Throwback Thursday: In 1988, John Cleese Offended Stutterers With 'A Fish Called Wanda'
Long before revealing his enthusiasm for death while promoting his new memoir, the actor caught flak for the film he co-wrote and starred in
This story first appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Making the rounds recently to promote his memoir, So Anyway …, John Cleese has attracted attention for his denials of retirement, enthusiasm for death ("Most of the best people are dead") and ad felinem attacks on Taylor Swift's lop-eared cat ("Is that a proper cat?" he asked Swift on a BBC talk show. "Or is it damaged irreparably?"). But the pop star is only the latest person to be offended by Cleese, 74, during his nearly five-decade career.
In 1979, he and his Monty Python crew were accused of blasphemy (the crucifixion scene in Life of Brian didn't go over well with Christian groups). And in 1988, Cleese caught flak from the National Stuttering Project, whose members were upset with Michael Palin's stuttering character in MGM's A Fish Called Wanda.
The Charles Crichton-directed comedy about a band of jewel thieves, which Cleese co-wrote and starred in, grossed $62.5 million domestically ($125 million today) and garnered two Oscar nominations and a win for supporting actor Kevin Kline. Nonetheless, the NSP asked that a scene where Palin is mocked while speaking be cut. (Some scenes were edited when the film aired on ABC.) "We also had a lot of complaints about the Kevin Kline character from the American Association of Stupid People," says Cleese. "We don't laugh at perfection."