When John Cleese and his ex-wife/co-star Connie Booth created the TV comedy Fawlty Towers he didn't expect the show to overshadow his work on Monty Python's Flying Circus, nor did he expect his portrayal of Basil Fawlty to become part of comedy history.
But despite BBC exectutives doubt and initial low ratings Fawlty Towers went on to become one of the most popular Britcoms of all time, and it all started when Cleese met "the rudest man I've ever come across in my life" at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay:
While shooting Monty Python’s Flying Circus, John Cleese and the rest of the Monty Python team stayed at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay, where they were constantly berated by the eccentric hotel owner Donald Sinclair...Sinclair, who was known for being in a perpetually high state of anxiety, apparently threw Eric Idle’s briefcase into the street as soon as the team arrived, claiming it could be a bomb. He chastised Terry Gilliam for holding his silverware incorrectly and knocked on Michael Palin’s door to ask whether he meant to put up his “Do Not Disturb” sign.
According to The Spectator, “He’d be furious if a teapot meant for four was placed on a table for two. He marched about in his dressing-gown berating guests for wanting hot water to heat a baby’s bottle, early alarm calls, late suppers, or if they requested a taxi. ‘Why?’ he’d howl incredulously, taking a step back, his jaw dropping. If you went out late he might yell after you, ‘And where do you think you’re going?’”
While others might have found Sinclair’s outbursts off-putting, Cleese was inspired. When he began working on ideas for a television show, Sinclair’s antics immediately popped back into his mind, and he decided to model Basil Fawlty and his wife Sybil after Sinclair and his wife Beatrice.