The stars of the Monty Python comedy troupe are facing the threat of another costly legal battle over Spamalot royalties amid a financial dispute with funnyman Neil Innes. The British comedy veterans have become embroiled in a disagreement with their long-time collaborator Innes, who wrote a number of songs for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the group's 1975 film which inspired the hit stage show.
Innes, who had a brief cameo role in the movie, now claims he is owed royalty payments from Spamalot, and has aimed his frustrations at Monty Python member Eric Idle.
He tells Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, "Eric is going to have to explain what happened to my royalties. He has gone too far. He went public in an interview saying anyone could have written those songs. It so happens I wrote them. Sorry Eric, the gloves are off. I am not being polite any more. I am supposed to be getting royalties, but something has happened to them and I want to find out what."
Idle retorts, "Neil Innes is an old friend and a clever man... I have no idea why he is so upset and I wish him well" while the veteran funnyman's representative adds, "Eric has nothing to do with royalties or their distribution."
The comedians lost a costly legal battle with the film's producer, Mark Forstater, last year (13) after he successfully argued that his involvement in the movie entitled him to a larger share of the proceeds from the stage show.
Idle subsequently claimed the Pythons' substantial payout to Forstater had prompted them to embark on their upcoming reunion shows in London to recoup some cash.
Monty Python's sell-out reunion shows were borne out of anger and financial difficulties following a legal defeat over spin-off stage production Spamalot. Film producer Mark Forstater was awarded an increased portion of the profits from Spamalot in July (13) after he successfully argued that his involvement in the movie on which the musical was based, 1975's Monty Python and the Holy Grail, entitled him to a larger share of the proceeds.
The ruling came as a disappointment to the comedy troupe, but Eric Idle insists the legal defeat was the catalyst for the group coming together again and reconsidering the reunion project which John Cleese had previously described as "absolutely impossible".
Idle tells Britain's The Sun, "We were all shocked, angered and stunned at the result of the lawsuit that cost us millions of f**king dollars. It was jaw dropping... I think that comedians are motivated by anger. John (Cleese) wrote some of the funniest emails I've ever read over that period - it was killingly funny."
However, the British comedy legend admits they were also motivated by a need to recoup the money lost in the court case, adding, "We thought, 'Where are we going to get the money to pay these b**gers off?' We made a break from our management and tried someone new. We needed help as we were in a mess. Our new legal adviser told us we were f**ked."
The group began to entertain the idea of a live reunion once they started discussing comedy instead of money, and Idle insists the group could have been greedier about the project if they wanted a bigger pay out.
He adds, "If we were greedy b**tards we'd have a big company such as AEG in there and we'd be doing a world tour. But we're not greedy b**tards, we're actually quite nice people who have lives."
Monty Python will perform five live shows at London's O2 Arena between 1 July and 5 July (14).
Monty Python stars John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Jones have lost their court battle with a producer over royalties from their hit stage show Spamalot. Mark Forstater, who produced 1975 film Monty Python And The Holy Grail, took the surviving members of the comedy troop to court over allegations he was underpaid on royalties from the spin-off musical.
Forstater claimed he should have been entitled to a larger share of the proceeds due to his contribution to the original film and an agreement put in place back in the 1970s, and Idle, Palin and Jones all gave evidence during the court case.
A judge at London's High Court ruled in Forstater's favour on Friday (05Jul13), and he is to be awarded a settlement at a later date.
Speaking after Friday's ruling, Forstater insisted the victory was bittersweet, saying, "I have always been adamant I was correct. I have been proved right - justice has prevailed. There is a sadness, though, about having to face people who were my friends in court. We have been friends for a long time. Monty Python are an institution. I like the fact that they have apparently joked about the litigation. I still think they are very funny."
Spamalot opened to huge success both on Broadway and in London's West End, winning three Tony Awards and making millions in box office sales. It has also been staged in countries including Canada, France and Japan.
Mark Forstater, who worked on the classic 1975 movie, has taken legal action, claiming he is owed royalties from hit stage show Spamalot, the Holy Grail spin-off musical.
The producer has argued that for "financial purposes" he should be treated as "the seventh Python".
The case is being heard at London's High Court, and on Wednesday, Palin took to the stand to dispute Forstater's claim.
He testified, "It may have been what he wanted, but it was never going to be accepted by the Pythons. The idea of a 'seventh Python' just doesn't happen. It was never going to be accepted.
"I don't think there was ever any suggestion this man was going to be a 'seventh Python'. He was not the creator of the film. The film had been created by the Python team entirely.
"Mark came on board. He became the producer. But I don't think he was entitled to anything beyond that. Mark was not part of our team. There were six of us. We were a tight group. We wrote our own material."
Palin told the court any "major decisions" would have been taken by "the Pythons themselves", and added: "I find it really bizarre that Mark should think he would have been there writing the film with us. It just wouldn't happen."
The case continues.
The funnyman was reunited with his former work colleagues for a hearing at London's High Court on Friday (30Nov12) to face a lawsuit over their popular theatre musical.
Mark Forstater, who produced the classic 1975 comedy movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail, is suing the trio, along with John Cleese and Terry Gilliam, over allegations he is owed royalties from the production, but Idle is refusing to feel downcast about the courtroom showdown.
The 69 year old admits he was happy to spend time with his friends, even under such difficult circumstances, as being in court brought back happy memories of their sketch show days together.
In a series of posts on Twitter.com, he writes, "Not allowed to say much about the court case as it proceeds.. Excellent fun to be in court with Mike and Terry J. God I love these blokes. I have been in a hundred court (comedy) sketches and never once in court. Memories of them all flood back...."
Idle even jokingly compares the case to Monty Python and The Holy Grail, adding, "Case latest. Man claiming to be the 7th Python revealed to be the 2nd Black Knight (character from the film)..."
Mark Forstater, who produced the classic 1975 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is suing the pair, as well as stars John Cleese, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, over allegations he is owed royalties from the production.
Forstater filed papers last year (11) demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in a legal dispute concerning the Holy Grail spin-off musical.
Idle and Palin are expected to appear at the High Court in London on Friday, just weeks after the sell-out musical opened for a new run in the U.K. capital.