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John Cleese Regrets

  • John Cleese RegretsJohn Cleese. IMAGE: Ray Garbo Wenn.Com

Wishes he'd taken advantage of A Fish Called Wanda success

John Cleese regrets turning down the opportunity to star in classic comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to sort out the "mess" of his second marriage.

The British funnyman's career was given a huge boost in Hollywood after the critical and commercial success of his 1988 movie A Fish Called Wanda, which he also wrote, but Cleese was unable to take advantage of the opportunities he was presented with in the immediate aftermath of its release as he felt it necessary to put his "chaotic" personal life first.

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At the time, the comedian was married to American actress Barbara Trentham, and their marital woes prompted Cleese to pass on portraying the character of Lawrence Jamieson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - a gig which subsequently went to Michael Caine - and it remains one of the 77-year-old's biggest career missteps.

"One of my sadnesses is that I had a real Hollywood moment and didn't take advantage...," the Monty Python star lamented to Vulture, before recalling director Frank Oz reaching out to him while he was lounging in a Los Angeles swimming pool.

"I took the call and it was Frank Oz, in London, offering me Michael Caine's part in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," he continued. "My second marriage was a mess, and I thought, 'Can I really go off and do a movie without resolving whether I was going to stay married or not?' So I turned the part down.

"I think if I'd done it, I would've gotten lots more Hollywood offers. Around Wanda I was hot for a year or so, but having a chaotic private life takes its toll."

However, Cleese confesses it wasn't just his love life which caused him to miss his chance to really take Hollywood by storm:

"I also just didn't have a sufficient commitment to film," he admitted. "I feel dead sitting in a trailer waiting for things to happen.

I remember one of my friends, Michael Winner, saying to me back then, 'Typical Englishman: you have a big hit and then you go off and sit on the top of a mountain instead of getting on with another movie.' That was true. That's what I did."