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Monty Python Stars Sued Over Spamalot Money
The Monty Python stars are being sued by a "seventh Python" who is claiming he is entitled to as much as £1m in royalties from the musical Spamalot.
Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones are all due to give evidence to the High Court in a legal battle over the highly successful musical, which is a spin off from Monty Python And The Holy Grail.
The case, which is being heard over five days, has been brought by Mark Forstater, the producer of the 1975 film, who claims that he is entitled to a larger slice of the royalties.
The court heard that "for financial purposes" Mr Forstater should be treated as "the seventh Python".
Mr Forstater is suing all five Pythons but John Cleese and Terry Gilliam, who live abroad are not expected to give evidence. The sixth member of the team, Graham Chapman, died in 1989.
Monty Python's Spamalot, which was created by Eric Idle, has been so successful, both on Broadway and in the West End, that Mr†Palin reportedly refers to it as his "pension plan". In 2005 it won a Tony award.
It is described on posters as being "a new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture" and as such it has generated a considerable amount of spin-off merchandising income.
Mr Forstater argues that under an agreement made with the Pythons in 1974, he is entitled to a great deal more of this income than he has received. That amount could run to £1m, he claims.
Tom Weisselberg, appearing for Mr Forstater, told the court the Pythons were "unjustifiably attempting to secure more money from Spamalot at the expense of Mr Forstater and his company".
The dispute over how much Mr Forstater should receive first arose in 2005 and the two sides have been unable to resolve their issues since.
However, in June, the film producer was made bankrupt.
Mr Weisselberg told the court: "Mr Forstater is in difficult financial circumstances and has been forced to bring these proceedings."
He says that Mr Forstater's claim that he is entitled to a seventh of the income, rather than a fourteenth, is supported by the terms of the 1974 agreement.
In addition two solicitors who were involved in drawing up that deal support Mr Forstater's claim.
Mr Weisselberg said: "They understood that, for financial purposes, Mr Forstater was to be treated as the seventh Python."
He also told the court: "The outrage expressed by a number of Pythons in their witness statements as to the suggestion that Mr Forstater was to be treated as the seventh Python is, with respect to them, misguided."
The Pythons' legal team disputes the claim.