John Cleese: Basil in Faulty Towers  

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5/20/2006 7:40 pm
John Cleese: Basil in Faulty Towers

Basil pathetic, says appeaser Cleese

May 16, 2006

LONDON: John Cleese has finally appeased the Germans, more than 30 years after his goose-stepping performance in Fawlty Towers.

Unlike his alter ego Basil Fawlty, the actor is a keen Germanophile and is playing a prominent role in three projects to encourage a World Cup free from xenophobia and bigotry.

These include sponsoring a children's essay-writing competition called But Don't Mention the War, contributing a matching World Cup anthem and starring in a comedy football film for German television.

The song tackles more delicate territory than England's official World Cup ditty, World at Your Feet, by Embrace.

It calls on football fans to concentrate on the game and abandon outdated prejudices, even if the Germans "bombed our chip shop 60 years ago".

The essay-writing contest has been organised by the German embassy in London, and offers prizes for the best 3000-word essays about modern Germany written by British students.

Cleese, 66, has also joined a host of famous names from the fields of politics, sport and the arts in The Art of Football, a lighthearted documentary for German viewers.

Appearing alongside a German comic, he performs sketches inspired by the "humour, history and general strangeness of the world's most popular game".

Rock singer Bono, Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, former German player Franz Beckenbauer, former South African president Nelson Mandela and German author Gunter Grass also contribute to the film, endorsed by soccer's ruling body, FIFA.

Cleese said: "I'm delighted to help with trying to break down the ridiculous anti-German prejudices of the tabloids and clowns like Basil Fawlty, who are pathetically stuck in a world view that's more than half a century out of date."

Cleese has spoken in the past of his fondness for German writers such as Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann. "I think the German contribution to literature and philosophy is extraordinary, and to music and science is enormous," he said.

Cleese has always maintained that the notorious sixth episode of Fawlty Towers, which saw Basil goose-stepping round the dining room, ridiculed a certain type of Briton's refusal to forget World War II, not the German characters themselves.

Germany's football-loving ambassador to Britain, Wolfgang Ischinger, has joined the mood of reconciliation. He said the World Cup would present a new image of fun-loving Germans and "show that the cliches and stereotypes of the old days are no longer relevant".

The war may be off-limits, but German TV does not forget other losses. Paired with Cleese's film is The Third Goal, ZDF network's hi-tech look at the disputed third goal against West Germany that helped England win its only World Cup, in 1966. German teams have won twice since then.,00




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