Were the Soldiers Unaware of the “Biggus Dickus” Scene Prior to Filming?

Monty Python’s Life of Brian, released in 1979, is considered a terrific piece of work and could be regarded as the finest achievement of Python’s career. 

However, some viewers claim that during the filming of the famous “Biggus Dickus” scene, soldiers were unaware of the joke, and their attempt to refrain from laughing was genuine, not acting or part of the script.

So, let us find out whether soldiers were unaware of the joke in the “Biggus Dickus” scene or not in this article.

Were the Soldiers Unaware of the “Biggus Dickus” Scene Prior to the Filming of Life of Brian?

The physical copy of Monty Python’s Encyclopythonia contains a few interviews with the Python members. According to the interviews with Python members, the guards were aware of the “Biggus Dickus” scene and script before the scene’s filming but improvised it to a certain point. Though the actors were aware of the scene before the filming, Michael Palin and the guards improvised it while filming the scene.

During the filming of the shot, one of the guards could not control his laughter due to Michael Palin’s humorous character and acting style. So, the makers and Palin decided not to end the scene, and Palin stayed in his character and improvised the scene by approaching the guard who laughed, which became the famous “Biggus Dickus” scene.

However, the reaction of other guards (after the initial outburst of the first guard) was not genuine. They all might have picked up on the fact that Palin was improvising and continued the scene based on Palin’s improvised conversation. As a result, the guards` laughing was not real, and they were improvising the act. 

It is a well-known fact that Monty Python loves to improvise while filming scenes. Though, it is often tricky to do improvisation while working with more than one actor because all the actors need to understand the situation and build a sketch together on the fly. 

It might be possible that the initial laughter was genuine, and the rest of the actors improvised their act to improvise the scene. 

Monty had no problem improvising the “Biggus Dickus” scene with multiple actors because all the soldiers acting were comedian performers. The first guard to genuinely laugh was Charles Mckeown, the Oscar-nominated actor, and screenwriter. The other guards were also well-known comedic performers and writers. 

Michael Palin’s diaries, THE PYTHON YEARS, provide additional proof that the actors knew about the scene and their giggling was all scripted. He wrote in his journal that they must keep the vital giggling ingredient fresh and spontaneous to make it a memorable scene, and its success would depend on the genuineness of the guard’s reaction to the first Pilate scene (Biggus Dickus scene). 

So, Micahel Palin did a great deal of ad-libbing at the end of the scene and thought up over twenty new names for Biggus Dickus’ wife. One of the names said by Palin made the guards giggle. 

After 20 takes, Palin made them genuinely laugh by saying over twenty new names for Biggus Dickus’ wife – ranging from the appallingly facetious Incontinentia Buttox (name that made the guards giggle) to the occasional piece of inspiration which resulted in breakdown from the guards.

However, some claim that the makers threatened the guards with not being paid if they laughed. Though there is no solid evidence to support this assertion, Michael Palin made no note of it in his diaries. Since there is no convincing proof to prove this theory and it does not make much sense, it may be a fan-made theory or rumour.