Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

Is there any role that Geoffrey Rush can't play? The man is awesome.

Peter Sellers was a troubled soul, no doubt about it. He saw himself as an "empty suit" unless he was playing a character. There was a wonderful scene in this movie, where Peter was looking into a mirror, and the mirror had no image of him.

He had an overprotective and controlling mother and she and his father were in Vaudeville. They took him onstage with them when he was only a few days old. His name was really Richard Henry Sellers, but his parents called him Peter in honor of his older, stillborn brother of the same name. No wonder he never had any sense of self.

His first marriage failed when he fell madly in love with Sophia Loren. She didn't care for him, though, so he had an affair with her stand-in. That did it for his first wife. Sellers married three more times, but throughout his life, when he had big decisions to make, he consulted his first wife about them.

Sellers played The Pink Panther, but didn't want to do a sequel. If took Blake Edwards, played by John Lithgow, 10 years to convince him. The two men seemed to have a rather complex relationship. Sellers simply wouldn't take direction. He developed his character and that was that.

And, he went to extraordinary lengths to have his own way. In Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick wanted Sellers to play four characters and Sellers only wanted to play three. He didn't want to do the bomb scene, so he showed up on the set with his leg in a cast, and Kubrick had to get Slim Pickens to play the part. This was portrayed in the movie as a scam by Sellers, but official biographies state that he actually did break his leg.

Peter Sellers was a man obsessed with himself and his career. He went in and out of character with ease, and his mood could change with ease, too. He seems to have alienated almost everyone close to him, and died of a heart attack on July 24, 1980 at 54 years of age. His children inherited approximately $2000 each, and his fourth wife inherited the rest of his estate.

The only thing they found in his wallet upon his death was a photo of his first wife.

13 comments:

Joy Des Jardins said...

I thought that movie was terrific. Geoffrey Rush was amazing...and no, I don't think there's anything he can't play. I learned a lot about Peter Sellers that I never knew. He was very different than what he projected on screen, and his life much sadder.

Newt said...

He gave us the gift of laughter, and that is priceless. Sometimes I almost wish I didn't know the truth behind the legend. He was one of those cases. He was larger than life to me and it's a little sad to learn the man behind the legend.

Alan G said...

I too enjoyed the talents of Peter Sellers. I don't think I ever laughed as much as I did when I first saw The Pink Panther. And thank goodness for the sequels.

Thanks for the history Betty.

her indoors said...

he had his problems but he still made us laugh

Chancy said...

I adored Peter Sellers in "Being There". one of my all time favorite films right up there with "Casablanca" and "GWTW."

"I like to Watch" :)

Kell said...

I loved Peter Sellers and so many of his movies. I haven't seen this biopic yet, but I'm going to add it to my list.

But I can't imagine anyone else but Slim Pickins on that bomb.

Annie said...

That's very interesting, Betty. I didn't know a thing about him other than his characters in some of the movies I've seen. In fact, I didn't even know about this biopic and probably wouldn't have even considered seeing it. But I do love psychological studies and maybe, just maybe, I'll see it. Your review was very interesting.

gawilli said...

The allegiance to the first wife seems interesting. I did not know all of this about Peter Sellers, but enjoyed him in Pink Panther and Strangelove.

Cazzie!!! said...

Wow, I never knew that story of Peter Sellers, and I admired his work so much.
It saddens me to know his parents called him Peter in lieu of his dead brother, imagine having to try to live up to a memory of someone who was not even born alive, sheesh.

Yup our Geoffrey is an amazing actor, one of the best. Just like Meryl Streep, unbelievable people.

John said...

I enjoyed watching this film far more than I ever enjoyed watching any of the OTT work of Peter Sellars. In the UK he is remembered as one of cast of 'The Goon Show' on BBC radio. A favourite show of Prince Charles. Now that says it all !

Queen of Dysfunction said...

You're right there is not a character that Geoffrey Rush can't play. This sounds like a terrific movie, I'm going to have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone,

I would like to add some comments about what I read :
I think that Peter Sellers' case is not unique.His childhood started in a very sad way, not due to him but to an unfortunate event.For me, it is a real mistake fom his mother to have chosen to give him his stillborn brother's name.She probably did it with good intentions but didnt think that it would disturb her son's own equilibrium and future.On the contrary it created more difficulties for him to find an identity.When you dont know who you really are, what you want, when you dont feel happy with yourself....how can you expect to make people happy ?From reading about his early years,I was not expecting anything different about his future.The failure and unstability of his personal life was obvious as his childhood was never stable and smooth.
I would have advised him to see a shrink, probably he did.All what I can say is Im very happy for him he found a kinda therapy, helping him to feel better, forget who he is,forget that his life was surely not the one he would have dreamt of.As long as people can find a field where they feel comfortable...........
The long lasting regret of his life is probably his break up with his 1st wife, something that he never recovered from.

Looking forward to hearing from other bloggers....

Anonymous said...

Such an interesting personality, but let me explain you the thinking process I had after reading that. I had a look on "Doctor StrangeLove" and discovered that this man had an
"Alien Hand Syndrome". It means, that he can't control his hand. It's like another person inside his own body. It's terrible. Imagine if we lose the control of your hand .... Today, I am at an English training, chit chat club , and the subject drifted to behavior disorders. We have raised an important question : "Are we all sick, or is it only a question of how we perceive reality and other people ?"