John Cleese (1939-) b. Weston-Super-Mare, England.
It is difficult to dissociate Cleese, a graduate of the Cambridge Footlights comedy revue, from his television work on Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-74) and Fawlty Towers (1975, 1979). His comic brilliance in those series, owing as much to physical routines as to the nuances of dialogue or character development, makes it difficult to see him without expecting the hysteria to burst through, a funny walk to take over, or a dead parrot to be slapped on the table.
Many of his most popular film performances derive from routines – the Monty Python films or The Secret Policeman’s Ball (1980) – but in A Fish Called Wanda (1988), which he scripted and on which he collaborated with Charles Crichton, he showed the potential of his basic persona for more sustained comic development with a performance that won him a BAFTA Best Actor award. In subsequent years Cleese has largely appeared in cameo roles in big-budget films including portraying Nearly Headless Nick in the Harry Potter franchise, the role of Q in Die Another Day (2002) and Chief Inspector Dreyfus in The Pink Panther 2 (2009).