First and foremost, Jones will be remembered as a Python, with his directorial tour de force, Life of Brian (1979), the pinnacle of his achievements. At the time, the film – which told the story of a man, born on the same day, and next door to, Jesus Christ, who finds himself mistaken for the Messiah – won plenty of plaudits, but also plenty of opprobrium, particularly from the Christian right. Thirty-nine local authorities refused to screen it. Those cinemas that did were picketed by evangelical groups.
The images of crucifixion, in particular, were considered exciting and groundbreaking, or sacrilegious and beyond the pale, depending on your viewpoint. The scandal came to a head in a TV debate – still worth watching – in which Palin and Cleese effortlessly deconstructed Catholic journalist and satirist Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood.