Far more scholarly discussions about the absolute genius of Peter Sellers are accessible for you to read. I’m not about to waste your time trying to analyze his many roles or his life. What I do want to go on the record as saying is my own opinion, which is that he was a marvelous actor and a joy to watch on screen. Recently I re-watched Dr. Strangelove and after the movie dove into the special features, one of which I thought very nicely summed up Sellers.
The feature, text explains beforehand, is a split screen interview of sorts. The right side of the screen is the actor answering various questions about the film. This was a clever marketing tool the studios apparently used to use fairly often – you see the left side of the screen is blank and thus when the interviewer had to superimpose her/himself in they were essentially forced to ask the questions the studio had already supplied answers for. Nice way to control an interview, eh?
So there are two of these on the Dr. Strangelove disc. The first I watched was George C. Scott, who pretty much answered the questions you’d expect the studio would want him to answer. The second interview is Sellers. Where Scott provided the usual kind of information an Actor of his standing at the time for a picture like this one Sellers quickly veers off onto a tangent regarding the difference between Strangelove and Lolita. ‘No, in that one I play one character who disguises himself three times, in this one it’s three completely different characters’ or something like that he explains. This is the point where Sellers begins steering the direction toward his uncanny abilities to mimmick accents, mannuerisms and speech patterns. From here he then walks us through, in the manner of about two minutes, just about every derivation of a British accent possible, all flawlessly flowing from one to the next with nary a breath between. Cockney, Welsh, North, rural, even Scottish – the whole of it, the country’s cultural voicings offered up in a quick, digest-sized tour by one of the greats.
Really makes me want to go out and hunt down every movie the guys been in.