A Fish Called Wanda
|A Fish Called Wanda|
|Directed by||Charles Crichton|
|Produced by||Michael Shamberg|
|Screenplay by||John Cleese|
|Music by||John Du Prez|
|Edited by||John Jympson|
|Box office||$62.5 million|
It stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin as a gang of diamond thieves. They double-cross one another to find stolen diamonds hidden by the gang leader. A barrister (Cleese) becomes a main character as femme fatale Wanda (Curtis) uses him to locate the loot.
It was Crichton's last movie.
Cleese won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor. Palin won for Best Supporting Actor. Curtis recieved a nomination for Best Leading Actress. Maria Aitken received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Another movie called Fierce Creatures came out in 1997. The same actors star in it but play different characters. It does not continue the story of A Fish Called Wanda.
George Thomason and Ken Pile are gangsters in London. Ken loves animals and he has a stutter. They plan to steal a jewels. They ask two Americans for help: con artist Wanda Gershwitz and weapons expert Otto West. Otto is a stupid and mean. Also, he does not like British people. Wanda and Otto are lovers. They hide this from George and Ken by pretending to be siblings. This frees Wanda to work her charms on them.
The robbery is successful and the gang escapes with a lot of diamonds. They hide them in a safe in an old workshop. Wanda and Otto betray George to the police and he is arrested. They return to collect the diamonds. Wanda plans to double-cross Otto as well. She finds that George has moved the diamonds. Wanda discovers the key to the safe deposit box containing the diamonds in Ken's fish tank. She hides it in her pendant.
Wanda seduces George's barrister, Archie Leach. Archie is in a loveless marriage. He quickly falls for Wanda. She gets him to persuade George to plead guilty and to tell the location of the diamonds. Otto is jealous. His interference causes Wanda and Archie's liaisons to go disastrously wrong. Wanda accidentally leaves her pendant at Archie's house. Archie's wife, Wendy, mistakes it as a gift for her. At Wanda's insistence, Archie recovers the pendant by staging a burglary. Archie feels guilty and ends the affair.
George asks Ken to kill Mrs Coady. She is the Crown's only eyewitness to the robbery. Ken tries three times. Each time he accidentally kills one of her dogs instead. This causes him great distress. The last dog's death gives her a fatal heart attack. So Otto is successful. With no witness, George seems poised to get off soon. He reveals the location of the diamonds to Ken. Otto learns Ken now knows where they are. Otto tries to force Ken to reveal where the diamonds are by eating his pet fish. He leaves Ken's favourite, named Wanda, until last. Ken reveals that the diamonds are at a hotel near Heathrow Airport.
With Otto's knowledge and Wanda's key, the pair want George to remain in jail. At his trial, defence witness Wanda unexpectedly gives evidence against him. Archie is stunned. He is flustered and messess up his questioning. He inadvertently calls Wanda "darling". Wendy realises that Archie has had an affair. She declares their marriage over.
With no career and no marriage, Archie resolves to cut his losses, steal the diamonds for himself and flee to South America. George tells Archie that Ken knows where the diamonds are. Archie sees Wanda fleeing the courthouse. He pulls her into his car and races to Ken's flat. As Archie runs into the building, Otto steals Archie's car, taking Wanda with him. Ken and Archie give chase. Otto and Wanda recover the diamonds. Wanda double-crosses Otto and leaves him unconscious in a broom cupboard. After recovering, Otto shoots his way out and is confronted by Archie. Otto is about to kill Archie. Archie stalls him by taunting Otto about American failures such as the Vietnam War. Ken arrives, driving a steamroller, seeking vengeance for his fish. Otto, who has stepped in wet concrete and cannot move, is run over but survives. Archie and Wanda board the plane. Otto clings to the outside of the plane. He curses them until he is blown off as the plane takes off.
- John Cleese as Archie Leach
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Wanda Gershwitz
- Kevin Kline as Otto West
- Michael Palin as Ken Pile
- Tom Georgeson as George Thomason
- Maria Aitken as Wendy Leach
- Cynthia Cleese as Portia Leach
- Patricia Hayes as Mrs Eileen Coady
- Geoffrey Palmer as Judge
- Roger Brierley as Davidson
- Llewellyn Rees as Sir John
- Stephen Fry as Hutchison
- Al Ashton as Warder
Cleese and Crichton had previously attempted to make a film together in 1969. Although the project never entered development, they promised each other that they would eventually collaborate on a film.
In June 1983, the two began writing the script for Wanda. For the next two and half years they met three times a month to work on the script. According to Crichton, "We had a week of rehearsals and then a gap of two weeks in which to incorporate any new ideas which had been thrown up and to polish the script." According to Michael Palin, the original title was "A Goldfish Called Wanda."
Cleese served as co-director as the studio executives at MGM were worried about Crichton's age. He was 78 years old at the time. On the set, Crichton wore a T-shirt presented to him by Cleese and inscribed "Age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill".
The film was shot in London during the summer of 1987.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 93% approval rating, based on 61 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. "Smartly written, smoothly directed, and solidly cast, A Fish Called Wanda offers a classic example of a brainy comedy with widespread appeal."
During the initial run of the film, a Danish audiologist named Ole Bentzen died during a screening when his heart rate rose to an estimated 250–500 beats per minute from laughing at a scene too hard, leading to a fatal heart attack.
In 2016, Empire magazine ranked A Fish Called Wanda 35th on their list of the 100 best British films. They called it “a must-own for any British comedy fan”. They said, “it made possible Richard Curtis’s later Brit-com oeuvre by establishing that British eccentricism can sell, revived the world's interest in Ealing comedies, and allowed a character with Cary Grant's real name – Cleese's bumbling lawyer Archie Leach – to live again on the big screen.”
|Academy Awards||Best Director||Charles Crichton||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Kevin Kline||Won|
|Original Screenplay||John Cleese and Charles Crichton||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Leading Role||John Cleese||Won|
|Best Actress in a Leading Role||Jamie Lee Curtis||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Michael Palin||Won|
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Maria Aitken||Nominated|
|Best Original Screenplay||John Cleese||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||John Jympson||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
|Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||John Cleese||Nominated|
|Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Jamie Lee Curtis||Nominated|
Sequels and adaptationsEdit
The main actors worked together again in 1997 to make Fierce Creatures. It is not a sequel or prequel, but is similar in style to A Fish Called Wanda. It is called a spiritual sequel. The actors played different characters. Fierce Creatures was not as well received by critics or audiences as A Fish Called Wanda.
The novelization of Fierce Creatures, written by Iain Johnstone, who co-wrote the film, begins with a letter from Archie (John Cleese's character in the first film) to his brother Rollo. According to the letter:
- Archie and Wanda are still living happily in Rio, and Wanda enjoys having a new child (or multiple children) each year;
- Otto visited them once, having left South Africa after Nelson Mandela's election and the end of the apartheid regime; he is looking for like-minded individuals to form a similar group of National Socialists, and Archie and Wanda are both heartily glad when he is gone;
- Ken is still master of ceremonies at the London Sea World; before visiting Rio, Otto "looked him up" as if they were old friends, but did not even get close before Ken had security guards throw Otto out of the park.
In 2008, it was reported that John Cleese and his daughter, Cynthia (who played his screen daughter, Portia), had started to work on a stage musical version of the film.
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