Famous Replacement Child – Peter Sellers

If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.
–Peter Sellers

Richard Henry Sellers was born on September 8, 1925 near Portsmouth, England. His parents called him Peter, the name of an older stillborn brother. A British film actor, comedian, and singer, Sellers is best known for his uncanny ability to assume the identity of the characters he played. When he was acting, he became the person he was portraying. When he wasn’t acting, he was Richard Henry playing the role of Peter.

Peter Sellers

Sellers’ parents, Peg and Bill, were vaudeville entertainers. Peter joined them on the stage shortly after his birth. As a child, he traveled with his parents on the vaudeville circuit and grew to love entertaining. Sellers became a radio personality on “The Goon Show,” a British radio comedy program. He began his career as a film actor in the 1950’s. Many of his most-loved films were comedies, such as The Pink Panther series, but he excelled in more serious roles as well including Dr. StrangeloveLolita, and Being There. Sellers demonstrated his versatility, playingmany kinds of characters, skillfully using different accents and disguises, and sometimes playing many roles within the same film (The Mouse That Roared and Dr. Strangelove).

He had extreme insecurity and struggled with depression. Sellers was known to be difficult to work with, which presented a challenge for his costars and directors. Although considered a genius, colleagues found him to be unbalanced and manipulative. By the mid 70’s, Sellers had many issues with his physical and mental health, along with alcohol and drug-related problems. He refused to get help.

Sellers made the claim that he had no personality. Perhaps he needed to play very strong characters in order to gain an identity. In 1978, appearing on The Muppet Show, he decided not to appear as himself but rather, to play characters wearing various costumes and assuming different accents. When Kermit the Frog remarked to Sellers that he could just be himself, Sellers replied, “But that, you see, my dear Kermit, would be altogether impossible. I could never be myself… You see, there is no me. I do not exist… There used to be me, but I had it surgically removed.” “His multiple roles were masks, Mr. Sellers liked to claim, describing himself as basically a character actor:

“As far as I’m aware, I have no personality of my own whatsoever. I have no character to offer the public. When I look at myself I just see a person who strangely lacks what I consider to be the ingredients for a personality. If you asked me to play myself, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

(cited from http://www.rogerebert.com/interviews).

Sellers was married four times and had three children. He had great difficulty relating to his children, purportedly insulting and verbally abusing them. There was always the threat of being abandoned by him. Sellers and his son, Michael eventually reconciled, but sadly, the closeness they achieved did not last long. Sellers confessed to his son that “he hated so many things he had done.” Sellers died of a heart attack on July 24, 1980 at the age of fifty-four in London, England.

We from the replacement child forum wonder whether Peter Sellers would have been able to suffer less if he had had access to the resources available today, whether understanding his replacement child condition would have allowed for more understanding of himself and could have made better his personal relations and experience of life?

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