He was an extraordinary comic genius, inspiring the likes of Eddie Murphy, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mike Myers.
So it is fitting that Peter Sellers should be the subject of a BBC documentary marking the 40th anniversary of his death this summer.
But I can disclose that Britt Ekland, the woman who became the second of Sellers’ four wives, sharing his life at the peak of his brilliant career, has refused to participate — despite the entreaties of Sellers’ grandson, Will.
‘She hasn’t contributed,’ Ekland’s spokesman confirms to me, adding that Britt ‘explicitly told Will Sellers she wouldn’t [be involved]’.
Peter Sellers (left) is pictured above with Britt Ekland (right) who became the second of Sellers’ four wives
Sellers (left in 1974) was married to Britt for four years, they are pictured together right on their wedding day in 1964
Will, the son of Sellers’ only son, the late Michael Sellers, is currently in Los Angeles with documentary-maker John O’Rourke. Neither will comment on Ekland’s decision, with O’Rourke explaining that his documentary will examine how Sellers ‘could live so many different lives’ despite dying two months short of his 55th birthday.
Britt declines to elaborate on why she’s snubbed the landmark project. But no doubt she still bears the scars from her four-year marriage to Sellers.
She was a 19-year-old aspiring actress from Sweden when he spotted her in a newspaper. With his marriage to Anne Howe — Will’s grandmother — in ruins, he invited Britt to his suite at the Dorchester and took her to the premiere of the first Pink Panther film in which he starred as Inspector Clouseau, below.
They married days later, with Britt captivated by his charisma. Only then, she later reflected, did she learn that he was ‘a monster’. He shrieked at her when she was talking to her mother on the telephone in Swedish, demanding that she speak English — ‘even though my mother couldn’t’.
He also stamped on a Cartier watch he had given her ‘before flushing it down the toilet’, as well as taking amyl nitrate before making love to her — hopeful of experiencing ‘the ultimate orgasm’ but suffering a massive heart attack instead.
Gizzi: I’m back on the wagon after 1st diet wobble
TV chef Gizzi Erskine might enjoy whipping up sumptuous recipes for others, but she’ll no longer be indulging in culinary delights after piling on the pounds during the festive season.
‘After losing two stone last year, I put a stone and a bit back on. Anyway, I’m back on the wagon,’ she declares.
The author of Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite has created a list of punishing ‘diet rules’, which include eating no more than 1,500 calories a day, eating only between 12 and 7pm and cutting out booze, sugar and meat.
She adds: ‘I’m not going to be made to feel ashamed by the ones who think we just have to be happy in whatever body we’re in, because I am fundamentally unhealthier than I was four years ago.’
TV chef Gizzi Erskine (pictured above) said she is unhealthier now than she was four years ago
Break a leg… Sondheim misses theatre honour
The show can’t go on. American composer Stephen Sondheim has suffered a fall that has left him ‘temporarily incapacitated’ at his home in Connecticut.
The West Side Story lyricist was due to attend the official opening of the revamped Sondheim Theatre next week at the newly refurbished space on Shaftesbury Avenue. The event has now been delayed, and is expected to go ahead later this year.
‘He tore a ligament which has seriously compromised his immediate mobility,’ says producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh. ‘As a consequence, we have had to take the disappointing decision to postpone the official opening. It is likely to be a few months before Stephen will be fit enough to travel to England again.’
At least Sondheim is keeping his spirits up. ‘I would do nearly anything for Cameron. But to stand side by side with him on a West End stage holding onto a stroller is not something I will let him enjoy teasing me about.’
American composer Stephen Sondheim (pictured above) has suffered a fall that has left him ‘temporarily incapacitated’ at his home in Connecticut
Foxy shows off his new leading lady
Laurence Fox is enjoying an auspicious start to the year.
Just months after admitting it took him ‘a couple of years’ to get over his acrimonious divorce from actress Billie Piper, 37, in 2016, the Lewis star — who has two children with his ex-wife — enjoyed a hot date this week with his glamorous new girlfriend.
I can reveal she is London-born fashion designer turned photographer Sara McKinnon, 39, whose father is Emmy Award-winning nature documentary producer Michael McKinnon.
Laurence, 41, who told me he dabbled unsuccessfully in online dating last year following his split from radio DJ Lilah Parsons, 31, cosied up to Sara at the London Edition Hotel in Fitzrovia. ‘It’s very early days but Laurence has a good feeling about her,’ says a friend.
‘He enjoyed being single last year but he now feels ready for a relationship again.’
Laurence Fox had previously dated Billie Piper (together right) and is now dating Sara McKinnon (together left)
Worried? Wear a bikini! Withnail’s fatherly tip
Withnail actor Richard E. Grant has some paternal advice for his only daughter, Olivia, 31.
‘When my daughter gets anxious, I say to her the Nora Ephron quote: ‘Wear a bikini every day until you are 34, as you are never going to look that good again.’
The Oscar-nominated Can You Ever Forgive Me? star, who took Olivia to the awards last year, is a family man and has been married to Joan Washington, Olivia’s mum, for 34 years.
It is not known if Grant senior has ever worn a bikini himself.
Richard E. Grant (left) said when his daughter Olivia (right) gets anxious, he tells her to wear a bikini
One of the highlights of Paul McKenna’s career was hypnotising rock chameleon David Bowie.
‘I was told he wanted to meet me,’ Paul relates. ‘Anyway, I went to his house and there he was smoking in the kitchen.
There was something other-worldly about him. He couldn’t help but look cool.
‘He asked me to hypnotise him. He did go under and then went: ‘I had the strangest thought just now.’ He just sprung up and went: ‘Think pink!’ I had no idea what that meant.’
One of the highlights of Paul McKenna’s career was hypnotising rock chameleon David Bowie (pictured)
Labour leadership contender Emily Thornberry may choose not to use her grand title but her extended family continues to accumulate gongs.
Just six years after her High Court judge husband Sir Christopher Nugee was made a knight — her married name is Lady Nugee — her Army officer brother-in-law Lieutenant General Richard Nugee has been awarded a CB (Companion of the Order of the Bath) in the New Year’s honours.
Emily Thornberry (pictured above) may choose not to use her grand title but her extended family continues to accumulate gongs
McFly bassist Dougie Poynter, who was encouraged to take up acting by his ex-girlfriend Ellie Goulding, admits it hasn’t been a smooth transition.
Poynter, who stars in a new crime thriller The Host alongside Sir Derek Jacobi, says he repeatedly fluffed his lines in the presence of the stage and screen star.
‘I messed up my lines the whole time,’ he tells me at the film’s premiere at The May Fair Hotel London.
However, the musician enjoyed the experience. ‘I was pretty gripped,’ Dougie adds. ‘I just got to sit there and react to what he was doing and he was so natural, so himself, and so talented.’
Well, at least he has mastered the art of speaking like a luvvie.
Dougie Poynter’s ex-girlfriend Ellie Goulding (pictured together above in Miami in 2015) is said to have encouraged him to go into acting
Sports presenter John Inverdale considered hanging up his microphone following the backlash after he said Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli was ‘never going to be a looker’ on air.
‘I was very, very down, and even though I was getting a huge amount of support from colleagues, there was a period where I thought I might just jack this in. I just don’t need this.
It was undoubtedly the lowest point of my professional career. I really did think, ‘That’s it. I’ll go away and do something else.’ But then, mercifully, the following week, the Open Championship was on.’