Monty Python in legal battle over Spamalot royalties

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Mark Forstater, the film producer behind Monty Python and the Holy Grail has launched a High Court claim that he is the “seventh Python” and entitled to royalties from the Broadway and West End stage musical spin-off, Spamalot.

Forstater claims that he, or his company, MS Productions Ltd, is entitled to a one seventh share of the first 50% of the merchandising and spin off income from Monty Python and the Holy Grail under an agreement reached with the other Pythons in 1974.

However, the surviving Pythons, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and animator, Terry Gilliam, maintain that Forstater is entitled to only half of what he is claiming – a 14th share.

Idle, Palin and Jones will be giving evidence during the five-day trial of the claim, which is brought against Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd, and is being heard by one of the country’s top judges, Mr Justice Norris.

However, Tom Weisselberg, representing Forstater, said that Cleese is resident in a “tax efficient address in Monaco” and Gilliam is filming in Romania and that they would not be coming to court to give evidence in court. Another member of the Python team, Graham Chapman, is now dead.

Opening the case, Weisselberg said it was common ground that Forstater was entitled to share in the first 50% of the merchandising and spin off profits.

He continued : “The dispute between the parties relates to the extent of that entitlement. Mr Forstater says he is entitled to a seventh – the same share as enjoyed by each of the other Pythons.”

He said that there was no rational basis for the other Pythons’ claim that Forstater is entitled to only a 14th share.

He added that the case was brought against the background of the “huge international success” of the Spamalot musical. The show is currently playing in London's West End, having premiered on Broadway in 2005.

Weisselberg said that the “huge income” brought in by Spamalot had caused Python (Monty) Pictures to adopt the position which led to these proceedings.

He said : “The Python’s decided they should be entitled to more at the expense of my client.”

He told the court that Forstater is in difficult financial circumstances and was made bankrupt in June 2012 but was released from bankruptcy in October. He said that as a result Forstater was “forced to bring these proceedings.”

The hearing continues.