Monty Python stars sued by producer over "Spamalot" royalties

In this Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008 file photo, pedestrians walk under the marquee of the Broadway show "Monty Python's Spamalot" at the Shubert Theatre in New York. Craig Ruttle

A producer of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is suing the British comedy troupe over royalties from the hit stage musical inspired by the film.

Producer Mark Forstater wants a bigger share of proceeds from "Spamalot," which is based on the Pythons' 1975 movie spoof of the legend of King Arthur.

Lawyers for Monty Python are contesting Forstater's claim and will present their arguments later. Python members Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones will give evidence during a five-day hearing that began Friday at London's High Court.

Forstater is suing the trio and the two other surviving Python members, John Cleese and Terry Gilliam. The sixth member of the troupe, Graham Chapman, died in 1989.

Forstater's lawyer, Tom Weisselberg, said that under an agreement made when the film was produced, "for financial purposes Mr. Forstater was to be treated as the seventh Python" and entitled to the same share of "Holy Grail" merchandising and spin-off income as the other members.

But the lawyer said Forstater had not received his fair share of royalties from the stage show, which has been a hit around the world. It won the Tony Award in 2005 for best musical and ran on Broadway for nearly four years, ending its run in 2009. The show is still playing in London's West End.

Weisselberg said Forstater, who was declared bankrupt earlier this year, had been forced to go to court because of his "difficult financial circumstances."