

Michael Palin and Terry Jones on how Life Of Brian caused a furore when it was released.

Palin added: "I think it is its notoriety, and it's not just here, it's in America. I think the middle west in America still won't let Life of Brian be shown at all.

"They just seem terrified of it, that keeps it going. People are interested in why something is still getting people so excited."

Jones recalled that the New York Association of Rabbis was the first group to criticise the film.

He said: "They were protesting against the use of the prayer shawl. We said, 'We don't have a prayer shawl' and evidentially John is wearing a prayer shawl in the stoning sequence.

"They were objecting to that - we thought it was just a piece of costume."

He added that the film was more relevant now in 2009 than it was 30 years ago.

"In a way, it's kind of more relevant nowadays because religion has come back on the political agenda.

"In '79 it felt slightly like we were kicking a dead donkey because nobody was going to church."

Palin recalled how the film was a "great force for ecumenical unity" because so many groups took offence to it, especially in the US.

Yes, people do ask, 'could you write Biggus Dickus in a book?'
Michael Palin

"I remember having to do this strange interview with (journalist) Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark, which turned into something of a talking point because they really talked down to us and they thought they could just dismiss it.

"It was a bit of a silly thing to do because the film had been written with some care and thought - it wasn't just put together."

But what about Life of Brian's army of fans - do they quote lines from the film at its stars?

Palin joked: "Yes, people do ask 'Could you write Biggus Dickus in a book?'

"So I write Biggus Dickus in a book and they all go off giggling like mad - easy money. I don't know why."

As for working together again as Monty Python, Jones said the group had no plans.

He added: "We don't have any plans at all. I don't think we could actually.

"I think the trouble is we all get on too well nowadays. We're all very polite to each other.

"To have a creative relationship you've got to really fight for something."

The pair added they were happy to be in Aberystwyth, but were surprised by how long it took to get there.

Palin, pledging to return one day, joked: "I shall come back when things have quietened down. When I can walk through the city (Aberystwyth is a town) without people stoning me."

Ms Jones-Davies, who played Brian's girlfriend in Life of Brian, had pledged to fight for the film to be shown when she believed it had not been screened in Aberystwyth before.

She said: "We do embrace films like Monty Python's Life of Brian, which I am very pleased to say we have tonight, absolutely wholeheartedly.

"To see everybody having such a good time is excellent."


EDITOR'S NOTE (added in April, 2009): It was thought for many years that Life of Brian had been banned in Aberystwyth, and Sue Jones-Davies wanted to get it shown there on that basis.

But it subsequently emerged that although councillors in the county Ceredigion formed a sub-committee in 1981 to watch the film, and found parts "quite unacceptable", they allowed it to be shown. However, the belief persisted among some for decades that there was a ban.

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