'Seventh Python' has the last laugh with victory in battle over Spamalot royalties

Mark Forstater, producer of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, won an estimated £220,000 at the High Court 

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The Independent Culture

A film producer who claimed to be the “the seventh Python” won a royalty battle with the comedy team yesterday – but 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 the High Court in London. The film’s stars disputed his claim and three – Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones – gave evidence. 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, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman more than 40 years ago, disagreed. But the judge, Mr Justice Norris, ruled in Mr Forstater’s favour.

The original 2005 Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols, won three Tony Awards, and versions of Spamalot are now staged in countries as diverse as Hungary, Japan and Mexico. After the hearing, Mr Forstater said he estimated he would be entitled to more than £200,000 in royalties, but 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 the 69-year-old. “There is a sadness, though, about having to face people who were my friends in court. The friendship has gone. Terry Gilliam and I used to share a flat. We go back 51 years.”

Mr Forstater said he did not think the litigation would harm the Pythons’ reputation. “They’re an institution,” he added. ”

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 Mr Forstater had given evidence in a “measured way”; Palin had been “balanced and trustworthy”. Jones was a “trustworthy” witness, although his evidence was “suffused with a sense that Mr Forstater had done very well out of his brief connection with the Pythons”. He said of Eric Idle: “[He] 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 that his 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.”