The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, May 24, 2004

PETER SELLERS: THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE
mein fuhrer, i can walk
I'm really intrigued by The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, an upcoming biopic of the 24-years-dead actor. Geoffrey Rush is playing Sellers, and indications are he did an amazing job portraying an oddball comedic genius who lost himself in his roles.
Sellers played three roles in "Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," including the creepy title character with the misbehaving bionic arm. In one scene, Sellers' mother comes to visit the set. When he sits down to eat with her, he stays in character as the mad scientist.

That happened in real life, said director Stephen Hopkins.
Funny thing about Dr. Strangelove... In addition to his roles as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove, Sellers was also supposed to play a fourth character: Major Kong, the gung-ho, bomb-riding lunatic. Sellers wound up breaking his leg, preventing him from taking on this additional role, and so the job went to Slim Pickens.

Sellers' reliance on a script, even off-camera, seemed pervasive and beyond even the much-mocked method approach:
The movie suggests that Sellers was so good at playing other people that he didn't have a solid grasp on who he really was. It was a lifelong struggle.

"If you really want to find out about Sellers, you have to watch his movies a lot, because I think that's the only way he ever really spoke," Hopkins said. "It's the only way he could really get out what was inside him."
Makes me wonder if a more appropriate title for this biopic might have been Being Peter Sellers, in tribute to what was probably his finest work, Being There. Given his persona and mannerism, it would have fit.