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Life after the Pythons: Highlights from Terry Jones’ late career

Terry Jones (Myung Jung Kim/PA)
Terry Jones (Myung Jung Kim/PA)

As the group’s resident polymath, Terry Jones enjoyed a varied and successful career after Monty Python’s split in 1983.

He wrote books on medieval and ancient history, presented documentaries, directed films, wrote poetry and penned the screenplay for Jim Henson’s David Bowie-starring Labyrinth.

But between all that he always found time for the occasion Python reunion.

Here are the highlights from Jones’ post-Python career.

Directing

Monty Python’s Flying Circus anniversay
Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle and Terry Jones filming Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Python (Monty) Pictures Limited/BBC/PA)

Jones co-directed Monty Python And The Holy Grail with fellow Python Terry Gilliam, and was sole director on Life Of Brian and The Meaning Of Life.

So it was no surprise that he continued directing into his later years, notably on comedy-fantasy Erik The Viking (1989) and The Wind In The Willows (1996).

He further explored his surrealist comedy in 2015’s Absolutely Anything, an absurdist tale about a downtrodden schoolteacher given the chance to do anything he wants by aliens.

Despite a stellar cast of Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and Robin Williams, the film was a critical failure.

Screenwriting

Glastonbury Festival Bowie
David Bowie (Toby Melville/PA)

Less than a year after the Pythons called time in 1983, Jim Henson, the puppeteer creator of the Muppets, was in talks with Jones to pen the script for his new fantasy film.

Bowie was eventually cast as Jareth the Goblin King in the adventure fantasy film Labyrinth, while Jones was brought in to pen the words.

But, by the time the feature was released in 1986, the script had gone through several rewrites and much of Jones’ work had been removed.

Acting

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote screening – London
Terry Gilliam (Ian West/PA)

Aside from a cameo in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky in 1977 and a memorable turn as a drunken vicar in The Young Ones, Jones rarely acted outside of his own projects.

He appeared in two French films by Albert Dupontel – Le Createur (1999) and Enfermes Dehors (2006).

And between 2009 and 2011 he narrated the CBBC programme The Legend Of Dick And Dom, which starred the well-loved children’s presenting duo as two young princes on a quest.

History

The Book Beautiful exhibition
Terry Jones explored Geoffrey Chaucer’s work (National Library of Scotland/PA)

Jones was emboldened to delve deep into his love of medieval and ancient history by the success of Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

His first book was 1980’s Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait Of A Medieval Mercenary, which offered a sideways look at the protagonist of Chaucer’s poem The Knight’s Tale.

Jones argued that the titular knight was not a paragon of Christian virtue but in fact a cold-blooded killer.

His other books and TV work offered similarly unorthodox takes on historical events.

In the Emmy-nominated programme Medieval Lives he put forward the idea that the Middles Ages were more sophisticated than we currently believe.

Politics

Tony Blair speech on Labour Party
Terry Jones was critical of Tony Blair (Yui Mok/PA)

Jones was vocal in his criticism of the Iraq War and penned numerous editorials in newspapers attacking Tony Blair and George W Bush.

Many of these were republished in the pithily named Terry Jones’s War On The War On Terror.

Writing in The Guardian in 2004, he questioned Mr Blair’s mental state.

“With all this acclaim for the US president’s lobotomy, it is scarcely surprising that Tony Blair, should have decided to follow suit and undergo similar psychosurgery,” he said.

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