Click to follow
The Independent Culture
A call came through from California and his butler brought out the telephone to the garden and plugged it in the wall outside; I'd never seen an outside plug. And he picked up the phone and he'd go into the most beautiful Californian accent - we were all falling about laughing. And when he put the phone down he said, "What's up with you lot?" And we'd say, "You were talking pure American." He didn't know.

David Lodge Actor and friend

He was always firing me, probably through something that was never my fault. We were in New York and he was waiting for these plans of his new house. They didn't arrive, you know, so I was at fault because I was the secretary. We were in New York and he said, "Take the next plane back to England and fly back Tourist", you know. That was his way of sort of getting at me because that was the worst thing that one could possibly do. Hattie Proudfoot Sellers' secretary, 1960-1968

He liked jokes about elephants. He'd say to me, "Would you like an elephant?" So I'd say, "Well, not really". So he said, "I can get you one, I can get you an elephant," and he kept saying this and it went on to the day he died about this elephant and I thought one day I should have said yes, and see if one did arrive on my doorstep.

Spike Milligan Fellow Goon

I got a call from Peter once at four o'clock in the morning. I was in bed, picked it up and said, "Hello." He said, "Hello. Hello Joe. It's Pete here." I said, "God, Peter what is it?" He said, "Where am I?". I said, "What's the number on your telephone?" He said, "It's zero, zero, four five three two." I said, "You're at home." He said, "Oh, thank God for that," and hung up.

Joe McGrath Friend and director of `Casino Royale'

He was sitting in the car with me, and another car cut me up on the inside. Peter starts saying, "You're not going to let him do that, are you?". I said, "Peter, life's too short." And suddenly he wound down the window and he totally became a punch-drunk boxer. He was snorting and using foul language and saying what he was going to do to this guy, who was shaking, because the cars were close together. He was like that all the way back to the West End, and he hadn't changed and he didn't change when I left him.

Dennis Selinger Sellers' agent

I was writing a piece about Mastroianni.

I suggested that Mastroianni was a Peter Sellers with sex appeal. The next day I got a telegram from Peter saying, "I am available as a baritone for aqua show. Stop. Can tread water, own snorkel, willing to swim, love England. Mastroianni." What I didn't recognise at the time was that it was hiding fury that I was suggesting that he, Peter Sellers, didn't have any sex appeal whatsoever. Around that time he decided to reinvent himself and become a sex symbol; he lost a lot of weight, dangerously quickly, and started to look at himself in quite another way again.

Peter Evans Friend and biographer

I was living in the South of France. Peter had bought a new home there and he had to live in a hotel for six months waiting for it to be ready. Finally they moved in, and I rang him up the same evening to wish him a happy new home and he said, "We're moving out. We've discovered we don't like it. And anyway we don't like the French." I said, "Oh? Why not?" He said, "They can't speak English." That was Peter.

Herbert Lom Actor

He was obsessed with losing weight. However thin he was he always imagined he would be thinner tomorrow. If you were making a suit for a film he'd insist on it being taken in because he'd think he'd lose weight overnight. Eventually you got to know that, so you just didn't do anything. We made a few chalk marks which we brushed out when we left.

Doug Hayward Sellers' tailor

During The Ladykillers, he had this big flashy car. We borrowed some washable paint and we painted a big long scratch. Peter nearly fainted when he saw it. A few days later, on my way home in my less flashy car, I noticed an unpleasant smell. Peter, in revenge, had pinned a kipper at the bottom of my engine which started frying every time the engine got hot. And that was Peter - a prankster - a chubby, cheerful prankster.

Herbert Lom

The shortest time Peter ever had a car was when he was on the way to the studio from London and he called into my showroom in the West End with a brand new American car. He said, "Look, there's something wrong with the steering in this car." And we said, "Perhaps it's not what you're used to." He said, "Well, I don't want it, take it away, I don't want it." So, as far as I know, that car did 12 miles.

Anthony Crook MD of Bristol Cars who bought and sold motors for Sellers

He was just about to do Being There. He spoke to the producer saying, "I'm not getting enough cut in this film. I spoke to my mother and she told me that I've got to come and ask for more." So this producer phoned the office and said, "He's sticking out for more money, he's spoken to his mother." So the guy in the office said, "Well, give me her phone number, I'll talk to her." And he said, "She's been dead for 10 years."

Bert Mortimer Chauffeur and personal assistant

`Arena: The Peter Sellers Story', a three-part special, Saturday 8.55pm BBC2