Danny Boyle Feared ‘Yesterday’ Movie Might Upset the Beatles
Richard Curtis’ story is set in a world where everyone but one man has forgotten the Fab Four. On discovering he’s the only person who knows their songs, Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel, begins a journey toward becoming a guilt-ridden superstar.
“Once I got involved, I wrote letters to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and the two widows, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono, respectfully laying out what I intended to do with the film,” Boyle told Billboard in a new interview. “There’s obviously going to be nerves that somebody could be triggered or upset. But I got really lovely letters from Ringo and Olivia. I can’t talk about it except to say it was very special for me.”
It’s estimated that the cost of securing permission to use the Beatles’ music added $10 million to the movie’s expenses. “Before I signed on, Curtis and Working Title [the production company] had negotiated with the aesthetic and financial guardians of the Beatles: Apple Records and [Sony/ATV Music Publishing], respectively,” Boyle said.
“Apple and Sony are very picky about not only who uses the band’s music but how it is used. Working Title did that first because there’s no point in spending money on a film like Yesterday unless you can guarantee you’ve got the music. It made for a top-heavy budget -- the costs for the songs were very expensive, a substantial part of the film’s budget. But they made a clever deal, allowing us the freedom to change songs up to the last minute.”
However, Boyle said there was a possibility that it might become easier in future to license the Beatles’ work. “Now, of course, artists want to be everywhere, really," he noted. "The Beatles are the exception; [Apple and Sony] want to keep a purity about it. But there are a lot of people in the business advising them not to restrict themselves so much, as older bands re-imagine or reintroduce themselves to a younger audience.”
Yesterday arrives in theaters on June 28.