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The professional and personal life of actor and comedian Peter Sellers was a turbulent one. His early movie fame was based primarily on his comic characterizations, often of bumbling and foreign-accented persons, characters which he embodied. As his movie fame rose, he began to lose his own personal identity to his movie characters, leading to self-doubt of himself as a person and a constant need for reassurance and acceptance of his work. This self-doubt manifested itself in fits of anger and what was deemed as arrogance by many. In turn, his personal relationships began to deteriorate as his characterizations were continually used to mask his problems. His first wife, Anne Howe, left/divorced him and his relationships with his parents and children became increasingly distant. His relationship with his second wife, Swedish actress Britt Ekland, was based on this mask. In his later life, he tried to rediscover himself and his career with what would become his penultimate film role, ...Written by
At the beginning of the scene where Sellers flies to Rome to film The Pink Panther, footage of a BEA Hawker Siddeley Trident taking off is shown. This plane didn't enter service until 1964, the year after "The Pink Panther" was released. See more »
[Peter is telling his wife and children that he's leaving them]
Do you still love us?
Of course I do sweetheart. Just... not as much as I love Sophia Loren.
See more »
The frame freezes and the end credits start. After some informations about the last part of life of Peter Sellers have scrolled up the screen, the credits stop and the camera suddenly pulls back, revealing Geoffrey Rush watching the end titles sitting in front of a monitor on a studio set. He turns toward the camera, waves, gets up, leaves the set and walks to a trailer. The camera tries to follow him inside, but he turns and says "You can't come in here". The door closes, and the camera zooms in on the sign with the name "Peter Sellers". The film again fades to black and we see the rest of the end credits. See more »
The BBC broadcast a version with some scenes rearranged, some scenes shortened and a few other edits:
The montage of Peter Sellers' earlier films is cut together with the scene where he moves into a big new house with Anne and the children. Also the song 'I Haven't Told Her, She Hasn't Told Me' sung by Peter is played instead of Frank Sinatra's 'Fly Me to the Moon'.
The first Maurice Woodruff scene and the car showroom scene are moved ahead to after Peter's father's death scene, swapping places with the scene where he phones Harry Secombe asking if he wants to come over for a beer. The car showroom scene also replaces the Shirley Bassey song 'Big Spender' with incidental music composed for the film.
The first Maurice Woodruff scene begins with a shot of Peter smoking a cigarette in the waiting room before cutting to a shot of Woodruff's book, which is where this scene begins in the original version.
The Harry Secombe phone call scene is shortened, cutting out the bit where Peter tells his son to go to his room.
A shot of Peter as Dr. Strangelove saying "Boom" is added after the Dr. Strangelove filming scenes.
Peter and Britt Ekland's wedding reception scene is shortened slightly, the shots of the children on the carousel are cut out.
The scene where Peter drives Britt to the hospital to give birth is shortened, cutting out footage of the car going past a church, pulling out in front of another car and Peter telling Britt to keep breathing.
The very brief scene of Peter seeing a plastic surgeon followed by shots of him in a makeup chair and taking pills is cut out.
The scene where Maurice Woodruff tries to get Peter to do another Pink Panther film is shortened, the bit where he channels Peter's mother and tells him to do the film is cut out. Also a different take is used when Maurice gets out the film script, instead of saying "Are you absolutely sure about that?", he says "Are you sure about that?".
The scene of Peter in his trailer dressed as the old salty sea dog is moved back to in between the scenes of him agreeing to make The Pink Panther Strikes Again and the film's premiere, making it look as if this character is part of that film when actually he appears in Revenge of the Pink Panther. In the original version this scene takes place later on, after a shot of Peter picking up a Revenge of the Pink Panther script. Whereas this version changes this shot to show a Being There script.
The scene of Peter in character as Blake Edwards is shortened. The line at the end of the scene "What did he do after me? The only thing he never gave up on" is cut out.
The montage of Peter doing character preparation for Being There and burning his old movie stuff is arranged differently. The overlaid shots of him doing The Goon Show and playing Strangelove, Clouseau are removed, although a shot of him burning a photo of President Merkin Muffley and a shot of the Being There novel in his pocket are added.
In the first shot of Blake Edwards waiting for Peter at the restaurant, instead of starting with a close up of the script for The Romance of the Pink Panther and cutting just before a waiter pours water into a glass, it starts with the water pouring into the glass, using a different part of this same take.
At the ending, when after the closing text it zooms out to show Peter watching it on a monitor and getting up to go to his trailer after which the end credits roll, this version inserts after the text another shot of Peter standing in the snow, then the cast list rolls before the zoom out to Peter watching it on a monitor. Also in this version The Kinks' song 'A Well Respected Man' starts playing as Peter gets up to go to his trailer, in the original version incidental music is played here instead and 'A Well Respected Man' doesn't start playing until the credits roll.
Let there be no doubt that Peter Sellers would be an enormously difficult part to play. He has to be one of the few actors in film history who is more complex than the characters he played. (unless one considers actors such as Paul Walker... let me rephrase that, one of the few TALENTED actors) And it would be hard to imagine the man who is still infamously remembered as Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series being played in as flawless a manor as by Geoffrey Rush here. He wasn't the most obvious choice to play Peter Sellers, but he proved to be the wisest one. The man deserves countless praises, not only for playing Sellers himself to perfection, but also for flawlessly re-creating pretty much every film and radio role Sellers ever played, from Dr. Strangelove to Chance the gardener to Clouseau himself. (beginning in a hilarious sequence on an airplane when Sellers hassles an airline stewardess in Clouseau character) But it doesn't stop there - all throughout his life (or at least so shown here) Sellers struggled with the notion that despite the rampant personalities of his screen personas, Peter the man never really had much of a personality himself. To show this, Sellers reenacts sequences of his real life with himself playing different characters. It is in these delusional sequences that Rush shows his true mastery - he doesn't give us "Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers' mother", he gives us "Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers as Peter Sellers' mother". Words can't describe the amount of recognition Geoffrey Rush deserves, and a solitary Golden Globe simply doesn't do him justice.
Despite the fact that virtually the whole show centers around Rush and his masterful performance, he is backed up by a strong supporting cast and crew. Director Stephen Hopkins was also an odd choice for the project, given his past credentials ("Lost in Space"? "Predator 2"?)but he proves to have the cheeky sense of humour the film needed to be taken seriously, starting off with a surreal 60's style animation sequence with Sellers showing clips from his own life. And it's nice to see some higher profile actors taking the back seat here, such as Charlize Theron, delightfully ditzy and yet not quite a parody as Sellers' airheaded second wife Britt Eckland. Emily Watson brings class and understated strength to her role as Ann, Sellers' first wife, and, as we are led to believe, the only woman he ever truly loved. (despite the fact he left her and their children to pursue a relationship with Sophia Loren which never happened) Stanley Tucci plays Stanley Kubrick in a brief yet important role during the filming of Dr. Strangelove - his eyes showed what his words could not: how irresponsible and hazardous to he production he perceived Sellers to be. Miriam Margoyles, better known as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter series is formidable as Peter's domineering, manipulative mother, portrayed as the main reason for Sellers' fractured state of reality. And John Lithgow is an excellent Blake Edwards, blending his eternal optimism and energy with a sense of self pride, which he is forced to swallow, asking Sellers to return for numerous Pink Panther sequels. Lithgow, with his obnoxious laugh, is a constant high point throughout the film.
Yet, after the viewing is finished, the watcher feels strangely empty. Sure it looked classy, and it felt classy to watch, so why shouldn't it be classified as a great movie? Perhaps it's because 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers' feels more like a series of snapshots, and not like a proper biography. We are presented with WHAT Sellers did in his lifetime, but never really shown WHY. There's an irritating lack of depth, which the viewer fails to notice during the movie, so captivated are we with Rush's wonderful acting. But when we reflect on the film afterwards, we realize that we still don't really know who Peter Sellers is. We know what he did, but not why he did it. This may be an intentional decision on Hopkins' part, because, as we are led to believe, Sellers didn't really understand himself that well. So no one really knew who Peter Sellers was... not even himself. And we should be content with that.
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