HandMade Films was created by former Beatle George Harrison.
Harrison served as executive producer for 23 films with HandMade.
The film company was formed (1978, 43 years ago) to finance the Monty Python film “Life of Brian”. When the original financiers of Brian, EMI Films, pulled out of the project less than a week before filming was to commence, the creators had to find other financing. Harrison, a friend and fan of the Pythons, mortgaged his home in order to finance the feature. Eric Idle of the Pythons later called it “the most anybody’s ever paid for a cinema ticket in history”. Life of Brian grossed $21 million at the box office in the US.
Harrison explained: “The name of the company came about as a bit of a joke. I’d been to Wookey Hole in Somerset … [near] an old paper mill where they show you how to make old underpants into paper. So I bought a few rolls, and they had this watermark ‘British Handmade Paper’ … So we said … we’ll call it Handmade Films.” The first film distributed by HandMade Films was The Long Good Friday (1980), and the first they produced was Time Bandits (1981), a co-scripted project by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin. The film featured a new song by Harrison, “Dream Away”, in the closing credits. Time Bandits became one of HandMade’s most successful and acclaimed efforts; with a budget of $5 million, it earned $35 million in the US within ten weeks of its release.
Harrison served as executive producer for 23 films with HandMade, including Mona Lisa, Shanghai Surprise and Withnail and I. He made several cameo appearances in these films, including a role as a nightclub singer in Shanghai Surprise, for which he recorded five new songs. According to Ian Inglis, Harrison’s “executive role in HandMade Films helped to sustain British cinema at a time of crisis, producing some of the country’s most memorable movies of the 1980s.”