The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
starring Geoffrey Rush, Charlize Theron, Emily Watson, John Lithgow, Miriam Margoyles, Peter Vaughn, Sonia Aquino and Stanley Tucci
written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
directed by Stephen Hopkins
I never imagined that Peter Sellers was such an asshole. But fans rarely learn the truth about their idols and heroes until after their deaths, when family and friends begin to tell all in biographies and autobiographies. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers is a great vehicle for Geoffrey Rush. He really shines in the role of the famed English funny man, first famous on radio as one of the three “Goons,” (Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan were the others) and later best known through Blake Edward’s Pink Panther films. Sellers had a couple of problems, apparently: he loved women too much. So much that he destroyed one marriage after another and first neglected, then alienated his children. And, he felt that he lacked any personality of his own, which is why he so completely and successfully threw himself into performing dramatic personalities created by others. It filled a void he felt within himself. But as often happens with talented people, his genius masked, or made up for the deficiencies of his pathologies. Personally, I am not very satisfied with it. It begs the old question of why the evil prosper in the world. Well, “evil”is not the right word here, but at least we can wonder why assholes have to prosper from their talent rather than suffer for their pathologies. The latter feels more just to me.
Sellers’ last film, Being There, adapted from the book by Jerzy Kozinski, was his career masterpiece. It was a project that Sellers was attracted to for years because of the affinity he felt for the character, Chauncy Gardener (Chance the Gardener): a man who succeeds because, being devoid of any character of his own, he cannot contradict and disappoint any expectations projected upon him by others.