Thirty-nine local authorities in the United Kingdom either imposed an outright ban, or imposed an X 18 years certificate , effectively preventing the film from being shown, since the distributors said it could not be shown unless it was unedited and carried the original AA 14 certificate. Some countries, including Ireland and Norway , banned its showing, with a few of these bans lasting decades.
The filmmakers used such notoriety to benefit their marketing campaign, with posters in Sweden reading, "So funny, it was banned in Norway! The film was a box office success, the fourth-highest-grossing film in the United Kingdom in , and highest grossing of any British film in the United States that year. It has remained popular, receiving positive reviews.
Brian Cohen is born in a stable next door to the one in which Jesus is born, which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews. Brian later grows up an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea. While attending Jesus' Sermon on the Mount , Brian becomes infatuated with an attractive young rebel, Judith. His desire for her and hatred for the Romans lead him to join the "People's Front of Judea", one of many fractious and bickering independence movements , who spend more time fighting each other than the Romans.
After several misadventures, and escaping from Pontius Pilate , Brian winds up in a line-up of would-be mystics and prophets who harangue the passing crowd in a plaza. Forced to come up with something plausible in order to blend in and keep the guards off his back, Brian repeats some of what he had heard Jesus say, and quickly attracts a small but intrigued audience. Once the guards have left, Brian tries to put the episode behind him, but he has unintentionally inspired a movement. He grows frantic when he finds that some people have started to follow him around, with even the slightest unusual occurrence being hailed as a miracle.
Their responses grow in fervour and intensity, making it harder and harder for him to get away from them, yet because of the mob's excitement over the 'miracles' they discover, they ultimately end up completely ignoring Brian himself. Judith is the only one who doesn't leave; Brian and Judith then spend the night together. In the morning, Brian, completely naked, opens the curtains to discover an enormous crowd outside his mother's house which proclaims him to be the Messiah. Brian's mother protests, telling the crowd that "He's not the Messiah; he's a very naughty boy," and, "There's no Messiah in here.
There's a mess , all right, but no Messiah. Furthermore, once Brian addresses them, he also finds that he is unable to change their minds. His followers are completely committed to their belief in Brian's divinity. They immediately seize upon everything he says and does as points of doctrine.
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The hapless Brian is unable to escape his unwanted 'disciples'; even his mother's house is surrounded by an enormous, enraptured crowd. They fling their afflicted bodies at him, demanding miracle cures and divine secrets.
After sneaking out the back, Brian is then finally captured and scheduled to be crucified. Meanwhile, yet another huge crowd has assembled outside the palace. Pontius Pilate together with the visiting Biggus Dickus tries to quell the feeling of revolution by granting them the choice of one person to be pardoned. The crowd, however, shouts out names containing the letter "r", mocking Pilate's rhotacistic speech impediment.
Eventually, Judith appears in the crowd and calls for the release of Brian, which the crowd echoes, since the name also contains an "r". Pilate agrees to "welease Bwian".
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His order is eventually relayed to the guards, but in a scene that parodies the climax of the film Spartacus , various crucified people all claim to be "Brian of Nazareth" and the wrong man is released. Various other opportunities for a reprieve for Brian are denied as, one by one, his "allies" including Judith step forward to explain why they are leaving the "noble freedom fighter" hanging in the hot sun, while his mother expresses regret for having raised him at all.
Hope is renewed when a crack suicide squad from the "Judean People's Front" not to be confused with the People's Front of Judea come charging towards the Romans, but rather than fighting to release Brian or the other prisoners, they commit mass suicide as a political protest. Condemned to a slow and painful death, Brian finds his spirits lifted by his fellow sufferers, who break into song with " Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Several characters remained unnamed during the film but do have names that are used in the soundtrack album track listing and elsewhere.
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There is no mention in the film of the fact that Eric Idle's ever-cheerful joker is called 'Mr Cheeky', or that the Roman guard played by Michael Palin is named 'Nisus Wettus'. Spike Milligan plays a prophet, ignored because his acolytes are chasing after Brian. By coincidence he was visiting his old World War II battlefields in Tunisia where the film was being made. The Pythons were alerted to this one morning and he was promptly included in the scene that just happened to be being filmed. He disappeared again in the afternoon before he could be included in any of the close-up or publicity shots for the film.
There are various stories about the origins of Life of Brian.
However, they shared a distrust of organised religion, and, after witnessing the critically acclaimed Holy Grail ' s enormous financial turnover, confirming an appetite among the fans for more cinematic endeavours, they began to seriously consider a film lampooning the New Testament era in the same way that Holy Grail had lampooned Arthurian legend.
All they needed was an idea for a plot. Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam, while promoting Holy Grail in Amsterdam , had come up with a sketch in which Jesus' cross is falling apart because of the idiotic carpenters who built it and he angrily tells them how to do it correctly. However, after an early brainstorming stage, and despite being non-believers, they agreed that Jesus was "definitely a good guy" and found nothing to mock in his actual teachings: The script was started in December , with a first draft completed by mid The final pre-production draft was ready in January , following "a concentrated two-week writing and water-skiing period in Barbados ".
Harrison put up the money for it as he "wanted to see the movie" — later described by Terry Jones as the "world's most expensive cinema ticket. Terry Gilliam later said, "They pulled out on the Thursday. The crew was supposed to be leaving on the Saturday. It was because they read the script Papadopoulos, "owner of the Mount", who briefly shakes hands with Brian in a crowd scene at 1: His one word of dialogue a cheery but out of place Scouse "'ullo" had to be dubbed in later. Terry Jones was solely responsible for directing, having amicably agreed with Gilliam who co-directed Holy Grail that Jones' approach to film-making was better suited for Python's general performing style.
Gilliam again contributed two animated sequences one being the opening credits and took charge of set design. However, this did not put an absolute end to their feuding. On the DVD commentary, Gilliam expresses pride in one set in particular, the main hall of Pilate's fortress , which had been designed so that it looked like an ancient synagogue that the Romans had converted by dumping their structural artifacts such as marble floors and columns on top.
He reveals his consternation at Jones for not paying enough attention to it in the cinematography. Gilliam also worked on the matte paintings, useful in particular for the very first shot of the three wise men against a star-scape and in giving the illusion of the whole of the outside of the fortress being covered in graffiti. Perhaps the most significant contribution from Gilliam was the scene in which Brian accidentally leaps off a high building and lands inside a starship about to engage in an interstellar war. This was done "in camera" using a hand-built model starship and miniature pyrotechnics, likely influenced by the then recently released Star Wars.
The film was shot on location in Monastir, Tunisia , which allowed the production to reuse sets from Franco Zeffirelli 's Jesus of Nazareth Many locals were employed as extras on Life of Brian. Director Jones noted, "They were all very knowing because they'd all worked for Franco Zeffirelli on Jesus of Nazareth , so I had these elderly Tunisians telling me, 'Well, Mr Zeffirelli wouldn't have done it like that, you know. Over the next few months Life of Brian was re-edited and re-screened a number of times for different preview audiences, losing a number of entire filmed sequences.
A number of scenes were cut during the editing process. Five deleted scenes , a total of 13 minutes, including the controversial "Otto", were first made available in on the Criterion Collection Laserdisc. However, a number of them of varying quality were shown the following year on the Paramount Comedy Channel in the UK; it has not been disclosed how these scenes were saved or where they came from; possibly the source was the Criterion laserdisc. The shepherds' scene has badly distorted sound, and the kidnap scene has poor colour quality. The most controversial cuts were the scenes involving Otto, initially a recurring character, who had a thin Adolf Hitler moustache and spoke with a German accent, shouting accusations of "racial impurity" at people whose conceptions were similar to Brian's Roman centurion rape of native Judean women , and other Nazi phrases.
The logo of the Judean People's Front, designed by Terry Gilliam,  was a Star of David with a small line added to each point so it resembled a swastika , most familiar in the West as the symbol of the anti-Semitic Nazi movement. The rest of this faction also all had the same thin moustaches, and wore a spike on their helmets, similar to those on Imperial German helmets.
The official reason for the cutting was that Otto's dialogue slowed down the narrative. However, Gilliam, writing in The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons , said he thought it should have stayed, saying "Listen, we've alienated the Christians, let's get the Jews now". Idle himself was said to have been uncomfortable with the character; "It's essentially a pretty savage attack on rabid Zionism, suggesting it's rather akin to Nazism, which is a bit strong to take, but certainly a point of view".
The only scene with Otto that remains in the film is during the crucifixion sequence. Otto arrives with his "crack suicide squad", sending the Roman soldiers fleeing in terror. Instead of doing anything useful, they "attack" by committing mass suicide in front of the cross "Zat showed 'em, huh? Find showtimes, watch trailers, browse photos, track your Watchlist and rate your favorite movies and TV shows on your phone or tablet! Keep track of everything you watch; tell your friends.
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The family and friends hold a funeral for Brian where Peter gives a tear-jerking eulogy. At the funeral, Joe is pressured by a mourning black woman to find who killed Brian, and Quagmire, who loathes Brian , does not pay attention to the service and he instead watches a video on his cellphone complaining at Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz to "stop swinging at junk".
As Brian's casket is lowered into his grave, Stewie throws a final red rose onto the casket and he and the Griffin family watch on tearfully. A month later, the Griffin family still misses Brian dearly and Lois decides the best way for them to recover is to get a new dog. Peter chooses an Italian smooth-talking dog named Vinny at the pet shop. At home, Vinny offers to make dinner and ingratiates himself with the family. Stewie is still not happy with Vinny and decides to ruin him. Stewie feeds him some sad Italian news hoping to break his heart, but Chris ruins it for Stewie.
Later, Vinny hears Stewie crying and finds he is still upset over Brian. Vinny offers some comfort, talking about the death of his previous owner Leo, and proving he knows what it is like to lose your best friend.
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Vinny says even in the pet shop, he felt a kinship with the Griffin family. Stewie finally accepts Vinny into the family. Later that night, Vinny goes to sleep beside Stewie's bed. As soon as this idea came up, we started talking about what the next couple episodes could be and we got very excited about the way this change will affect the family dynamics and the characters. As much as we love Brian, and as much as everyone loves their pets, we felt it would be more traumatic to lose one of the kids, rather than the family pet.
He also discussed how the other Family Guy actors reacted when they heard Brian would be killed in the episode, saying: They were as shocked as anyone.