After giving the deluxe documentary treatment to Bob Dylan (No Direction Home) and the Rolling Stones (Shine a Light), Martin Scorsese now trains his camera on George Harrison for George Harrison: Living In the Material World, his two-part film about the "Quiet Beatle" that airs at 8 p.m. tonight and Thursday on HBO.
Although he was never especially quiet - Rocks Off just read Peter Doggett's You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup over the weekend, and we highly recommend it - Harrison was himself a cinephile. After befriending the Monty Python crew, Harrison created the production company HandMade Films to produce their Christ-figure comedy Monty Python's Life of Brian, prompting Python's Terry Gilliam to remark it was the "most expensive script in history."
Harrison sold his interest in HandMade in 1994, but by then it had already produced some of the most successful and influential works in recent British film history, along with its fair share of turkeys. After emerging from financial "restructuring" last year, it's still a going concern, most recently producing the Oscar-nominated 127 Hours. Here's a quick sampling of HandMade's archives.
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
Summary: From the stable to the cross, Judean-born accidental messiah Brian (Graham Chapman) has a nasty habit of getting mistaken for this "Jesus Christ" fellow.
Starring: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam
Trivia: Harrison appears uncredited as Mr. Papadopolous.
The Long Good Friday (1980)
Summary: London gangster battles the IRA and police corruption as he tries to go legit with a scheme to redevelop the docklands into an Olympic village. Too bad he asks the U.S. mafia for help.
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren
Trivia: Future James Bond Piers Brosnan makes his film debut as an IRA gunman who takes Harold Shand (Hoskins) hostage.
Time Bandits (1981)
Summary: A rather rude group of dwarves discovers time travel - something to do with a toaster, if we remember right - and accumulates ill-gotten gains across various historical eras.
Starring: John Cleese, Michael Palin, Ralph Richardson and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon
Trivia: Kenny Baker, better known as R2-D2, co-stars as one of the dwarves, Fidgit.
Shanghai Surprise (1986)
Summary: Mercenary and missionary meet cute, dodge thugs while hunting stolen opium.
Starring: Sean Penn, Madonna
Trivia: Roundly considered one of the worst films of the '80s, if not of all time. Won Madonna her first "Razzie" award for Worst Actress, and its utter failure at the box office put HandMade in serious financial trouble. Harrison appears as a lounge singer.
Withnail and I (1987)
Summary: Two struggling actors in late-'60s London get more than they bargained for when they spend a weekend at a lake house belonging to one of them's flamboyantly gay uncle.
Starring: Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths
Trivia: Daniel Day-Lewis, Kenneth Branagh and Bill Nighy were all in the running for the title role of Withnall. Day-Lewis turned it down.