The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers


Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Written by:Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Charlize Theron, Emily Watson, John Lithgow, Miriam Margolyes, Stanley Tucci
Released: August 26, 2004
Grade: A-

In last week’s news, I read an article which said that Geoffrey Rush’s performance in The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers would be ineligible for Oscar consideration this year.  The reason?  The film will not be shown in theatres of the United States.  Instead, it will debut directly on the pay television channel (HBO) which helped finance the film.

At the time, I thought little of this information.  Geoffrey Rush already has won Oscar (for Shine) and surely a low budget telemovie couldn’t be that good.  Well, I have once again proven myself wrong in a very surprising way.  Having now seen the film, it would be a crying shame to deny Rush another Academy Award nomination and I hope that buzz generated here at home and in the UK (where the film is also being released theatrically) might change the minds of the HBO executives.

As he was well before my time, I knew very little about Peter Sellers and had seen virtually none of this many films.  Born in 1925, he began his career on radio and determination saw him craft an impressive resume on film.  The early 1960s proved to be his golden era.  Two of his most famous characters were Inspector Jacques Clouseau in The Pink Panther (1963) and three crazily distinct roles in Stanley Kubrick’s. Dr Strangelove (1964).

Sellers was acclaimed as a comic genius but off screen, he was a deeply depressed man who could not find satisfaction in life.  One of his memorable quotes was “If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.”  He married four times, experimented with drugs and psychics, and had a near-death experience after a serious heart-attack.

 

Some will be shocked to see such an unflattering account of a man considered so highly in the film industry.  I found it fascinating and although some of the supporting characters (including Charlize Theron and John Lithgow) were a bit rough around the edges, Rush steals the limelight and turns what might well be a standard telemovie, into a great motion picture.  He is deadest brilliant.

 

It has its down moments but there are several uplifting moments to Sellers’ story to give us all hope.  A very intriguing person he was.  The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and unlike those residents of the USA, you don’t have to wait for the smaller screen.  Geoffrey Rush is lighting up the screen in theatres across Australia.