The Ghost of Peter Sellers
The Ghost of Peter Sellers is a documentary based on the movie, "Ghost in the Noonday Sun", which I directed in Cyprus and England in 1973.
The film starred Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Peter Boyle, Anthony Franciosa, Murray Melvin and many more, it was produced by John Heyman and his company World Film Services and Columbia Pictures. The script was a 17th Century Pirate comedy.
My movie was shot mostly in the Mediterranean on real ships and on the island of Cyprus. Which nobody had ever dared to attempt before, and a totally insane idea. The Pirate ship was built in Athens, using an old African cigarette boat that was converted into a perfect 17th century period Pirate ship with three magnificent sails. It also had the two original engines reconstructed, which were constantly breaking down several miles out at sea. Of course we had to be rescued and towed back to harbor many times by the Costa brothers and their powerful speedboats. At the end of production, 67 days later, another local supplier of our production boats claimed their right to salvage the Pirate ship and ended up owning it.
This documentary is about the making of the film and what happened behind the scenes, which was more outrageous and funnier than the actual movie itself.
The script was originally conceived by Wolf Mankovitz and rewritten by Evan Jones and then eventually totally rewritten by Spike Milligan as a zany goon-type comedy, but sadly the script never worked. This was my fourth film, following the great success of “The Ruling Class”, United Artists offered me the original "Death Wish" for which I insisted that Henry Fonda should play the lead. Unfortunately, United Artists would not approve him and consequently I walked off the production and returned to London, straight into the arms of Peter Sellers, in front of Alvaro's Restaurant on Kings Road.
This is where the Documentary begins; with me standing in the same spot on Kings Road, narrating and explaining the saga of the Pirate film and how such a brilliant and funny idea could go so terribly wrong and become a total disaster. This documentary is about the making of the film and what happened behind the scenes, which was more outrageous and funnier than the actual movie itself.
Everything started going wrong days before shooting began - the Greek Captain delivering the Pirate ship to Kyrenia's magnificent 7th Century Harbor was so drunk that he crashed the ship into the Quay instead of the narrow strip of water, while Peter and I, on the other side, were shooting the silent movie tests and watching the imminent disaster, horror stricken.
We had a wonderful cast and crew of 110 of the best of British and Cypriot technicians. Every morning at 6am we sailed into the most beautiful sunrise, with the entire crew crammed on the ship, followed by an army of support and rescue boats, a bit like the Normandy Invasion. Need I tell you the rest?
The Documentary was created from interviews with friends of Peter, Spike, some of the actors, crew members, producers, executives and relatives of the wonderful people who have sadly passed. For me it was an incredible opportunity to revisit that island 42 years later and talk about the worst and the best of what happened and a chance to recapture what it was like to work with the genius talents of Peter and Spike in those glorious and insane days of the 70s.
The Ghost of Peter Sellers is a dedication to all who were involved and the memory of the past, and the fact that some of us are still here and smiling.