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New Monty Python biopic offers ‘untrue story’ of Chapman’s life

TORONTO — If the title isn’t enough of a dead giveaway, the makers of A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman want viewers to know that what they see in the biopic may not necessarily reflect reality.

The story is based on Chapman’s loose-with-the-facts 1980 autobiography, which was penned with four other authors — including Douglas Adams of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame — and stretched the definition of what could legitimately be called a memoir. It traces his life from his childhood to his success with Monty Python and includes tales about his homosexuality and alcoholism.

Chapman, who played the lead in the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian, made an audio tape of the book before he died in 1989. That recording is featured in A Liar’s Autobiography, along with voiceovers from fellow troupe members Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam.

Jones found the 3-D animated film, which opens Friday in Toronto, thoroughly entertaining but not particularly illuminating.

But it’s no fault of the film, he added, and is just a reflection of the sly ambiguousness Chapman was notorious for embracing, including in his book.

“I think Graham was a bit of a mystery to anybody who knew him or worked with him, I don’t think we ever felt like we knew him,” Jones said during an interview at September’s Toronto International Film Festival.

“(The film) captures his oddness and looniness and a little bit of the mystery, actually. He was kind of an enigmatic character and . . . I think you’d say he was acting all the time.

“You don’t learn about him, I think it’s all a pose.”

Jones’s son Jeff, who directed the film with Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett, had originally set out to create a TV documentary about Chapman. But after learning about the previously unused audio tapes, he instead began seeking out animators to bring Chapman’s words and stories to life.

 
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