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Michael Palin

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Also Known As: Michael Edward Palin Died:
Born: May 5, 1943 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Yorkshire, England, GB Profession: actor, screenwriter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

liott, rejoined him for "A Private Function" (1984), a comedy about war rationing during World War II, and he was a frequent presence on American television during the 1980s, including repeated guest stints on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ).His best screen role, however, came with "A Fish Called Wanda." Written by and starring Cleese as a lovelorn barrister who falls for a conman's moll (Jamie Lee Curtis), Palin was alternately hilarious and heartrending as a dimwitted, stammer-plagued thief who suffers untold humiliation at the hands of a sociopathic partner (Kevin Kline), including the live consumption of his beloved tropical fish. Palin's performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA, and the biggest hit of his film career. The exposure afforded to him by the film's success allowed him the clout to launch a second career as a world traveler, which he documented in several books and popular television documentaries.His first effort was part of the BBC Two series "Great Railway Journeys" (1980-89), for which he discussed his childhood hobby of train spotting and traveled the length of the United Kingdom from London to Scotland. After veteran British traveler Alan Whicker - amusingly,...

liott, rejoined him for "A Private Function" (1984), a comedy about war rationing during World War II, and he was a frequent presence on American television during the 1980s, including repeated guest stints on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ).

His best screen role, however, came with "A Fish Called Wanda." Written by and starring Cleese as a lovelorn barrister who falls for a conman's moll (Jamie Lee Curtis), Palin was alternately hilarious and heartrending as a dimwitted, stammer-plagued thief who suffers untold humiliation at the hands of a sociopathic partner (Kevin Kline), including the live consumption of his beloved tropical fish. Palin's performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA, and the biggest hit of his film career. The exposure afforded to him by the film's success allowed him the clout to launch a second career as a world traveler, which he documented in several books and popular television documentaries.

His first effort was part of the BBC Two series "Great Railway Journeys" (1980-89), for which he discussed his childhood hobby of train spotting and traveled the length of the United Kingdom from London to Scotland. After veteran British traveler Alan Whicker - amusingly, once the target of a parody by Monty Python - turned down an offer to follow the global trek set forth in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, Palin accepted the challenge, circling the globe in "Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days" (BBC, 1989). The series followed Palin's successful attempt to travel the world in the manner of Verne's hero, Phineas Fogg - which prevented him from using any aircraft - as well his many adventures along the way, including trips on a Yugoslavian freighter, a Japanese train, and a hot-air balloon in Aspen, CO.

The success of the series and subsequent travel book led to a string of critically acclaimed travel specials which took Palin to nearly every point on the map. He followed the 30 degree east line of longitude from the North to the South Pole in "Pole to Pole" (BBC, 1992), followed in the footsteps of author and adventurer Ernest Hemingway in "Michael Palin's Hemingway" (BBC, 1999), and ventured across two of the Earth's most challenging landscapes in "Sahara" (BBC, 2001) and "Himalaya" (BBC, 2003). In addition to sharing his experiences with audiences through accompanying books, his documentaries had the additional effect of making each location a popular tourist attraction for visitors from around the globe.

Though Palin's travels consumed the majority of his time, he still maintained an interest in entertaining. However, his later film and television roles were decidedly more straight-faced than the work that had established him in the 1960s and 1970s. "American Friend" (1991), which he co-wrote and produced, was a period drama about a staid Oxford professor (Palin) who falls for a young American girl while on holiday in Switzerland. The feature, which was inspired in part by events in the life of Palin's own great-grandfather, earned him an award from the Writers Guild of Britain. The Channel 4 series "G.B.H." (1991) also cast him in a sober role as the headmaster of a boy's school under protest by militants, and brought him another BAFTA nomination. Palin never strayed far from his comedy roots, including a brief turn in Jones' adaptation of "The Wind in the Willows" (1996) and a reunion with Cleese, Curtis and Kline in the ill-fated "Fierce Creatures" (1997), but for the most part, he seemed to relish the new challenges of his travel work and dramatic turns.

The close of the 1990s and the launch of the new millennium saw Palin turning his documentary eye towards painters; among the artists covered were Scotland's Anne Redpath and Villhelm Hammershoi of Denmark. In 2008, he produced "The Last Day of World War One," a documentary about Armistice Day in 1918, for the BBC. The new decade was also a period of tribute for Palin's career. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000, and was placed 30th in a poll of favorite comedians by a voting panel of fellow comics. BAFTA gave him a British Comedy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2002, and a Special Award just three years later. In honor of his travel projects, Virgin Trains and National Express East Anglia named two trains after him - a worthy match to the asteroid named for him, along with all five other Pythons, in 1993. And in 2008, he was the recipient of the James Joyce Award from the Literary and Historical Society in Dublin, Ireland.

That same year brought word that Palin might be returning to the screen in 2010 to play Don Quixote opposite Johnny Depp in "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote." The Terry Gilliam project, which was initially launched in 2000, earned notoriety for a streak of freak production accidents, including the loss of sets to a flash flood and a serious injury to its star, Jean Rochefort, which eventually caused filming to halt. with Jones, Palin's sketches tended to begin from a very ordinary standpoint - a simple parlor conversation; an innocuous dinner - before taking a sudden and dramatic turn into the bizarre. An idle mention of the Spanish Inquisition brought forth its bloodthirsty (if inept) members, while in "Spam," a diner menu is revealed to offer nothing but the tinned meat, which is praised by a chorus of singing Vikings. Occasionally, these deviations into the strange became decidedly outré, as evidenced by the memorable final sketch from "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" (1983), in which the obese Mr. Creosote (Jones) is fed until literally exploding.

Palin's gift for the absurd was equally well used in Python's feature films, which began in earnest after the series came to a close in 1974. In "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975), he essayed the gallant if somewhat obtuse Sir Galahad, who nearly escapes the clutches of a nunnery full of wantons, as well as an angry villager mistaken for a woman by King Arthur, and the leader of the Knights who say "Ni." He brought the house down with one of his most infamous speech-impaired characters, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, in "Life of Brian" (1977), and showed the full range of his abilities in "The Meaning of Life" (1983), which showcased him in numerous roles - the most memorable of which is the Roman Catholic father who announces to his massive brood that he must sell them for medical experiments. The sketch eventually blossomed into a full-blown musical number titled "Every Sperm is Sacred," which earned Palin and Jones a BAFTA nomination for Best Song in 1984. Palin also recreated many of his best-known sketches in the concert film, "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl" (1982). His final appearance with all six members of Python came in 1988's "Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Monty Python," which aired shortly before the two-decade anniversary of the first BBC broadcast of the series, as well as the death of Graham Chapman from cancer.

Palin was also exceptionally busy outside of Python with a variety of film and television projects. He and Jones created and starred in the comedy series "Ripping Yarns" (BBC One, 1976-79), which poked fun at outlandish boys' adventure stories published prior to World War II, and starred in Terry Gilliam's first solo outing as director, "Jabberwocky" (1977). Palin later collaborated on two of Gilliam's most well-regarded features, "Time Bandits" (1982), which he co-wrote and appeared in as a stuttering medieval romantic who falls victim to Cleese's Robin Hood, and the dystopian fantasy "Brazil" (1985). Palin showed an unexpected dramatic side in the latter feature, which cast him as a harmless bureaucrat who is revealed to be a sadistic state-sponsored torturer. Palin also penned and starred in "The Missionary" (1982), a British comedy about a virtuous minister whose new flock is comprised of London prostitutes. His co-stars in that film, Maggie Smith and Denholm El

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
4.
 Arthur Christmas (2011)
5.
 Fierce Creatures (1997) Bugsy Malone
6.
 Wind in the Willows, The (1997) The Sun
7.
 Wind in the Willows, The (1995) Voice Of Rat
8.
 American Friends (1993) Reverend Francis Ashby
9.
 A Fish Called Wanda (1988) Ken
10.
 Brazil (1985) Jack Lint
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Met future Python Terry Jones at Oxford and they began writing comedy together
:
Performed in productions at Oxford of "The Birthday Party" and "Hang Your Head Down and Die"
1964:
West End theatrical debut, in "Hang Down Your Head and Die"
1965:
Co-hosted the TV show "Now"
:
Wrote for BBC-TV's "The Frost Report" with Terry Jones and John Cleese
1966:
Wrote and acted in short film "The Late Show" (for the BBC)
:
Initial teaming with Terry Jones and Eric Idle, as writers and performers on the TV series "Do Not Adjust Your Set"
:
Wrote two BBC specials starring Marty Feldman
1968:
Co-starred in "John Cleese on How to Irritate People" (made for British TV; released theatrically in USA)
1969:
With Terry Jones, wrote and performed in the six part sereis "The Complete and Utter History of Britain" (London Weekend Television)
1969:
Became a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus and traveled with troupe to Broadway and the London stage
:
"Month Python's Flying Circus" aired on the BBC
1971:
First feature screenwriting and acting credit, "And Now For Something Completely Different"
:
Reprised BBC series "Monty Python's Flying Circus" for BBC
1973:
Co-starred in "Monty Python's First Farewell Tour" throughout UK and Canada
1973:
Monthy Python troupe (without John Cleese) appeared on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson"
1974:
The TV show "Monty Python's Flying Circus" begins a highly successful run on American public television
1975:
Appeared in the British TV production "Three Men in a Boat", written by Tom Stoppard
1976:
Starred in Terry Gilliam's feature "Jabberwocky"
1977:
Co-wrote with Terry Jones and starred in "Ripping Yarns", a series of six half-hour comedy films for the BBC
1978:
Hosted the NBC variety series "Saturday Night Live"
1979:
Wrote (with Jones) and starred in three additional "Ripping Yarns"
1980:
Wrote, narrated and appeared in British episode of BBC series "Great Train Journeys of the World"
1981:
Debut as producer of a feature, "The Missionary"; also wrote
1981:
Starred in own one-man show at the Belfast Festival
1983:
Wrote songs for the feature "Monty Python's Meaning of Life"
1983:
Had featured role in Gilliam's "Brazil"
1985:
Scripted "East of Ipswitch"; made for TV in 1987
1988:
Played Ken in "A Fish Called Wanda", co-starring Cleese, Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis
1989:
Hosted the travel series "Around the World in 80 Days"
1992:
Traveled from the North Pole to the South Pole, an event featured in the eight-part TV series, "Pole to Pole"
1994:
Starred in "Palin's Column", a four-part journey around the Isle of Wight
1994:
Hosted and scripted "Great Railway Journeys II"
1995:
Provided voice of Rat in the animated "The Wind of the Willows"
1997:
Reunited with Cleese, Kline and Curtis for "Fierce Creatures"
1997:
Hosted "Full Circle with Michael Palin", a ten-part series aired on PBS
2000:
Hosted the PBS special "Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Brasenose College, Oxford University: - 1962 - 1965

Notes

See also separate entry for Monty Python as well as indiviual bios of other group members.

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in December 1999

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Helen Palin.

Family close complete family listing

sister:
Angela Palin. Committed suicide in 1992.
daughter:
Rachel Palin.
son:
Thomas Palin.
son:
William Palin.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Monty Python's Big Red Book" Methuen
"The Brand New Monty Python Book" Methuen
"Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls" Methuen
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail" Methuen
"Monty Python's Life of Brian (of Nazareth) and Montypythonscrapbook" Grosset & Dunlap
"Ripping Yarns" Methuen
"More Ripping Yarns" Methuen
"The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Monty Python" Methuen
"Time Bandits: The Movie Script" Doubleday
"Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" Methuen
"Dr. Fegg's Encyclopedia of All World Knowledge" Bedrick Books
"The Mirrorstone: A Ghost Story with Holograms" Alfred A. Knopf
"Cyril and the Dinner Party"
"Cyril and the House of Commons"
"Around the World" BBC Books
"Michael Palin: A Biography" Orion Books
"Hemingway's Chair" St. Martin's Press
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