Wednesday, February 12, 2014

25 Days of Harrison Day 11- HandMade films

In 1978 George Harrison had decided to help his friends, The Monty Python cast, get a new start for their film Life Of Brian after Python's original financiers got rid of the original creators and had to seek new financiers. This led to George Harrison teaming up with his new business partner and investment banker, Denis O' Brien to help create Life of Brian, which nobody thought would of made any money,
Eric and George
"I think one of the real problems was when Brian started to make money," says Eric Idle of the Python crew, "George and Denis really were like the classic producers. this was not supposed to make money- it was a tax write-off."

The film made £20,000 in a week. Harrison, O'Brien and the Python group were all shocked by the outcome having Harrison and O'Brien create an office at Cadogan Square, London. Former worker for Harrison, Steve Abbott, described George as a great employer saying that for no matter's who's birthday it was there would be a party for them at the office. Saying it was a "Good Atmosphere" and even remembers one winter of the workers having a snowball fight inside the office.

But soon that "Good Atmosphere" stalled when the Python crew found out that O'Brien  had spent money without their permission. Eric Idle remembers that they were all in Jamaica saying the following,
"We had a meeting about what to do with Denis and I came up with a brilliant plan. I said, 'We'll steal his yacht.' And everybody else said, 'What a great idea.' John (Cleese) vetoed it because he's a lawyer and said, 'This is piracy'. So we were disappointed."

In 1981, The Monty Python group had made the decision to leave HandMade films, although cast members would make appearances in other films separately. Harrison was upset by this action made by the crew who's productions he saved but didn't matter, the crew and him still stayed close friends  and the eighties brought great success to the company, along with stress.

Big stars started appearing in HandMade Film productions, including the "Couple of the world" Madonna and Sean Penn who starred in Shanghai Surprise in 1986. The couple brought great stress to the company having Penn starting to fire cast members and crews for little reasons, for instance he fired a crew member who suggested that Madonna and Sean take pictures together to calm down the press and start promoting the film. Penn replied saying,
Penn, Madonna, and Harrison
"The film doesn't need publicity. People will go to see it because we're in it."
George Harrison had flew out to Hong Kong, where the movie was being filmed, to the rescue where he had to act as peace maker. To make matters worse Penn and Madonna refused to promote their own film. George would later say in an interview that Penn was "a pain in the ass" and Madonna "all this aloofness and star stuff".

One of the biggest things to come out of HandMade Films would be a British film Withnail and I which just started with good reviews and soon was a major hit. But like all good things, it must come to an end. This time it was complications with Denis O'Brien again. In a 1988 interview George stated the following;
"I have a sort of Kamikaze side to me that is optimistic. I have to trust Denis O'Brien's business sense and hope that he is not going to bankrupt me."
George and Denis
Seven years later Harrison filed a $25 million lawsuit against his business partner, which friends believed played a part in the faulting in later health conditions leading to George's death. Even Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python) recalls seeing George during/after the lawsuit saying it looked like his friend had aged about ten years. Harrison claimed that O'Brien had been taking advantage of him for twenty or so years. Harrison was said to be awarded $11 million but never got his share as Denis announced himself bankrupt.

"I felt so sorry for him because it was his free-spiritedness that allowed all that work to happen. I just think he was stabbed in the back."- Richard Griffiths, actor.
Robert Sellers goes into depth about HandMade Films in his book Very Naughty Boys





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