Eric Idle
Credit: KMazur/WireImage

While Monty Python member Eric Idle was directing last summer’s reunion shows, he made sure to include a small role in the Michael Palin-fronted “Blackmail” sketch that could be played by a different famous Python fan each night. That roll call of guest talent would ultimately include both Simon Pegg and Mike Myers, who was also the guest performer during the Pythons’ last performance at London’s massive O2 arena. That the Austin Powers star would agree to appear in such a tiny part speaks to the huge and enduring influence of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the subsequent films created by Idle, Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and the late Graham Chapman.

But Myers’ presence in what is likely to be the troupe’s last-ever live performance came with a note of sadness for Idle, one that would become outright tragic over time. Why? Because Idle had originally planned that final night’s guest to be Robin Williams.

“Robin was supposed to come and do the last night,” says Idle, who appeared with the Good Morning, Vietnam star in 1988’s Gilliam-directed The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. “And all the time I was getting emails from him, and he was going downhill. Then he said he could come, but he didn’t want to be onstage. I said, ‘I totally get that.’ Because he was suffering from severe depression. Through my friend Bobcat Goldthwait we were in touch, and in the end he said, ‘I can’t come, I’m sorry, but I love you very much.’ We realized afterwards he was saying goodbye.”

After Williams committed suicide in August, the Pythons decided to dedicate the recently released DVD and Blu-ray of the Python reunion (Monty Python Live (mostly)) to the comedian. “Robin died just as we were editing it,” says Idle. “I still can’t believe he’s dead. It’s not possible. But depression is a killer.”

For more on classic TV and movie reunions, pick up a copy of the latest Entertainment Weekly, on stands now.