Monday, July 21, 2008

Mayor wants Python film ban ended

By Carl Yapp
BBC News

She's not the messiah, she's the mayor of Aberystwyth and she has a plan.

Sue Jones-Davies is trying to overturn a near 30-year ban imposed bythe town on Monty Python's Life of Brian - the film in which she played a role. Long before she donned her mayoral robes in the mid Wales town, she played Brian's girlfriend in the movie. Opponents claimed it made fun of Jesus, but she says it's 'amazing' that a town like hers still officially bars a movie now regarded as a comedy classic. In 1979, however, it grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons, with critics accusing the Python team of blasphemy with its story about a Jewish man who was mistaken for the messiah and then crucified. Some religious groups picketed cinemas which screened the film.

Sue Jones-Davies (centre) with the Monty Python team on the film

A number of areas in Wales banned it, as former Python John Cleese recalled during an interview on Channel 4's Richard and Judy programme on Wednesday. But nearly 30 years on, the new mayor of Aberystwyth wants the restriction lifted in her town. 'Given what's on TV now I think it's amazing a ban in Aberystwyth still exists,' said Ms Jones-Davies. 'I think it should be lifted.
'I would like to think that any religion would have the generosity to see the film for what it is, which is a comedy. 'I was surprised at the outrage it caused at the time, but I did not expect or appreciate the impact and never thought it would turn out to be so popular.
'The movie has maintained its popularity. It is usually at or near the top of lists of the greatest comedy films. It featured some iconic lines, most famously the verdict byBrian's mother on her son: 'He's not the messiah - he's a very naughty boy'. Parts of the script are still quoted at Ms Jones-Davies today, but she confessed the lines were wasted on her: 'I can't remember the lines from the script now - it's nearly 30 years ago,' she explained.

Sue Jones-Davies

Ms Jones-Davies played a revolutionary called Judith Iscariot, and she had a nude scene with the film's hero, Brian, played by the late Graham Chapman. But she very nearly didn't appear in the movie at all. 'I got the part because somebody dropped out,' she said. 'I had the same agent as John Cleese and was recommended for the part. 'I went for an interview at a flat in London and all the Monty Python crew were there. 'It was quite funny really because it wasn't a proper interview at all, as you'd expect with Monty Python. 'They were all chipping in and saying, 'Oh yes, she'll be fine'. I wasn't asked many questions.
'It was shot in Tunisia, but part of the crucifixion scene had to be filmed in a sandpit in Kent. 'It was great fun to work on, and we had the odd day off. One day I went with Terry Gilliam to buy a carpet and driving along we came to a river,' she added. 'Local people nearby were warning us not to go through it, but Terry just drove on - I thought we were going to sink but we managed to make to the other side.
'Recalling her famous nude scene, Ms Jones-Davies said: 'It was a part and I just played it, although I did call for a closed set. ''It was filmed in a sort of small tunnel, and wasn't very sensual at all.

'It is understood a committee made up of church leaders in Aberystwyth recommended a ban in 1979. Ceredigion council has the power to lift it, but a spokesman said no-one in the licensing department knew about the ban. But Michael Davies, the owner of Aberystwyth's Commodore Cinema, said he was sure it was still in place. 'As far as I know the Life of Brian is still banned from being shown at the cinema,' he explained. 'My father ran the cinema when the ban was imposed and I suppose it would have had a commercial impact at the time because it was a huge film and made a fortune. 'I don't think lifting the ban now would make much of a difference. 'Stars such as Spike Milligan and ex-Beatle George Harrison, who financed the Life of Brian when no-one else would, played cameo roles.

Sue Jones-Davies as Judith Iscariot in the Life of Brian