Monty Python star Terry Jones died last night at the age of 77 with his wife by his side after battling against a rare form of dementia that robbed him of his speech, his family announced today.
The actor and comedian directed some of the comedy troupe’s most-loved works, including Life Of Brian.
Tributes have poured in for the comedian including from Stephen Fry who said: ‘My god what pleasure you gave, what untrammelled joy and delight. What a wonderful talent, heart and mind.’
In 2016 it was announced that Jones had been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a rare form of frontotemporal dementia where symptoms get progressively worse over time.
Also paying tribute, fellow Python star Sir Michael Palin said Jones was ‘kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full’.
Terry passed away on the evening of 21 January 2020 at the age of 77 with his wife Anna Soderstrom, 36, by his side after a long, extremely brave but always good humoured battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD
The actor and comedian directed some of the comedy troupe’s most-loved works, including Life Of Brian (Jones is pictured right)
Terry Jones and wife Anna Soderstrom at the Ham Yard Hotel in London in 2015
Charlie Brooker and Stephen Fry were among those paying tribute to Jones following news of his tragic passing
He added: ‘Terry was one of my closest, most valued friends. He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation, he was the complete Renaissance comedian – writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have.
‘I feel very fortunate to have shared so much of my life with him and my heart goes out to Anna, Alison and all his family.’
A statement on behalf of Jones’ family said: ‘We are deeply saddened to have to announce the passing of beloved husband and father, Terry Jones.
‘Terry passed away on the evening of 21 January 2020 at the age of 77 with his wife Anna Soderstrom by his side after a long, extremely brave but always good humoured battle with a rare form of dementia, FTD.
‘Over the past few days his wife, children, extended family and many close friends have been constantly with Terry as he gently slipped away at his home in North London.’
‘He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!’ Terry Jones’ best lines
Terry Jones leaves behind an astonishing legacy and a body of ground-breaking work. He was responsible for some of the best loved and most quoted lines in British comedy. Here are some of them.
‘Now, you listen here! He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!’
His most quoted line, from his role as Brian’s mother in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian.
‘I’m alive, I’m alive!’
His naked hermit in the hole gives away the location of a hiding Brian in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian.
‘I shall use my largest scales.’
Jones plays pompous knight Sir Belvedere as he oversees a witch trial in Monty Python And The Holy Grail.
‘What, the curtains?’
Prince Herbert reacts to the news: ‘One day, lad, all this will be yours’ in Holy Grail.
‘Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam.’
Jones plays a greasy spoon waitress running through a menu in a Monty Python sketch.
‘We use only the finest baby frogs, dew picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose.’
He plays a confectionery kingpin Mr Milton, the owner of the Whizzo Chocolate Company, briefing some horrified hygiene officers in the sketch from Monty Python.
The statement added: ‘We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man whose uncompromising individuality, relentless intellect and extraordinary humour has given pleasure to countless millions across six decades.
‘His work with Monty Python, his books, films, television programmes, poems and other work will live on forever, a fitting legacy to a true polymath.
‘We, his wife Anna, children Bill, Sally, Siri and extended family would like to thank Terry’s wonderful medical professionals and carers for making the past few years not only bearable but often joyful. We hope that this disease will one day be eradicated entirely.
‘We ask that our privacy be respected at this sensitive time and give thanks that we lived in the presence of an extraordinarily talented, playful and happy man living a truly authentic life, in his words ‘Lovingly frosted with glucose’.’
Terry Jones made his mark behind as well as in front of the camera, directing some of the comedy troupe’s most-loved works.
On-screen, the comedy genius had audiences in stitches in a variety of characters, often appearing in drag.
But he also directed Life Of Brian, a film which sparked outrage after its 1979 release but is now an undisputed comedy classic.
Jones also helped forge the surreal style of TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which changed the tone of British comedy.
Among those paying tribute was writer Charlie Brooker, who tweeted: ‘RIP the actual genius Terry Jones. Far too many brilliant moments to choose from.’
Tweeting a clip of the famous Mr Creosote sketch from The Meaning Of Life, Brooker added: ‘Here’s one random wafer-thin mint.’
And the BFI tweeted: ‘We’re deeply saddened to hear of the passing of comedy great Terry Jones.’
Bafta also paid tribute to Jones, tweeting a message alongside a photograph of him and Sir Michael Palin in 2016.
Its tweet said: ‘We’re saddened to hear of the passing of Terry Jones. Here he is receiving the Special Award For Outstanding Contribution to Film & Television from friend and fellow Python Michael Palin, at the 2016 @BAFTACymru Awards.’
He also directed Life Of Brian, a film which sparked outrage after its 1979 release but is now an undisputed comedy classic
Jones, who was unable to speak in his later years, directed Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and The Meaning Of Life, and co-directed The Holy Grail
London Terry Jones and His Girlfriend Anna Soderstrom
Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones from Monty Python at a photocall before a series of live performances at the O2 Arena. Jones, who had dementia, has died at the age of 77
The Welsh-born star suffered from primary progressive aphasia, which affects the ability to communicate.
Jones directed Monty Python And The Holy Grail in 1975 with Terry Gilliam.
The group’s Life Of Brian film in 1979, about a hapless man mistaken for Jesus, was attacked as blasphemous at the time but has since been voted the funniest classic comedy in a poll compiled by the magazine Total Film.
FELLOW PYTHON STAR SIR MICHAEL PALIN PAYS TRIBUTE TO TERRY JONES
Sir Michael Palin said in a statement: ‘Terry was one of my closest, most valued friends. He was kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full.
‘He was far more than one of the funniest writer-performers of his generation, he was the complete Renaissance comedian – writer, director, presenter, historian, brilliant children’s author, and the warmest, most wonderful company you could wish to have.
‘I feel very fortunate to have shared so much of my life with him and my heart goes out to Anna, Alison and all his family.’
On-screen, his much-loved characters included Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson, Cardinal Biggles of the Spanish Inquisition and Mr Creosote, the monstrously obese restaurant patron.
Jones also directed The Meaning Of Life in 1983, the Pythons’ last film together.
His other credits include The Wind In The Willows in 1996, with performances from Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and John Cleese, 2015 comedy Absolutely Anything and Personal Services (1987).
He took part in a reunion of remaining Monty Python members in 2014 – Graham Chapman had died of cancer in 1989.
He had two children with Alison Telfer, who he married in 1970, and became a father again, at the age of 67, with second wife Anna Soderstrom.
Jones was born in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, in 1942, moving to Claygate, Surrey, at the age of five.
At Oxford University he became involved in the theatre scene and met fellow Python-to-be Michael Palin, with whom he went on to write TV series Ripping Yarns.
The pair wrote and performed revues for the university’s theatre club.
Former Monty Python stars John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland and Terry Gilliam attending a charity screening of their film Life Of Brian at London’s Leicester Square to celebrate their 30th anniversary
Monty Python star Terry Jones attending the official launch of Messiah Pictures, a British film company of which he was a director, at the Cafe de Paris in London in 2000
Monty Python star Terry Jones attending the European premiere of Fierce Creature at The Empire in Leicester Square, London in 1997
Terry Jones made his mark behind as well as in front of the camera, directing some of the comedy troupe’s most-loved works
Later, Jones worked on TV shows like The Frost Report, Do Not Adjust Your Set, Broaden Your Mind and The Complete And Utter History of Britain.
TV history was created after Jones sat down at a tandoori restaurant in north London, in 1969, with Palin, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle and US animator Terry Gilliam to discuss working together on a new BBC comedy.
PRIMARY PROGRESSIVE APHASIA; RARE DISEASE THAT SILENCED STAR
Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a rare type of dementia which affects speech and communication.
In 2016, it was announced that Monty Python’s Terry Jones had been diagnosed with the condition. He died on Wednesday aged 77.
It is a form of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) where symptoms get progressively worse over time as the brain tissue which is important for speech and language deteriorates.
It is caused by clumps of abnormal protein forming inside brain cells, mainly in the front and side of the brain, that control language and behaviour.
These are thought to stop cells working properly by damaging them.
The first symptoms of PPA are problems with speech and language, such as struggling to find the right word or remember somebody’s name.
Speech can become slow and hesitant, with sufferers reluctant to join in conversations.
As the condition progresses, other symptoms can include changes in personality, memory loss and movement difficulty.
They wanted to move away from the punchlines and structure of traditional sketch comedy.
Irreverent TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born, making its debut late on a Sunday night on BBC One on October 5, 1969, just before the weather bulletin.
Some 45 episodes of the show, with its surreal, stream-of-consciousness style, aired until 1974, and it snapped up Bafta awards and even led to a German spin-off.
Jones often appeared in drag, sometimes as a ‘haggard housewife,’ or nude, while his other characters included Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson, Cardinal Biggles of the Spanish Inquisition and Mr Creosote, the monstrously obese restaurant patron.
He made his directorial debut, alongside Gilliam, with Monty Python And The Holy Grail in 1975.
Jones later directed Life Of Brian (1979), about a hapless man mistaken for Jesus.
The film was attacked as blasphemous but has since been voted the funniest of all time.
Jones also went on to direct The Meaning Of Life (1983), the Pythons’ last film together.
It featured loosely linked sketches and the unforgettable song, Every Sperm Is Sacred.
After the Pythons went their separate ways, Jones directed Personal Services (1987), a fictional biopic starring Julie Walters and inspired by real-life madam Cynthia Payne.
He also went behind the camera for Erik The Viking (1989), based on his own children’s book.
His other credits include The Wind In The Willows (1996), with performances from Idle, Palin, and Cleese, and 2015 comedy Absolutely Anything, as well as presenting documentaries.
Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Eddie Izzard dressed as Gumbies for a sketch for ‘Python Night’ in 1999
Terry Jones attending A Very Special Afternoon Tea with Prue Leith (left) and nutritionist to the stars Jane Clarke to launch a campaign to help people living with cancer and dementia through the power of good food
Terry Jones and Michael Palin Arqiva British Academy Television Awards, show, Royal Festival Hall, London in 2013
Terry Jones performed monologues and skits with Peter Cook. The two comedians are pictured together
Many have shared their favourite moments from Jones’ career including his performances on Monty Python – many episodes and films of which he directed (above and below)
In 2014, Jones took part in a reunion of remaining Monty Python members – Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989.
The live stage show, which featured an extended cast of dancers, a full orchestra and special effects, delighted thousands of fans.
But in 2016 it was announced that Jones had been diagnosed with dementia.
He suffered from primary progressive aphasia, which affects the ability to communicate.
Jones later told the PA news agency, at an event to help publicise the condition, that he could no longer write.
Palin told The Observer: ‘The thing that struck me was how Terry reacted to his diagnosis. He was very matter of fact about it and would stop people in the street and tell them, ‘I’ve got dementia, you know. My frontal brain lobe has absconded’.
‘He knew exactly what was affecting him and he wanted to share that knowledge – because that is the way that Terry is.
‘FTD (Frontotemporal dementia) may cause loss of inhibition, but Terry was never very inhibited in the first place.’
Jones married Alison Telfer in 1970, and they had two children together.
He became a father again, at the age of 67, with his second wife Anna Soderstrom.
Historian, writer, director: Terry Jones’ life after Python
As the group’s resident polymath, Terry Jones enjoyed a varied and successful career after Monty Python’s split in 1983.
He wrote books on medieval and ancient history, presented documentaries, directed films, wrote poetry and penned the screenplay for Jim Henson’s David Bowie-starring Labyrinth.
But between all that he always found time for the occasion Python reunion.
Here are the highlights from Jones’ post-Python career.
Jones co-directed Monty Python And The Holy Grail with fellow Python Terry Gilliam, and was sole director on Life Of Brian and The Meaning Of Life.
So it was no surprise that he continued directing into his later years, notably on comedy-fantasy Erik The Viking (1989) and The Wind In The Willows (1996).
He further explored his surrealist comedy in 2015’s Absolutely Anything, an absurdist tale about a downtrodden schoolteacher given the chance to do anything he wants by aliens.
Despite a stellar cast of Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and Robin Williams, the film was a critical failure.
Less than a year after the Pythons called time in 1983, Jim Henson, the puppeteer creator of the Muppets, was in talks with Jones to pen the script for his new fantasy film.
Bowie was eventually cast as Jareth the Goblin King in the adventure fantasy film Labyrinth, while Jones was brought in to pen the words.
But, by the time the feature was released in 1986, the script had gone through several rewrites and much of Jones’ work had been removed.
Aside from a cameo in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky in 1977 and a memorable turn as a drunken vicar in The Young Ones, Jones rarely acted outside of his own projects.
He appeared in two French films by Albert Dupontel – Le Createur (1999) and Enfermes Dehors (2006).
And between 2009 and 2011 he narrated the CBBC programme The Legend Of Dick And Dom, which starred the well-loved children’s presenting duo as two young princes on a quest.
Jones was emboldened to delve deep into his love of medieval and ancient history by the success of Monty Python And The Holy Grail.
His first book was 1980’s Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait Of A Medieval Mercenary, which offered a sideways look at the protagonist of Chaucer’s poem The Knight’s Tale.
Jones argued that the titular knight was not a paragon of Christian virtue but in fact a cold-blooded killer.
His other books and TV work offered similarly unorthodox takes on historical events.
In the Emmy-nominated programme Medieval Lives he put forward the idea that the Middles Ages were more sophisticated than we currently believe.
Jones was vocal in his criticism of the Iraq War and penned numerous editorials in newspapers attacking Tony Blair and George W Bush.
Many of these were republished in the pithily named Terry Jones’s War On The War On Terror.
Writing in The Guardian in 2004, he questioned Mr Blair’s mental state.
‘With all this acclaim for the US president’s lobotomy, it is scarcely surprising that Tony Blair, should have decided to follow suit and undergo similar psychosurgery,’ he said.