DOC NYC 2018: The Ghost of Peter Sellers

Peter Sellers, Peter Medak, and Spike Millgan in a still from The Ghost of Peter Sellers.

The Ghost of Peter Sellers takes director Peter Medak back in time to heal from the wounds of the disastrous production of Ghost in the Noonday Sun in 1973.

Even though it’s been some 40+ years since Peter Medak directed the film, there’s still some hurt.  Nobody could blame him with the way that Peter Sellers treated those involved with the film.  Sellers is a legendary name in the world of comedy.  This was the guy who took on three different roles in Dr. Strangelove!  Sellers could literally do whatever he wanted.  And he did.  In this case, it was a 17th century pirate comedy that took him all the way to Cyprus.  It was a studio film nonetheless!  I mean, if you’re going to screw your own movie, can you make sure it’s not a studio film?  I admit that I’ve not seen the 1973 film but what happened behind the scenes is absolutely absurd.

The stunt that Peter Sellers pulled would have gotten him fired today.  What he did was waste studio money.  Columbia Pictures never released the film in theaters.  It would take over ten years before the film saw any kind of release.  Moreover, Medak would never be the same.  We can see this in how much it hurts to revisit the sore subject.  At the same time, it’s so fascinating to learn about this side of Sellers.  If he didn’t have confidence in the film, he could have pulled out so someone else could take the role.  Would it be the same film?  Probably not but it would have been the best decision.  Here’s the ironic part?  Sellers was the guy who convinced Medak to direct the film!

Medak knew it was a disaster and he considered the film a failure.  Even though it’s been some 40 years, Medak has stopped blaming himself for the disastrous production.  This has to be the part that hurts the most.  When you’re the director or even a creative producer on set, you’re seen as the responsible person.  The buck stops with you, so to speak.  So when Sellers starts acting up and gets producers fired, it’s a bad sign.  But the moment he started to go after Medak, all bets were off.  I get bringing in fellow Spike Milligan to do re-writes on the script but there’s no excuse to not show up for work!

Where things get truly fascinating are the what-could-have-been scenarios.  Peter Medak was coming off of The Ruling Class–nominated for the Palm D’Or at Cannes in 1972.  He was off to a successful start to his career as a director.  Peter Sellers derailed everything!

Through the making and release of The Ghost of Peter Sellers, a burden is finally lifted for Ghost in the Noonday Sun director Peter Medak.

DIRECTOR:  Peter Medak
FEATURING:  Peter Sellers (archive), Peter Medak, John Heyman, Norma Farnes, David Korda, Susan Wood, Rita Franciosa, Anthony Rufus-Iasaacs, Joe McGrath, Piers Haggard, Robert Wagner, Victoria Sellers, Robin Dalton, Ruth Myers, Dan Russner, John Goldstone, Maggie Abbott, Sandy Lieberson, Dr. Tony Greenburgh, Joe Dunne, Murray Melvin, Rene Borisowitz, Dennis Frazer, Costa Evagorou, Costa Demetriou

The Ghost of Peter Sellers held its New York premiere during DOC NYC 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.