The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)

At his best, Peter Sellers was one of the funniest men ever to appear onscreen, creating such much-loved characters as The Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau and The Party’s Hrundi V Bakshi.  In other films his talents enabled him to play multiple characters, such as Dr Strangelove’s President Muffley, Lionel Mandrake and the title character. He was to have played Major Kong in that film as well, but couldn’t find the character. Even more elusive for Sellers was the character of Peter Sellers himself, a difficulty that extends to the makers of this biopic. 

 

For despite a brilliant performance by Geoffrey Rush in the title role, the filmmakers seem more intent on bringing attention to themselves rather than throw any light on their subject. Indicative of this is the gimmick of having Rush, as Sellers, portray the multiple characters of Seller’s parents and directors. Though each give their individual perspective of the man, their summations remain stubbornly unilluminating.  

 

Nevertheless, there are still a few rays of sunshine in this otherwise humourless film, not least of which are Rush’s mimicking of The Goon Show's characters, and the amusing off-screen encounters Sellers has while still ‘in character’ of Clouseau and Strangelove.

 

Sellers once remarked “If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.” After watching this biopic, the viewer remains equally mystified.

cast, Geoffrey Rush, Peter Sellers, Charlize Theron, Britt Ekland
Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Rush

as Peter Sellers

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron

as Britt Ekland

Sonia Aquino
Sonia Aquino

as Sophia Loren

Nigel Havers
Nigel Havers

as David Niven

1/4
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In an interview with the Daily Mail, Britt Ekland stated that although the couple argued, Peter Sellers never hit her. It seemed to be the only kind word she had for him.

 

"The film leaves you with the impression that Peter Sellers was essentially a likeable man when in reality he was a monster. He may have been a brilliant actor, but as a human being he had no saving graces at all… ultimately I felt very sad because the film was a complete fiction…I am desperately disappointed that people will see this film and think it is a faithful account, when it is nothing of the kind.”

Britt Ekland

 

Sellers's son also disagreed with the biopic's portrayal of his father, but for different reasons. "This film is based on 800 pages of unintelligible rubbish” Michael Sellers told The Times, in reference to the 1994 biography by Roger Lewis. “This guy did not understand my father and his comedy. He said it was insanity but he clearly didn't understand the humour of the Goons”

 

"He was a tormented man but at the same time he was a very funny, loving guy as well."

Michael Sellers

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Clip courtesy of Dimitri Bitu

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