A new BBC drama is to examine the controversy surrounding the release of Monty Python’s Life of Brian in 1979.
Holy Flying Circus will is written by Tony Roche, one of the writers of the political satire The Thick of It, and will feature Pythonesque cutaways, including puppetry and animation.
Comic Phil Nichol plays Terry Gilliam, with Steve Punt as Eric Idle. John Cleese will be played by Green Wing's Darren Boyd, with Charles Edwards playing Michael Palin; Rufus Jones as Terry Jones and Tom Fisher as Graham Chapman.
The BBC says it is not a biopic, like many other films about comedians shown on BBC Four, but a ‘fantastical reimagining of the Pythons' struggle with censorship in the run-up to the release of Life of Brian’.
The 90-minute Holy Flying Circus – which channel controller Richard Klein calls ‘a smart and witty take on both the nature of censorship and the world of Monty Python’ – will be screened in the autumn.
To accompany it, the channel will also show the memorable Friday Night ... Saturday Morning debate when John Cleese and Michael Palin defended their film against the Bishop of Southwark and Malcolm Muggeridge, who called the film a ‘little squalid number’.
The film was banned in several countries, including Ireland, and several British towns amid pressure from Church leaders.
Here is a short extract from the Friday Night ... Saturday Morning debate: