The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

2004

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

Critics Consensus

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers struggles to truly capture its subject's singular genius, but remains a diverting tribute -- and a showcase for the talents of Geoffrey Rush.

69%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 26

72%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,873
User image

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers Photos

Movie Info

The often-troubled life of one of the greatest comic actors in the history of the British cinema provides the basis for this biopic. Peter Sellers (Geoffrey Rush) was raised by a domineering mother (Miriam Margolyes) and meek father (Peter Vaughan), and at an early age discovered he liked to hide behind the emotional curtain of playing a character. In time, Sellers put this skill to use as an actor, and discovered he had a great gift for comedy. In the late '50s, Sellers rose to fame on the wildly popular radio series The Goon Show alongside Spike Milligan (Edward Tudor Pole) and Harry Secombe (Steve Pemberton), but as his success on radio gave way to stardom on the big screen, Sellers' ego began to get the better of him. While working on a film with Sophia Loren (Sonia Aquino), Sellers fell in love with the great Italian beauty, and eventually left his wife Anne (Emily Watson) to pursue her; when it became clear that Loren wanted nothing to do with him, Sellers fell into an affair with her stand-in instead. Professionally, Sellers career hits a new high when he agrees to take a role in a picture being directed by American filmmaker Blake Edwards (John Lithgow) called The Pink Panther, and personally he finds a new love with the beautiful Britt Ekland (Charlize Theron). But Sellers' mood swings eventually put paid to their marriage, and while he finds commercial success as a funnyman onscreen, he achieves little in the way of happiness or respect. Produced for the American premium cable service HBO, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers was screened in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Cast

Geoffrey Rush
as Peter Sellers
Charlize Theron
as Britt Ekland
Emily Watson
as Anne Sellers
John Lithgow
as Blake Edwards
Miriam Margolyes
as Peg Sellers
Stanley Tucci
as Stanley Kubrick
Stephen Fry
as Maurice Woodruff
Sonia Aquino
as Sophia Loren
Peter Vaughan
as Bill Sellers
Edward Tudor Pole
as Spike Milligan
Steve Pemberton
as Harry Secombe
David Robb
as Dr. Lyle Wexler
Henry Goodman
as Dennis Selinger
Nigel Havers
as David Niven
MacKenzie Crook
as Car salesman
Lance Ellington
as Ray Ellington
Heidi Klum
as Ursula Andress
Lucy Punch
as Stewardess
Kate Burrell
as Sophia Loren's double
Emilia Fox
as Lynne Frederick
Eliza Darby
as Sarah Sellers
George Cicco
as Michael Sellers (age 3)
James Bentley
as Michael Sellers (age 7-10)
Alison Steadman
as Casting agent
View All

Critic Reviews for The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (5)

  • ... as exhausting as it obviously is to play or be Pagliacci, by now it is just tiresome to sit still for yet another sad clown without a scintilla of surprise or insight.

    Jan 22, 2018 | Full Review…
  • We get movie scenes within movie scenes, and Rush as Sellers breaking character to become Sellers' mom or Edwards, commenting on Sellers, and it all draws too much attention to itself.

    Nov 30, 2004
  • Sustains interest most of the way, but combination of an unsympathetic central figure and patchy recreation of events involving numerous famous people makes for an ambitiously told life story that finally doesn't cut it.

    Jun 1, 2004

    Todd McCarthy

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • While In Competition entry The Life and Death of Peter Sellers is a wonderfully entertaining film, the one thing that's missing is Sellers' singular ability to be hilarious.

    Jun 1, 2004
  • The film is awash with psychedelic visuals, '60s cinematography and a dizzying mishmash of devices reminiscent of iconic films like Dr. Strangelove and The Pink Panther. However, like [Peter] Sellers himself, Life and Death lacks genuine personality.

    Mar 4, 2019 | Full Review…
  • The film makes you care so little for its subject that you might be compelled to turn it off were it not for Rush's valiant mimicry.

    Jul 2, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

  • Jul 16, 2014
    Effective, captivating biopic on Peter Sellers, I thought that the film was superbly acted and directed, and it ranks among the finest biopics that I have seen. Peter Sellers was one of cinema's most gifted talents, and his legacy is unique, here he is brought to life in a splendid and remarkable performance by actor Geoffrey Rush, who delivers one of his career defining roles as the great actor. The film chronicles the career of Peter Sellers and it shows his troubles behind the scenes. Peter Sellers was a talented actor, and Rush is perfect for the part. He really makes the role his own, and it's hard to imagine anyone else in the part. Here we see key moments in Sellers career such him making Dr Strangelove, making the Pink Panther films and marrying actress Britt Ekland. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers is an engaging drama, one that is enjoyable from start to finish. The film is well worth your time and it will surely appeal to fans of the late actor anyone looking for a great drama to watch. At times the film does have a few weak moments, but overall due to the strong performances, the film overcomes them and it's an enjoyable affair well worth your time. Geoffrey Rush is a terrific actor, and here he steals every scene that he's in. Overall, this is a solid film, a wonderful and rich biopic that is well crafted, acted and directed. If you're looking for an entertaining biopic, then this is sure to delight you. The film has its imperfections of course, but it does possess some powerful and memorable performances with great storytelling to make it an entertaining and pleasant two hour viewing experience.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Nov 23, 2012
    Geoffrey Rush's spot-on performance of Sellers, is a real treat to watch.
    Jason R Super Reviewer
  • Aug 02, 2012
    A shocking and sad movie to Peter Sellers' fans.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 03, 2011
    I didn't know the great Peter sellers was as crazy as he's characters, great movie but the one one to camera becomes quite annoying after a while
    Brendan N Super Reviewer

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features