Since The Meaning of Life, their last project as a team, the Pythons have often been the subject of reunion rumours. The final reunion of all six members occurred during the Parrot Sketch Not Included – 20 Years of Monty Python special. The death of Chapman in 1989 (on the eve of their 20th anniversary) put an end to the speculation of any further reunions. There have been several occasions since 1989 when the surviving five members have gathered together for appearances—albeit not formal reunions.
In 1996, Jones, Idle, Cleese and Palin were featured in a film adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, which was later renamed Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
In 1998 during the US Comedy Arts Festival, where the troupe was awarded the AFI Star Award by the American Film Institute, the five remaining members along with what was purported to be Chapman's ashes, were reunited on stage for the first time in 18 years. The occasion was in the form of an interview called Monty Python Live At Aspen, (hosted by Robert Klein, with an appearance by Eddie Izzard) in which the team looked back at some of their work and performed a few new sketches.
On 9 October 1999, to commemorate 30 years since the first Flying Circus television broadcast, BBC2 devoted an evening to Python programmes, including a documentary charting the history of the team, interspersed with new sketches by the Monty Python team filmed especially for the event. The program appears, with a few omissions, on the DVD The Life of Python. Idle's involvement in the special is limited, yet the final sketch marks the only time since 1989 that all surviving members of the troupe appear in one sketch, albeit not in the same room.
In 2002, four of the surviving members, bar Cleese, performed "The Lumberjack Song" and "Sit on My Face" for George Harrison's memorial concert. The reunion also included regular supporting contributors Neil Innes and Carol Cleveland, with a special appearance from Tom Hanks.
In an interview to publicise the DVD release of The Meaning of Life, Cleese said a further reunion was unlikely. "It is absolutely impossible to get even a majority of us together in a room, and I'm not joking," Cleese said. He said that the problem was one of business rather than one of bad feelings. A sketch appears on the same DVD spoofing the impossibility of a full reunion, bringing the members “together” in a deliberately unconvincing fashion with modern bluescreen/greenscreen techniques.
Idle has responded to queries about a Python reunion by adapting a line used by George Harrison in response to queries about a possible Beatles reunion. When asked in November 1989 about such a possibility, Harrison responded: "As far as I'm concerned, there won't be a Beatles reunion as long as John Lennon remains dead." Idle's version of this was that he expected to see a proper Python reunion, "just as soon as Graham Chapman comes back from the dead", but added, "we're talking to his agent about terms."
2003's The Pythons Autobiography By The Pythons, compiled from interviews with the surviving members, reveals that a series of disputes in 1998, over a possible sequel to Holy Grail that had been conceived by Idle, may have resulted in the group's permanent split. Cleese's feeling was that The Meaning of Life had been personally difficult and ultimately mediocre, and did not wish to be involved in another Python project for a variety of reasons (not least amongst them was the absence of Chapman, whose straight-man-like central roles in the Grail and Brian films had been considered to be an essential anchoring performance). Apparently Idle was angry with Cleese for refusing to do the film, which most of the remaining Pythons thought reasonably promising (the basic plot would have taken on a self-referential tone, featuring them in their main 'knight' guises from Holy Grail, mulling over the possibilities of reforming their posse). The book also reveals that a secondary option around this point was the possibility of revitalising the Python brand with a new stage tour, perhaps with the promise of new material. This idea had also met with Cleese's refusal, this time with the backing of other members.
March 2005 saw a full, if non-performing, reunion of the surviving cast members at the premiere of Idle's musical Spamalot, based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It opened in Chicago and has since played in New York on Broadway, London and numerous other major cities across the world. In 2004, it was nominated for 14 Tony Awards and won three: Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical for Mike Nichols and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Sara Ramirez, who played the Lady of the Lake, a character specially added for the musical. Cleese played the voice of God, played in the film by Chapman.
Owing in part to the success of Spamalot, PBS announced on 13 July 2005 that it would begin to re-air the entire run of Monty Python's Flying Circus and new one-hour specials focusing on each member of the group, called Monty Python's Personal Best. Each episode was written and produced by the individual being honoured, with the five remaining Pythons collaborating on Chapman's programme, the only one of the editions to take on a serious tone with its new material.
Eric Idle and John Cleese appeared on the stage of We Are Most Amused, Prince Charles 60th Birthday Show. They were singing together "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" with the rest of the performers for the climax. Eric Idle added a couplet dedicated to the Prince of Wales:
"If Spamalot is hot
And you like it, or per'aps not.
A bunch of knights in search of Holy Grails.
When you're 60 years of age
And your mum won't leave the stage,
It's good to know that you're still Prince of Wales"
In 2009, to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the first episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, a six-part documentary entitled Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) was released, featuring interviews with the surviving members of the team as well as archive interviews with Graham Chapman and numerous excerpts from the television series and films.
Also in commemoration of the 40th anniversary, Idle, Palin, Jones and Gilliam appeared in a production of Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy) at the Royal Albert Hall. The European premiere was held on 23 October 2009. An official 40th anniversary Monty Python reunion event took place in New York City on 15 October 2009 where the team received a Special Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
In June 2011, it was announced that Monty Python have begun production on their first film project since the Meaning of Life in 1983. Their next film, A Liar's Autobiography, is an animated 3D movie based on the memoir of the late Python member, Graham Chapman, who died in 1989 at the age of 48. A Liar’s Autobiography was published in 1980 and details Chapman's journey through medical school, alcoholism, acknowledgement of his gay identity and the tolls of surreal comedy.
Asked what was true in a deliberately fanciful account by Chapman of his life, Terry Jones joked: "Nothing . . . it’s all a downright, absolute, blackguardly lie."
The film will use Chapman's own voice - from a reading of his autobiography shortly before he died of cancer - and entertainment channel EPIX announced that the film will be released in early 2012 in both 2D and 3D formats. Produced and directed by London-based Bill Jones, Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson, the new film has 15 animation companies working on chapters that will range from three to 12 minutes in length, each in a different style.
John Cleese recorded dialogue which was matched with Chapman’s voice. Michael Palin voiced Chapman’s father and Terry Jones voiced his mother. Terry Gilliam voiced Graham's psychiatrist. They all play various other roles. Among the original Python group, only Eric Idle was not involved.
Famous quotes containing the word reunions:
“Some of the smartest women in the country said that theyre too embarrassed to attend their reunions at Harvard Business School if they have dropped out of the work force, left the fast track by choosing part-time work, or decided to follow anything other than the standard male career path.”
—Deborah J. Swiss (20th century)