George Harrison Said He Got an Award for Having the Only British Film Company Left

George Harrison founded his film company, HandMade Films, purely by accident. He thought it was going to be a one-movie company. However, once George stepped through the door into the film industry, the former Beatle never really stepped back out. Scripts kept coming in, and he had trouble turning people down.

Eventually, George had a fully-fledged film company. Sometimes it felt like the only British one left.

George Harrison in a colored suit in Germany, 1988.
George Harrison | Bernd Mueller/Redferns

George Harrison started his film company HandMade Films when he decided to produce Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’

In the late 1970s, Eric Idle called George to see if he knew anyone who could financially back a film. EMI had dropped out of producing Monty Python’s new film, Life of Brian, due to its seemingly blasphemous subject matter. However, George loved the film’s story and considered funding the comedy. It all happened by accident.

“I asked Denis O’Brien, who had been my business manager since the end of ’73,” George told Film Comment. “After thinking about it for a week, he came back and suggested that we produce it. I let out a laugh because one of my favorite films is ‘The Producers,’ and here we were about to become Bialystock and Bloom.

“Neither of us had any previous thought of going into the movie business, though Denis had a taste of it managing Peter Sellers and negotiating some of the later Pink Panther films. It was a bit risky, I guess, totally stepping out of line for me, but, as a big fan of Monty Python, my main motive was to see the film get made.”

Life of Brian was George’s initial step into the film business. However, as scripts kept coming in, it became harder and harder for him to get out. If George was going to keep his film company, he wanted it to remain a small British business.

“I personally would not like to see HandMade Films turn into an American company in New York or Los Angeles,” George said. “I like it being in a nice little office in England.”

George said he got an award for having the only British film company left

In 1986, George received the London Standard Film award for his contribution to British filmmaking. George was always humble, but he truly didn’t believe he deserved it. He joked that he received the award because there was no other British film company around to give it to.

During an interview, The Today Show said many people thought George had saved British filmmaking with his film company. “Well, I think it was more of the award for the only English-British company that’s left,” George joked.

“And I think it was just-they thought, ‘Well, we better give them something because they may be the only company left next year, I don’t know. But it was nice anyway. At least they recognized that we were around doing things.”

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The former Beatle liked that HandMade Films wasn’t a big-shot company

Fortunately for George, HandMade Films didn’t become an American company. George didn’t want to consider his film company a big-shot company. He wanted it to remain small, British, and, most importantly, humble.

“We have to keep tabs on our budgets and not get carried away thinking we’re big shots,” George touched on Shanghai Surprise, which tanked. “Many companies, with some success behind them, move into big, posh air-conditioned offices that all interconnect with private bathrooms.

“You see them swarming around in these limousines. It’s ‘Sod’s Law’: Even if we made hundreds of millions of dollars, once we moved out of our tiny, overcrowded office in London and got into the Big Time, I’m sure the bottom would fall out. The answer is to be humble. That’s it. Be humble.

“It would be nice, I suppose, from a staff point of view, to have a bit more space—our own viewing theaters, cutting rooms, and sound studios. But for me, as an ex-Beatle, I’m not into that trip of being a big shot. I peaked early. I got all that out of my system in the Sixties.”

George, indeed, remained humble. However, HandMade Films deserve to be honored in every way.