John Marwood Cleese (/kliːz/; born 27 October 1939) is an English actor, voice actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films: And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.
In the mid-1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers, with Cleese receiving the 1980 BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance. Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures, both of which he also wrote. He also starred in Clockwise and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films as R and Q, two Harry Potter films, and the last three Shrek films.
With Yes Minister writer Antony Jay, he co-founded Video Arts, a production company making entertaining training films. In 1976, Cleese co-founded The Secret Policeman’s Ball benefit shows to raise funds for the human rights organisation Amnesty International.
1939 – Present
1969 – 1974 Monty Python’s Flying Circus
And now for something completely different — and how. The brainy members of the Python troupe present sketches from the absurd to the obscure, and milk humor out of anything they come across. Just mention the “Dead Parrot” sketch, the “Ministry of Funny Walks” or “Spam,” and you’ll get a chorus of Python fans chiming in with the best lines.
1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
A comedic send-up of the grim circumstances of the Middle Ages as told through the story of King Arthur and framed by a modern-day murder investigation. When the mythical king of the Britons leads his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail, they face a wide array of horrors, including a persistent Black Knight, a three-headed giant, a cadre of shrubbery-challenged knights, the perilous Castle Anthrax, a killer rabbit, a house of virgins, and a handful of rude Frenchmen.
1975 – 1979 Fawlty Towers
Basil Fawlty is an inept and slightly out-of-his-head English hotel manager, who is tortured by `that annoying section of the general public who insist on staying at hotels’. Fawlty is constantly berated by his wife, and his efforts are continually hampered by their Spanish waiter, Manuel.
1979 Monty Python’s The Life of Brian
Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) is an average young Jewish man, but through a series of ridiculous events, he gains a reputation as the Messiah. When he’s not dodging his followers or being scolded by his shrill mother (Terry Jones), the hapless Brian has to contend with the pompous Pontius Pilate (Michael Palin) and acronym-obsessed members of a separatist movement. Rife with Monty Python’s signature absurdity, the tale finds Brian’s life paralleling Biblical lore, albeit with many more laughs.
1981 Time Bandits
Young history buff Kevin (Craig Warnock) can scarcely believe it when six dwarfs emerge from his closet one night. Former employees of the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson), they’ve purloined a map charting all of the holes in the fabric of time and are using it to steal treasures from different historical eras. Taking Kevin with them, they variously drop in on Napoleon (Ian Holm), Robin Hood (John Cleese) and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery) before the Supreme Being catches up with them.
1983 The Meaning of Life
The stages of life are told through multiple sketches and songs by the British comedy troupe. The seven parts of life cover birth, growing up, war, middle age, organ transplants, old age and death. Not all stages are singular: “Part I: The Miracle of Birth” is from the perspective of an ignored woman in labor, and of a Roman Catholic couple with too many children, and “Part VII: Death” encompasses a funeral and heaven. Added are three unrelated skits placed in the beginning, middle and end.
Rambling man Emmett (Scott Glenn) assembles a group of misfit cowboys (Kevin Costner), (Kevin Kline, Danny Glover). After helping a group of settlers track down a pack of thieves, Emmett and his men descend on the troubled town of Silverado to seek their fortunes. Soon after arriving, they discover that the town has fallen into the grasp of greedy rancher Ethan McKendrick (Ray Baker) and corrupt Sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy) with whom many of Emmett’s men have unfinished business.
1988 A Fish Called Wanda
British gangster George Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and his hapless aide, Ken Pile (Michael Palin), draft a pair of arrogant Americans, grifter Wanda Gerschwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) and weapons expert Otto West (Kevin Kline), for a massive diamond heist. When the job goes badly, Wanda attempts to seduce George’s stuffy lawyer, Archie Leach (John Cleese), to find out where George hid the diamonds. Meanwhile, Ken repeatedly attempts to kill an elderly woman (Patricia Hayes) who witnessed the robbery.
1997 Fierce Creatures
After multimillionaire Rod McCain (Kevin Kline) buys a London zoo, the staff is pressured to make higher profits or face closure. McCain assigns the lovely Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis) to supervise the zoo, particularly its misguided director, Rollo Lee (John Cleese). In an effort to increase attendance, Lee decides that only aggressive animals should be displayed, horrifying insect specialist Adrian “Bugsy” Malone (Michael Palin). Amid the caged wildlife, romance and even murder ensue.
1999 The World is Not Enough
Bond (Pierce Brosnan) must race to defuse an international power struggle with the world’s oil supply hanging in the balance. Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), is the daughter of a murdered oil tycoon whom Bond is assigned to protect. The villain is Renard (Robert Carlyle), who has a bullet lodged in his brain rendering him unable to feel pain. Also featuring nuclear weapons expert Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards).
2001 Rat Race
In an ensemble film about easy money, greed, manipulation and bad driving, a Las Vegas casino tycoon entertains his wealthiest high rollers — a group that will bet on anything — by pitting six ordinary people against each other in a wild dash for $2 million jammed into a locker hundreds of miles away. The tycoon and his wealthy friends monitor each racer’s every move to keep track of their favorites. The only rule in this race is that there are no rules.
Lab assistant Igor (John Cusack) dreams of becoming a mad scientist like his master, Dr. Glickenstein. When the doctor runs afoul of his own invention, Igor seizes the chance. With the help of his friends Scamper (Steve Buscemi) and Brain (Sean Hayes), Igor plans to win the kingdom’s annual science fair by building the most-evil monster ever. The problem is that Eve (Molly Shannon), as the monster is called, is sweeter than sugar and would rather be an actress.