In A FISH CALLED WANDA, veteran director Charles Crichton and scriptwriter-star John Cleese create a dazzling quilt from various strands of English and American comedy. The plot, in which four disparate characters attempt a daring heist, comes from Ealing caper comedies, such as Crichton's own THE LAVENDER HILL MOB. Cleese and Michael Palin, as the hit man with a stutter and a love of animals, come from the anarchic tradition of Monty Python. The movie pays savage tribute to another Ealing comedy, THE LADYKILLERS, as Palin attempts to kill a witness to the gang's getaway. The glamorous con woman (Jamie Lee Curtis) is from Preston Sturges's great comedy THE LADY EVE, while Kevin Kline provides his own unique feverish comic intensity.
But, in the midst of this breathless comedy, something else happens. The barrister, Archie Leach (Cleese), who is defending one of the gang, is jolted out of his tight-laced British existence by Curtis's life force. And Curtis--like Barbara Stanwyck in THE LADY EVE--falls into her own trap: falling in love with the man she's conning. The 78-year-old Crichton never before had such rich material. He times everything in this brilliant comedy with the precision of a Swiss watch.
1988 - Academy Awards - Best Supporting Actor Winner
Charles Crichton - British Director/Ealing
Jamie Lee Curtis - American actress, HALLOWEEN (1978)
Tom Georgeson - British Supporting Actor
John Cleese - British actor, MONTY PYTHON, A FISH CALLED WANDA
Maria Aitken - Star, A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988)
Michael Palin - Monty Python alum
John Du Prez - Music, FASCINATION (2005)
Hazel Pethig - TITANIC TOWN
Alan Hume - British Director Of Photography
Kevin Kline - Actor, SOPHIE'S CHOICE
Roger Murray-Leach - Production Designer, A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988)
John Jympson - British Editor, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT
An odd quartet of thieves pulls off "the big jewel job," but only the brains of the operation knows where the gems are hidden. Unfortunately he's in prison and needs his stuffy defense counsel--and so do the other gang members--to go get the stash for them.
Theatrical release: July 29, 1988. Filmed at Twickenham Studios and at location in London and Oxford, England. A FISH CALLED WANDA is number 21 on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Funniest Movies. A FISH CALLED WANDA is number 39 on the British Film Institute's Top 100 British Films of the 20th Century. Archibald Leach is the name that John Cleese and Charles Crichton give to the character that Cleese plays in A FISH CALLED WANDA. This is a tribute to the great Cary Grant--Archibald Leach was Grant's real name. Stephen Fry makes a brief cameo appearance in the airport sequence. He is best known for his television roles in BLACKADDER II and JEEVES AND WOOSTER. Also he is the author of THE LIAR, THE HIPPOPOTAMUS, and MOAB IS MY WASHPOT. And he starred as Oscar Wilde in WILDE.
"...A convulsively funny affair....It's a smart farce about ingrained cultural differences..." - 07/15/1988 Los Angeles Times, p.C1
"...Wildly out of control as well as wildly funny, this sleeper smash is also Oscar-nominated for script and direction..." - 02/23/1989 USA Today, p.3D
5 stars out of 5 -- "The comic heart is the tangled intrigue of triple-crosses, scams and deceits, seductions and betrayals..." - 09/01/2012 Total Film