A Fish Called Wanda: Keeping Up With the Cast

In 21st-century show business, we all know the most successful heist series is the one where the gang members are named after cities like Rio, Moscow, and Tokyo while wearing face masks and orange overalls. Yeah, we’re talking about “Money Heist.” That’s just one of the greatest heist shows that left us entertained and wanting more. Others we loved were “Oceans Eight” and “Ocean’s Eleven.”

John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin / Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline / Jamie Lee Curtis / Kevin Kline.
Source: Getty Images

These movies all have something in common with the most iconic film of all time, “A Fish Called Wanda,” which beautifully captured organized crime while giving us lots of laughs. “A Fish Called Wanda” premiered on July 29, 1988, generating more than $188 million worldwide. If you are curious about what made this movie a trailblazer, then you should read through every word that follows!

A Goldfish Called Wanda

“A Fish called Wanda” was one of the earliest heist movies made. Not only was it a jewel heist, but it was laced with comedy, drama, and romance. Let’s not forget the outstanding cast members and writers. The movie itself resulted from a planned collaboration between two friends.

A promotional shot for the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: MGM

In 1969, John Cleese and Charles Crichton tried to produce a film. Despite the project’s failure, they still pledged to work together. Cleese and Crichton met three times a month for about three years to write the script for the movie, which eventually became one of the greatest British comedies. The film was originally titled “A Goldfish Called Wanda.”

Audiences Gave the Film a Big Thumbs Up

The film garnered a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 67 reviews. Reviewers gave the movie a respectable rating of 8.1/10. IMDb fans agree with other reviewers and also gave “A Fish Called Wanda” a 96% approval rating. The consensus was that the movie is an excellent example of an intelligent comedy with broad appeal.

Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline are in a scene from the film.
Source: YouTube

After six weeks of its release in the U.S., it topped the box office, grossing $62.5 million in the U.S. It was also the biggest grossing independent British film at £12 million. Academy Award nominations for “A Fish Called Wanda” included Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Kline won).

The Acts Behind the Action

Speaking of Kline, it’s time to look at the characters who showed up and showed out on and behind the screens for this fantastic work of art. John Cleese and Charles Crichton are experts at giving their characters unscrupulous, selfish, shameful tendencies while effortlessly providing humor.

Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and John Cleese arrive at the film premiere.
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

The film injects moments at every turn. Nothing beats the scene where Cleese’s on-screen character, Archie, is seduced by Wanda, who is portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis. The scene occurs in Archie’s study, but Archie’s wife, Wendy (played by Maria Aitken), interrupts the seductive ploy. Also, the ploy where Ken repeatedly attempts to kill an elderly lady who is a crucial prosecution but instead accidentally kills each one of her three dogs is memorable as the canines’ deaths seem to upset Ken more than the older woman’s untimely demise, which occurs when the final dog’s death gives the woman a fatal heart attack.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The movie features an ensemble cast that includes John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s jam-packed with clever dialogue, hilarious slapstick, and some of the best comedy performances of its stars’ respective careers.

Jamie Lee Curtis is in a still from the film.
Source: YouTube

Since we missed the cast members so much, we thought it would be exciting to check on some of them. Let’s catch up with our favorite actors. In the meantime, back in 1997, the leading actors reunited for “Fierce Creatures.” Critics and spectators preferred “A Fish Called Wanda” to “Fierce Creatures.”

Who Made it on Screen?

Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Jamie Lee Curtis were all urged by Cleese to submit ideas and assist with the development of their characters. In particular, Wanda’s personality underwent significant transformations as a result of her interactions with Curtis. Isn’t it cool to get to decide what you play on screen?

A scene from the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: MGM

In addition to receiving an overwhelmingly positive review on rottentomatoes.com, “A Fish Called Wanda” ranks 21st on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest Movies. Clearly, the cast members and the show’s creators didn’t do so bad. Together, they made a good team while delivering a pretty good script.

Time to Meet the Masterminds

The actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer of “A Fish Called Wanda” was John Marwood Cleese (pronounced KLEEZ), born in 1939. His surname was originally Cheese, but his father thought it was embarrassing and used the name Cleese when he entered the Army during WWI. He made the name change official in 1923.

John Cleese looks astonished in a still from the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: MGM

The famous Cary Grant, who was born Archibald Leach, inspired Cleese’s character, Archie Leach. Cleese said he chose the name because they shared a hometown, and it was the closest he would ever get to “becoming Cary Grant.” One of the perks of being an actor is you can be whoever you want to be!

It’s a Family Business

While on the road for his autobiographical one-man show, “The Alimony Tour,” John described the genesis of his affinity for dark humor to be the only thing he inherited from his mother. Speaking of family, Cynthia Cleese, the real-life daughter of John Cleese, portrays Portia Leach in the film.

A photo of John and Cynthia Cleese then / A picture of John and Cynthia Cleese now.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ron Galella Collection, Getty Images / Michael Bezjian, WireImage, Getty Images

Cleese still acts to this day. In the upcoming film, “Clifford, the Big Red Dog,” John plays Mr. Bridwell. You’ll also be able to see him in “The Martini Shot,” “Father Christmas Is Back,” and “Wedding of the Year.” He has also left the U.K. and now resides in the Caribbean, living the crazy life, or as they say, ‘la Vida Loca.’

Nobody Does It Like Wanda

Jamie Lee Curtis was referred to as “Jamie Lee Schwartz” on all of the call sheets because John Cleese thought it was humorous that Jamie’s real-life father, Tony Curtis, was born with the name Bernard Schwartz.

A dated image of Jamie Lee Curtis attending an event.
Photo by Fiona Hanson/PA Images/Getty Images

Wanda is Ken’s favorite fish, though he names them all. It’s never explained why Ken prefers Wanda, but you can deduce that it’s because she’s the most beautiful lady in his life. Why wouldn’t she be anyone’s favorite? She’s got it all going on – brains, beauty, and personality.

Keeping Up With Curtis

Wanda was the woman who could almost take control of every situation into her hand, beginning with her charms as a bold seductress. This latter was evident when she went after the diamonds herself, knowing fully well that she would cross and double-cross her partners and lovers.

Jamie Lee Curtis holds a microphone on stage.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Jamie Lee Curtis’ parents, Toni Curtis and Janet Leigh were famous actors in their own right. They were legendary actors, and Jamie Lee Curtis will go down like one too. She is still very active in the entertainment world as a writer, actor, and author of a children’s book. Last we checked, her net worth was $60 million. Not too shabby!

What Kind of Fish

One thing everybody wondered about is if Kevin Kline really ate raw fish in the movie. According to Kline, the fish he was eating was made of Jell-O. The actor claims that he offered to eat real, live fish, but the filmmakers refused to let him.

An image of Kevin Kline pretending to eat a raw fish on a live show.
Photo by Ingo Wagner/picture alliance/Getty Images

I mean, who wants a dead or sick crew member? There’s no fun in that. Wanda played her game on the team and brought in her lover, Otto West, for the heist. Wanda and Otto pretend to be siblings so Wanda can lure George and Ken into falling in love with them.

The Tables Turn

We hate to say it’s typical of Wanda, but the plan is for Wanda and Otto to betray Ken and George following the heist and vice versa. However, Wanda is also plotting to betray Otto’s confidence. Although Otto claims to be intellectual, crossing him wasn’t so hard, to be honest.

Jamie Lee Curtis speaks to the media.
Photo by Barry King/Liaison/Getty Images

After she betrays him and travels abroad with Archie and the jewels, Ken runs Otto over with a steamroller to get vengeance (which Otto somehow survives). Things didn’t end too badly for him. He eventually became the minister of justice.

Moving On and Standing Out

It’s kind of refreshing to know his so-called intelligence didn’t go to waste. After starring in “A Fish Called Wanda,” Kline continued to spread his talent working on different projects. He is still active in the entertainment industry, appearing in films and on television.

A picture of Kevin Kline speaking at a gala event.
Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

From 2011 to 2020, Kline also provided voice work for the role of Mr. Fischoeder in the animated series “Bob’s Burgers.” As of this writing, he is also working on three films, including “The Starling,” “The Good House,” and “The Diary,” which are currently in post-production, according to IMDb.

So. Many. Awards.

With a net worth of $35 million, Kevin Kline is an American actor, comedian, and voice artist who has worked in a variety of genres. Kline has received a slew of awards and honors throughout his entertainment career, several of which are listed below.

Kevin Kline holds his award backstage at the Annual Academy Awards.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Kline has received an Academy Award, three Tony Awards, and numerous other honors. He was also nominated for two Emmy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, and five Golden Globe Awards during his time in the showbiz industry. Kline was also inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2003, among other honors.

Meeting The Hapless Aide

Ken Pile, who was played by Michael Palin in this classic film, was a distressed animal lover who suffered from a terrible stutter. He is the right-hand man of London-based mobster George Thomason, and the two of them are collaborating on an organized jewel theft.

A closeup on Michael Palin in a still from the film.
Source: YouTube

Ken and his partner made a mistake recruiting the rest of the team, which would prove to be one of their worst decisions. The robbery is carried out successfully, and as the squad makes their way out of the building, they come dangerously close to running over an old woman who was out walking her dogs.

What Was Kenny’s End?

Well, as pointed out earlier, one of the most controversial things about this movie was the killing of the old lady’s three dogs. And well, Ken was the character who did the shooting in an attempt to kill the woman who accused George of the robbery.

Michael Palin stands behind a window frame in a still from the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: MGM

Although Ken was tortured by Otto a lot, he was appointed to the position of master of ceremonies at London Sea World. Not bad. You know, landing a decent job after all his troubles was a stroke of good luck.

A Heart Surgery Gone Wrong?

Definitely not. Michael Palin needed to have heart surgery in 2019. A small flap in his heart’s mitral valve, which stops blood from flowing the wrong way around the heart, was repaired successfully. He’d already seen great success in Monty Python before appearing in “A Fish Called Wanda,” and his career has thrived ever since.

Michael Palin attends an event.
Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

When other comedians and comedy insiders voted for the Comedians’ Comedian in 2005, Palin was ranked as the 30th most popular comedian in the country. He was also named a BAFTA fellow on May 12, 2013, the organization’s highest honor. Palin also has a net worth of $25 million…how lovely!

George Thomason Wasn’t Far From His Name

To pull off a big diamond robbery, British mobster George Thomason was the master planner, and he brought in his right-hand man, who went out and got members to complete the team. Funny thing, his real name is Tom Georgeson, and his character was named George Thomason.

A still of Tom Georgeson in a scene from the film.
Source: YouTube

Try to pronounce both names aloud. It’s more like a remix of both. So yeah…that’s some fun with the names. Although George and his team of con artists pulled off the robbery, he didn’t get to keep the money since his girlfriend (Wanda) had other plans.

The Doings of Tom

Between 2020-2021, his net worth dramatically increased. At the age of 84, Tom Georgeson’s net worth was estimated to be between $1 million – $8 million. His primary source of income remains his works as an accomplished actor. He is originally from the United Kingdom; one wouldn’t miss that with his accent.

Tom Georgeson poses for the press.
Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

His subsequent TV and film work included the well-received miniseries adaption of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House.” In 2002, Georgeson was nominated for Best Actor by the London Evening Standard for his portrayal in “Frozen” at the Royal National Theatre. There are no records of Tom being married or having children.

A Lady from Beaverbrook

Maria Aitken, who played Wendy Leach, the self-absorbed wife of Archie Leach, was born on September 12, 1945, in Dublin, Ireland, to Sir William Aitken, as Maria Penelope Katharine Aitken. She is an actress and writer, and popularly known for her role in the film.

A still of John Cleese and Maria Aitken as Archie Leach and Wendy Leach.
Source: YouTube

After her appearance in A “Fish Called Wanda” in 1988, she went on to star in other movies like “Spider” in 2002 and “Asylum” in 2005. Royalty is in her blood as she was the great-niece of Lord Beaverbrook, not to mention that her father was involved in governance.

The Romantic Life of Maria

Maria has married thrice and divorced twice. Her first husband was Richard Durden. After their divorce, she married Nigel Davenport, with whom she had her only child. She is now married to Patrick McGrath at 76 years old.

Patrick McGrath and Maria Aitken attend an event.
Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis/Getty Images

Her Tony Award-winning play, “39 Steps,” had a three-year run on Broadway and received amazing reviews. Maria is still one of the most successful actresses from the country of Ireland, and she is recognized as a successful director, with a net worth of $5 million.

Another Slice of the Cleese Family

Portia Leach was the daughter of Archie Leach on the set of “A Fish Called Wanda.” She was in a scene that would later cause a lot of problems in the movie. It was when her on-screen mother, Wendy, took Wanda’s locket, thinking it was a gift from her husband.

John Cleese hugs his daughter Cynthia at the film premiere.
Photo by Barry King/Liaison/Getty Images

Anyway, Portia was more than an on-screen daughter to Archie Leech. She is actually the real-life daughter of John Cleese. In the movie credit, she was then credited as Cynthia Caylor, not Cynthia Cleese, so we see where the confusion came from for fans of the movie.

Is Portia Securing the Bag?

Cynthia is still mostly known for starring in movies like “A Fish Called Wanda,” the 1997 film “Fierce Creatures,” and the 1998 movie “I’m on Fire.”She is now 50 years old, divorced, and has a net worth of $8 million. Meanwhile, her zodiac sign is Aquarius (just putting that out there).

Cynthis Cleese is in a still from the film.
Source: YouTube

We can’t talk about Cynthia and forget about the lovely old lady who was to be assassinated by Ken to prevent her from testifying against George. The events surrounding her death in the movie were dark and humorous at the same time. We must give it to Cleese and his co-writers.

Taking Care of the Eyewitness

George orders Ken to assassinate Eileen Coady because she was the only eyewitness to the robbery. Eileen is the owner of three dogs, and every time Ken attempts to kill her, he mistakenly kills one of the dogs, causing him considerable anguish since he tried to murder her numerous times and he’s an animal lover.

A still from the scene.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: MGM

The loss of the last dog causes the old lady Eileen to have a fatal heart attack, allowing Ken to achieve success at long last. This role was played by Patricia Hayes. She was born on December 22, 1909, in Wandsworth, London, England, as Patricia Lawlor Hayes.

Searching Through Patricia’s Legacy

Unlike some of the other leading actors, Patricia didn’t star in “Fierce Creatures.” However, she appeared in “The Never-ending Story” in 1984 and “Willow” in 1988. She was married to Valentine Rooke, and she passed away in 1998 in the English town of Puttenham at 88 years old.

A picture of Patricia Hayes.
Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For her contributions to drama, she received an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honors List in 1988. She also served many years as the president of the Catholic Actors Guild in the United Kingdom. Her estimated net worth was between $1 million and $3 million.

Like Father, Like Son

Geoffrey Palmer played the judge who was presiding over the case of George. He’s a “strong-faced” English actor who was born the son of a professional accountant. He also dabbled in accounting before being persuaded by his girlfriend to join a local amateur drama organization.

A still of Geoffrey Palmer as a judge.
Source: YouTube

Palmer began his career as an unpaid assistant stage manager at Croydon’s Grand Theatre and traveled in repertory for several years. The judge he portrayed had a signature deadpan look, and people automatically assumed Palmer was a grumpy old man with no joy to share.

Grumpy Geoffrey Sharing Happiness

But contrary to popular opinions and expectations, people who’ve spent time with Palmer have said he’s relaxed and amusing in private. “I’m not grumpy. I just look like it,” he once declared. Nonetheless, his disposition helped him do a great job in the 2003 BBC series, “Grumpy Old Men.”

An image of Geoffrey Palmer attending an event.
Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage/Getty Images

Palmer’s voice can be heard on the radio and in Audi television commercials, and various audiobooks. He was a member of the Garrick Club in London and an avid fly fisherman in his spare time. Palmer also received an OBE for his contributions to drama in December 2004, and he had a $10 million net worth.

A Man of Great Influence and Talent

Although Ken Campbell’s role as Barlett in the film wasn’t as profound, he went on to leave his mark on many other great works in the industry, including “Creep” (2004) and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1978). Campbell was born in Ilford, Essex, England, on December 10, 1941.

A portrait of Ken Campbell.
Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images/Getty Images

He died at the age of 66 and was one of Britain’s most creative and unclassifiable geniuses in the last half of the century. He was a writer, director, and monologist who was a master at putting on shows with a small budget while polishing the improvisational skills of the actors bold enough to work with him.

Another Accountant on the Crew

Roger Brierley played Archie Leach’s secretary Davidson on “A Fish Called Wanda.” He followed in his father’s footsteps as a chartered accountant before leaving for the theatre. Brierley’s father was named an accountant, and his mother was Adela, an adjudicator of amateur drama. So, this makes two accountants on set.

A portrait of Roger Brierley.
Source: YouTube

His mother’s family ran the Blossoms Hotel, a large pub on the main road south out of town, but her first love was the theatre. So, we can see where he probably got it from. Brierley appeared in many television productions over 40 years.

Enjoying Rogers Great Performances

Brierley twice appeared in “Doctor Who,” played Trevor in a 1965 production of “The Daleks’ Master Plan,” and did the voice of Drathro in the 1986 film “The Mysterious Planet.” His acting was refined and on point, as befitting figures of authority in a fleeting time of power, and was enjoyable for anyone who benefited from watching him.

Roger is in a still of “Doctor Who.”
Source: YouTube

Brierley’s appearance on film guaranteed either a clean, professional conclusion or a masterful display of bloody-mindedness. He died of a heart attack in 2005 in London. He was a big fan of Manchester United FC and had an estimated net worth of $1 million to $5 million.

Starting on a Clean Slate

Llewellyn Rees played Sir John on the set of “A Fish Called Wanda.” Even though he had a slender and reserved aristocratic appearance, he was a consummate professional when it came to the theatre. He was never one to shy away from taking on roles of all shapes, sizes, and genres.

A portrait of Llewellyn Rees.
Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images

Rees appeared to be equally content working the box office or standing in a theatre foyer as he performed on stage in both minor and major in his lifetime. The actor later turned to film and television, carving out a niche for himself in professional gentlemen roles of all stripes.

An Incomplete Rees Memoir

Once Rees even portrayed an American newspaper reporter, which was out of character for an actor who had previously played barristers, solicitors clerks, courtroom ushers, coroners, and judges. A few days before he died, Rees was said to have been completing his own memoirs.

A picture of Rees.
Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images

Although he didn’t live long enough to finish the final pages of his memoir, his works will continue to leave a legacy. Hopefully, a filmmaker or writer will complete his memoirs someday. Rees passed away in January 1994 at 92. His net worth was estimated to be $700,000.

Moving with Stephen Fry – An Open Book

With a net worth of $40 million, Stephen Fry is still one of the wealthiest members of the “A Fish Called Wanda” cast and crew. He played the role of Hutchison in the film. With help from his charm and quick wit, the multi-talented Fry has killed it on several platforms, including many notable film, television, and stage performances.

A portrait of Stephen Fry.
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Fry also extends his work into novels and even social media platforms like Twitter while also starring in“A Little of Fry and Laurie” along with fellow Cambridge buddy Hugh Laurie.

The Social Media Influencer

Maybe because Fry was a pretty open person, he was able to secure a fan base from his craft and even the support of the gay community. “Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive” won an Emmy Award for Best Documentary in 2006. It was Fry’s first documentary.

Stephen Fry attends an event with his partner.
Photo by rune hellestad/Corbis/Getty Images

On Twitter, Fry was also able to build a good following, even celebrating a 500,000-follower mark. He thanked all of his followers with a tweet… all except one person, but not to worry. He assured us all that it’s not you. Lol. ”A Fish Called Wanda” had quite the personalities on set.

A Final Change of Name

Here, we have another AFCW actor who changed his name. Al Ashton, who played the prison warder, was originally known as Alan Hunter. But he later changed his name by deed poll. Ashton began writing scripts for his own amusement at the age of 15.

A still from the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: MGM

But he did more than write scripts. Ashton also worked in his spare time as a stand-up comedian in clubs for £15 a night before discovering that he could earn the same amount of money by stripping naked every evening. But there’s another funny story behind his name change.

AFCW Had Quite the Crew

Ashton chose to go by the stage name “Al Ashton” in order to ensure that his name would appear on top of the alphabetical credits in a movie. Hands down, we love this strategy! Al Hunter Ashton died of heart failure on April 27, 2007, at his home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

A promotional shot for the film.
Photo by MGM Studios/Getty Images

Upon his death, Ashton was 78 years old and had a net worth estimated between $1 million – $5 million. Well, Ashton was an interesting one to wrap up this list. If you’ve missed all of the action and comedy from the scenes of “A Fish Called Wanda,” you should definitely watch it. It is on our bucket list for 2022!

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