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Brazil With Michael Palin
Michael Palin may have found fame as part of the Monty Python team but he’s known today just as much for his travels around the globe, which includes iconic series Around The World In 80 Days. Now the intrepid traveller jets to South America as he visits Brazil for the first time…
It’s hard to believe you’ve never been to Brazil before…
We make these arbitrary journeys for ourselves. Pole To Pole was around the Pacific rim but we couldn’t go to Brazil because that was the Atlantic rim. This time we did not set out on any complicated journey but just to see Brazil, so in that way it’s slightly different to any other series we’ve done — it’s in one country. Partly I feel that one of the problems of travelling the way we do is you don’t get the time to get the feeling of the country. Brazil is so enormous, and another reason I decided to do it was because it’s so significant now because of its economy, the Olympics and the World Cup — you needed to spend some time there to get to know a bit about it.
How did you decide which places to visit whilst you were there?
I have this highly qualified director, as he calls himself! Two directors go out and discuss what we’d like to see and they check the grounds and check on the stories. They see how easy it is to get from one place to another, what people we’d like to talk to, etc, and so bring back a rough appraisal of the country, and we decided to make our journey north to south. It’s a collective thing and we decide what we’re going to do to get this mixture of entertainment and serious traveller.
How did Brazil live up to your preconceptions?
A lot of it is rather wonderful. The beaches are the most fantastic beaches I’ve ever been on in the world. There is a real feeling among the Brazilians of being quite laid back, certainly up in the northern part. They like their time off and say they work to relax rather than the other way round, and they like to enjoy life. They do play a lot of music and they do get the families down to the beach. They drive along the beach and they were really terrific people. They were very friendly to us, cooperative — they seem to have no self-consciousness at all.
Did you meet people who were familiar with Monty Python?
The sort of middle class Brazilians were in the know. Quite a lot of them like Python and coming from a predominantly Catholic country, they love Life Of Brian because it’s a bit of a thrill. Most of the people we met didn’t know what it was, which is always a help!
Do people see you more as a traveller now or are you still remembered for Monty Python?
It depends who you talk to. If you’re abroad, you’d be amazed at the number of people who still know Monthy Python or something like A Fish Called Wanda. I’m surprised really that they recognise me because it was so long ago, especially because I had that grin and terrible hair cut in A Fish Called Wanda! Those curls!
Would you consider more acting?
I’ve never drawn the line on anything really. I’m a freelance and just make my living from whatever comes along. I guess if I’d been more restrictive I would never have been a traveller. In 1989 when the BBC asked me to do Around The World In 80 Days, we’d just finished A Fish Called Wanda. I had a film of my own coming up.
I did agree to do it and I’m really glad I did. In a sense it moved me away from acting. I love acting but you’re much more of a cog in the wheel.