The Ghost of Peter Sellers

Over the past decade or so it has become painfully clear that comedians (of all types – stand up and comedic actors) are often unhappy people. The irony of people making us laugh being sad, mad, suicidal, dysfunctional, and generally broken should not be lost on anyone. Names like Robin Williams. Pete Davidson. Louis CK. Maria Bamford. Richard Pryor. Sarah Silverman. The list goes on and on. They all epitomize the sad clown. Another name which now can be added to the list is Peter Sellers.

For people of a certain age, Peter Sellers was the man when it came to comedic acting. He was the Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler or Chevy Chase of his era. The man could make a stone laugh such was his talent. Known for portraying Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films and his turns in There’s a Girl in My Soup, The Party and What’s New Pussycat made this English actor popular and rich.

Unfortunately all his success did not seem to make him healthy or happy. At least mentally healthy. Here director Peter Medek pulls back the curtains on the behind the scenes of why his film with such a talent was a disaster. The short answer would be the man himself, Peter Sellers, and the fact that he was a first class ass.

Medek pretty much backs his claim that Sellers sabotaged the film from the get go. This despite the fact that he had recruited Medak, who was fresh off his success in 1972 with the film The Ruling Class, to direct this 17th century pirate film. Ghost in the Noonday Sun seemed to have all the elements it needed for success – hot actor and director and a funny premise. I mean, Sellers’ character’s name was Dick Scratcher! Yet the resulting not even really completed film was so bad that it was never released.

The fact that it was never released meant a loss of a lot of money for several people. It also sunk (pun!) the career of its director Medak. Sellers, the primary reason, brushed it all off and continued on with his successful career. As this doc shows via interviews with other directors, Sellers’ poor behaviour continued.

Besides the bad behaviour of its star, the film shoot also suffered due to the fact that it was a film partially shot in water. Always tricky, the water scenes proved very trying for Medak.

On set in Cyprus, Sellers’ behaviour was so awful that it made being on set a horror. For everyone. Medak tells every detail of said behaviour in this documentary, which seems like his attempt at explanation for the failure and healing so he can finally, almost 50 years later, move on.

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