John Cleese gained fame for his role in the hilarious Monty Python films, along with iconic flicks like A Fish Called Wanda with Jamie Lee Curtis and Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan. He was introduced to a whole new generation with his role as Nearly Headless Nick in two of the Harry Potter filmsand even did animated voice work in the last three Shrek films as King Harold. He’s a screenwriter and producer to boot.
Behind the camera and in between roles, however, the 83-year-old English actor has had quite the personal life, having been married no fewer than four times and once losing millions to an ex-spouse. He’s also the proud father of two now-grown daughters.
Here’s everything to know about John and his marriages, including his current wife Jennifer Wade.
John and his first wife Connie Booth met in the states and married back in 1968. The duo later became famous for writing the scripts and starring in both renditions of the sitcom Fawlty Towers. But before they divorced in 1978, they did their most enduring work together — welcoming their daughter Cynthia Cleese, now 51, in 1971 in England. Cynthia would go on to star alongside her father in 1983’s A Fish Called Wanda. According to the actor’s Wikipedia page, John and Connie are “said to” have remained friends even past their split.
And his legacy continues through two grandchildren, as well! Cynthia welcomed two kids, Evan and Oliviawith her husband, writer and director Ed Solomon (Men in Black, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.)
A few years later, John married a model and actress Barbara Trentham in 1981. The British beauty notably appeared on the covers of British versions of mainstay magazines including Seventeen and Vogueand appeared in the 1975 sci fi flick Rollerball. Barbara and John met in 1980 Monty Python show and were married the following year. Their only child together, Camilla Cleesewas born in 1984.
The duo separated in 1987 and divorced in 1990. Sadly, Barbara passed away on August 2, 2013, after a battle with Leukemia.
Alyce Faye Eichelberger
In 1992, John went in an entirely different direction and married a psychotherapist Alyce Faye Eichelberger. They divorced 16 years later, and accordingly CTV News, she walked away with a massive $12.2 million in the California-based settlement. To boot, she took 600,000/year for seven years. The actor did not hold back when recalling how the punitive amount hurt him. “What I find so unfair is that if we both died today, her children would get much more than mine… I got off lightly,” he said of the volatile split, per a report in the The Telegraph in 2009. “Think what I’d have had to pay Alyce if she had contributed anything to the relationship—such as children, or a conversation”
He also quipped that, “At least I will know in the future if a I go out with a lady they will not be after me for my money.” “My two other divorces were very peaceful affairs,” he later said.
John took a few years off before giving marriage another shot, In August of 2012, he married a model and jewelry designer Jennifer Wadenow 51, in an intimate ceremony on the Caribbean island of Mustique. Per HELLO! via CTV NewsJohn was overwhelmed with happiness and “fought back tears.”
“I knew from the first moment I met her that this could be something very serious,” he said of their 2009 meeting via mutual friends. “She is an extraordinary one-off. I never felt there was anything wrong with the institution of marriage – the only thing wrong was my ability to choose the right person. I couldn’t imagine being with anyone other than Jenny now. And with my record, that’s a pretty remarkable thing to say.”
“It was quite overwhelming in a joyful way,” Jennifer told the magazine at the time. “We’re kindred spirits. When people see us together, they immediately get it.” She continued, saying that they didn’t “need” to get married. “John and I didn’t need to get married, but we wanted to,” she added. “We felt like we were already married. We’ll have a party for our friends and family in London early next year.”
While John seems to have found his forever love, he spoke out in later years about his continual relationship problems and placing the blame on his “tyrant” mother, Muriel. “My ingrained habit of walking on eggshells when dealing with my mother dominated my romantic liaisons for many years,” he said, per The Independent in 2014. He slammed Muriel for her allegedly “utterly egotistical impulses” and “emotionally difficult” nature and fully blamed her for her relationship and marital issues. “It cannot be a coincidence that I spent such a large part of my life in some form of therapy and that the vast majority of the problems I was dealing with involved relationships with women,” he said.