Wrangles ahead ... John Cleese and Graham Chapman on the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Photo: Getty Images
LONDON: The Monty Python team were not "unpleasant shifty people" trying to do people out of their just deserts, the British High Court has heard.
Three Pythons – Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin – sat together as their counsel, Richard Spearman, QC, said they had no animus towards the film producer Mark Forstater.
These are not unpleasant shifty people trying to do people out of their just deserts.Richard Spearman, QC
"These are not unpleasant shifty people trying to do people out of their just deserts.
'Not shifty' ... Terry Jones in London for the court case. Photo: Reuters
"They reckoned, and they were right, that he had already got a pretty good deal and here he was, coming back for more, which they weren't prepared to give."
Mr Forstater, who produced Monty Python And The Holy Grail, wants an equal share with the five surviving Pythons in profits from spin-offs of the 1975 classic film – especially the hit live musical Spamalot.
Mr Justice Norris has been told that it was the worldwide commercial success of Spamalot that appeared to have led to a cut, in 2005, in the size of Mr Forstater's share of the profits from Grail spin-off merchandising which he had enjoyed for almost 30 years.
Mark Forstater ... producer is arguing for a larger share. Photo: Reuters
His counsel, Tom Weisselberg, said the film producer was entitled under an agreement made in 1974 to equal treatment with the Pythons – but the Pythons said they could not recollect any agreement.
Mr Weisselberg said his client was in difficult financial circumstances and had been forced to bring the proceedings.
Mr Spearman said there was nothing in the claim that for financial purposes, Mr Forstater was to be treated as the "seventh Python" – it was a "myth".
He said Mr Forstater was someone who had done a deal and then begun to think he had not done himself justice and ought to have asked for more.
The action is being brought by Mr Forstater and his company Mark Forstater Productions Ltd against Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd (PMP), which represents the film interests of the Python team, and Freeway Cam (UK) Ltd, which holds the copyright in the Holy Grail as trustee for those entitled to profit from it.
Mr Weisselberg said it was common ground that PMP was entitled to take 50 per cent of the merchandising and spin-off stream – "the top half" – from the Grail and not share it with investors in the film.
In addition to other money, Mr Forstater had received one-seventh of the top half – the same share enjoyed by each of the Pythons – until 2005, when he was told he was entitled only to one-fourteenth.