Production Information (Cont'd)
The Ultimate Catalogue
Securing the Music Rights
Curtis and Boyle, both huge Beatles fans, would not have made the film
without the blessing of the surviving members of the band, Paul McCartney and
Ringo Starr, and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison. From the
strength of those relationships, and with the approval of the musicians and
their families, the production was then able to move forward and secure the
composition rights to The Beatles' songs for Patel to record for the film.
That didn't make one aspect of Curtis's writing process any easier: Of all
The Beatles' iconic songs, which ones do you pick? And, even harder, which ones
do you leave out?
What, No "Sgt. Pepper"?
Choosing Yesterday's Songs
Indisputably, it's the music and lyrics in Yesterday that help carry the
narrative throughout the film. "The songs were chosen very carefully by
Richard," music producer Ilhan says. It not only matters which songs were
chosen, but the order in which they are heard. The music itself creates a
narrative arc of Jack's journey. "The songs are very important," Ilhan says. "In
that order, at that time, they tell the story."
For Curtis, selecting from the plethora of Beatles hits was no easy task.
"We've tried to represent all sides of The Beatles' work-rockier sides, romantic
sides, reflective ones," Curtis says. "I had an odd relationship with The
Beatles' songs whilst I was writing the film. I was half trying not to listen to
them too much because I was half trying to think 'What would Jack remember?' One
day, Danny asked Himesh to name as many Beatles songs as he could, and it was
tough. What you have to do is go back through the albums." Here, Curtis explains
why each song was chosen.
"Yesterday": "Paul McCartney felt it was the most perfect drop of genius. It
was such a miracle song that when he first wrote it, he thought he must have
stolen it or dreamt it. In the film, it's the first Beatles song Jack plays
after his accident, and his friends' reaction when he performs it is Jack's (and
our) first clue that something strange is going on. Jack's friends claim to have
never heard it before, and believe Jack wrote it. In that scene, you are looking
for a pure-perfect song where everyone would be openmouthed on hearing it. So
that's why 'Yesterday' went in. We then had Jack record a selection of Beatles
songs-'She Loves You,' 'I Want to Hold Your Hand,' 'I Saw Her Standing
There'-and it's that sense of early '60s Beatles joy when it's just him, Ellie
and their friend Gavin [ALEX ARNOLD].
also meant to be a double hit that, at the end of the song, Ellie feels it's
a proposal of love...for which it isn't.
"Back in the USSR": "On Jack's first night as Sheeran's opening act in
Russia, he spontaneously decides to play a version of this song to grab the
attention of a distracted audience not remotely interested in listening to him.
Needless to say, it gets the crowd's attention. Very simply, we thought it would
be a good song for Jack to sing in Russia.
"The Long and Winding Road": "While on tour, Sheeran challenges Jack to a
friendly songwriting competition after a show one night. Jack 'writes' this
classic in a matter of minutes. For the songwriting competition between Jack and
Ed, they wanted something that was an instantly perfect tune. I thought 'The
Long and Winding Road' was a perfect example.
"Penny Lane," "Eleanor Rigby" and "Strawberry Fields Forever": "These are all
classic songs, but they become the most difficult for Jack to recall in detail,
with only his memory as a guide. These are songs planted in the film to remind
us that even though we know the songs, recounting the lyrics is quite a
different matter. Five times I tried to write 'Eleanor Rigby' from memory, and
each time I failed.
"Here Comes the Sun," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Hey Jude": "These
are all songs that Jack records in L.A., with a little help from Ed Sheeran, as
potential tracks for his upcoming album. Jack starts recording in L.A. And, with
that, we wanted to bring a sense of breadth in there, so we included two of
George's songs, 'Here Comes the Sun' and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.'" And
"Hey Jude" provided one of the film's many comedic gems. "'Hey Jude,' is there
for the joke, where Ed changes it to 'Hey Dude.'" It's during this recording
session that Jack also tries to include some of his own music on the album. It
doesn't go so well. "Jack slips one of his songs in there, and it clearly
doesn't stand up to the brilliance of The Beatles. It's a reality check and
bitter reminder of his lack of talent as a songwriter.
"Help!": For the launch of Jack's album, he performs this song on top of a
pub roof, to a massive roaring crowd below. "At this point, Jack's going through
a metaphysical crisis. He's with the wrong girl and doing things for the wrong
motive; that's when he sings 'Help!' The song always was interesting for that
reason. It was portrayed as a lovely, jolly song, but in fact it was a cry for
help. John Lennon described it as his 'Bob Dylan' song. They were songs of
despair as well as songs of exuberance.
"All You Need Is Love": "This is the song that represents Jack's realization
of what truly matters. 'All You Need Is Love' is the song, and the message,
Jack's forgotten that lies at the heart of the movie. After he plays it, he
tells Ellie how he feels, and that he's made all the wrong choices."
A Fantastic Treat
Music Supervision and Composition
With so much important music in Yesterday, the filmmakers turned to the
top-flight team of music producer Adem Ilhan and composer Daniel Pemberton. "I
worked with Danny previously on Steve Jobs, and that was a crazy-good
experience," Pemberton says. "He called me into his office one day and explained
this whole film, which I thought sounded absolutely amazing." But Pemberton's
first instinct was to decline the opportunity. "I told him I wasn't the man to
do it," he says. "He wanted me to write the score, work with the actors, music
direct, and I just thought he needed someone who has lived that life of a
singer-songwriter, who understands performing. That's where Adem comes in."
Ilhan is a longtime friend of Pemberton who has been living the life of a
singer-songwriter since graduating in 2004. The bass guitarist for post-rock
band Fridge, he is also part of the electronic duo Silver Columns and has
released a solo album. "Adem is an amazing singer-songwriter, a
multi-instrumentalist and a very nice guy who I thought would work really well
with Himesh and Lily...and everyone else on the project," Pemberton says. "We
decided we would attack this as a team. Our approach was to create an
environment that allowed the actors to grow and express themselves as singers,
but also give the songs a bit of a twist. Because we are living in this world
where The Beatles don't exist, we had to look at it through the filter of Jack;
we were constantly trying to think about how that might work."
But there is more to the film's music element than The Beatles' songs. There
is the matter of Jack's songs. "Yes, we also had to write Jack's rubbish songs!"
Pemberton says, laughing. "Usually, I just write the score. Of course, I always
try to get involved with the film right at the beginning, at script stage, but
on this it was more than writing the score. It meant involvement with Jack's
songs, which aren't as good as The Beatles'. If someone says, 'Write a song
better than The Beatles,' you're like 'ah shit!' But if someone says, 'Write a
song that is not really that good, but good enough,' you're like, 'yup, I'm your
The conundrum for the team was how to approach Jack's interpretation of The
Beatles' songs in a world bereft of the massive impact they had on culture. "We
were trying to be Jack trying to remember The Beatles," says Ilhan. "The big
thing for me was, 'Do I listen to their stuff, or do I do it from memory?' I'm a
Beatles fan so I know quite a lot of their songs anyway. That was the first port
of call for me, to play them back to myself in my head and work out what would I
do." In this respect, Ilhan had to mirror Jack's own musical journey. "You have
to, to understand where Jack's coming from," Ilhan says. "And there have to be
mistakes in the songs."
Ilhan and Pemberton also had to decide how these songs, performed by Patel as
Jack, would sound. "Through this story, there are different filters that the
songs go through," Pemberton says. "There are aspects that Jack does at the
Moscow concert, where we took a phrase from 'USSR.'" The composer sings
throughout this interview: "'Wo ho ho ho ho.' It's a very small phrase in the
song, but Jack needed something for the audience to latch onto. They've never
heard this song in their life, and they are not going to know the lyrics. They
might not have got the chorus, but a 'wo-ho-ho-ho' they can get in two seconds.
We have this device where Jack repeats that, and that's a way to get the
audience on his side."
That moment that Jack creates in "USSR" connects to one of his own songs,
"Summer Song," which Jack has repeatedly tried (and failed) to make into a hit.
"Jack's using his experience of his old songs and linking it together with The
Beatles' songs," Ilhan says.
This narrative trick helped Curtis to weave other characters into the story.
"'Summer Song' is the one song that Jack's mate Nick likes," Pemberton adds.
"His character isn't much by way of a musical connoisseur, so if he likes
'Summer Song' it's got to have a straightforward chorus that is so obvious he
can remember it. The idea is that, if you go through Jack's story, he is taking
elements of his song writing and feeding it into his Beatles' work. There's a
weird arc in this where we are trying to look at Jack's journey as a songwriter,
before he realizes he's the only guy who knows The Beatles' songs, and
incorporate how he would approach those songs through that."
To that end, the team aimed to reinterpret these songs without losing the
emotional connection that people have to them. And for the audience to feel what
it would really be like to hear these iconic songs initially. "I thought about
the experience of having 'Yesterday' played to me for the first time," says
Ilhan. "The reaction and the idea of it moved me. The Beatles wrote some of the
best songs ever, and it's quite compelling and moving to examine what it would
be like to be the first person to hear them."
In addition, because Pemberton and Ilhan were working with Sheeran, one of
the U.K.'s most lauded singer-songwriters, it was important to represent his
voice in the film, too. "Ed's written a great song for the end of the film, so
we worked alongside him on that," Pemberton says. "Ultimately, this film is a
great example of the power of song. Music is something that connects with so
many people; it can change the world. It's nice to be reminded of that in a time
when it feels like that art form is being swamped by a more modern world of
selfies and Instagram. To reconnect with the power of music is a fantastic
We'll Do It Live
Sound Design and Recording
The recording of key Beatles' work was of paramount importance to the film,
and Boyle decided to do it in the most challenging way possible. "It's
absolutely normal with a film with a lot of live music in it to pre-record, and
then have the actors mime their original recording on-camera," Boyle says. "I
didn't want to do that because there are so many technicalities. It's virtually
impossible to get music performed live to sound any good because of background
noise. Going out of time, out of tune, so many different things that can go
wrong. I was convinced by Himesh's performance in the audition that we had to
record him live. I'd heard him step up in front of me and just play 'USSR,' and
I thought his doing that was the film right there.
"That's the way these songs must work," continues Boyle. "Otherwise, it'll be
great for hardcore Beatles aficionados, but for everybody else it will just be
like a karaoke film. I hate when actors mime, even though they've worked out how
to do it brilliantly these days. I feel it's like an act of miming dialogue. Why
would you do that? You need to believe that this moment is happening to that
person now for you to witness."
For Boyle, there was only one sound man in the business who could deliver the
Olive performance he was after. That man was SIMON HAYES, whose work on Les
Miserables earned him an Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing.
"To call Simon a 'sound recordist' doesn't do him justice," Boyle says. "He's
a kind of engineer on a physics level. He gathers this army of people and
technology, and somehow makes live recording possible. When you're playing live
without a click track, timing changes. You can't use one take, and you can't
just switch from one take to another. It's very difficult. So, you've got to
make sure each version has been brilliantly recorded because that might be the
only version that works in the film.
"The success of Simon's work is essential to the success of the film," Boyle
adds. "Simon bringing the precision of the recording to these songs, and
Daniel's arrangements all working through this prism that was Himesh, was the
way to do it. They didn't force things on Himesh; they worked through him and
let us bring him to people...which they did to an incredible technical level."
After reading the script, Hayes knew there would be challenges in achieving
Boyle's vision, but he wasn't going to let practicalities stand in the way of
perfection. "I counted 24 music cues through the film, from little busking
scenes in the street corner to the big stadium gigs at Wembley, all of which we
were going to record live, so it was pretty daunting," Hayes says. "Danny's
approach is all about the performance; that's what we were there to catch. What
we don't try and do with any of the equipment, or any of the technical sides of
things, is stand in the way of that performance and that storytelling.
"It's been a huge responsibility, being able to cover all this live," Hayes
adds. "You have various issues on the set, keeping everything quiet, but what
you get is this amazing energy."
Hey Dude, Don't Be Afraid
Patel Becomes a Beatle
In addition to finding his character, Patel had to study The Beatles' songs, not
only how to play them but how to perform them for a huge crowd. "Learning the
songs was a daunting prospect for me," Patel says. "I had been teaching myself
guitar for about 10 years, but there's only so far you can get when you teach
While the building blocks were there, Patel had a serious amount of prep and
homework to do before stepping in front of the camera. Luckily, the actor was in
the good hands of composer Pemberton and music producer Ilhan.
"Adem and I spent two months learning the songs," Patel says. "He was always
supportive and instilled the confidence in me that I needed. It was fun to not
only learn some of the best songs ever written, but also make them our own in a
way. Adem instilled in me the confidence that I needed to do what I had to do-Wembley
Stadium, Latitude, play to 6,000 people on Gorleston beach-crazy situations in
which I get to do this thing I've always wanted to do, which is to play music in
front of people. I did it, thanks to Adem and the amazing people that he brought
to the team. Without his help, I wouldn't have ended up doing what I'm doing.
That confidence has been something that I'll take forward with me."
Ilhan was impressed with Patel's natural musical abilities. "What we worked
on was getting those things fine-tuned to particular songs," says the music
producer. "He's got great raw materials for it. His voice is bright and strong,
and he can play guitar, so we just shaped what was already there."
Yet, there's a massive difference between being able to sing and being able
to perform in the sort of environment where one must do multiple takes. "The
health of the voice has to be strong," Ilhan says. "But it's also about allowing
Himesh control over the voice, as well as about how to play guitar and sing at
the same time and working with his confidence and self-awareness of what his
voice is and can be. It's got to feel second-nature and completely natural.
Himesh worked incredibly hard, day after day, to get to that point. If everyone
assumes that what they see on screen is natural, then that's job done.
"But a big thing we had to be wary of, especially in this environment, was
that he's playing a character and a character has a role to do," Ilhan
continues. "There are lots of ways we could work to make his voice stronger or
more powerful-or with a greater range or more accurate-but with every step you
go toward that you compromise the character of the voice. Himesh has a beautiful
character to his voice; it's bright, and it cuts through very well. But remember
he's playing someone who's not doing well. He's not got 'something'. That
'something' is missing, which becomes the songs. Even with the great songs, it
takes a while for it to come through. We wanted him to come across as someone
who could sing and perform-someone who had the potential to do this."
Patel was given very little time to ease into the task of singing for Boyle's
cameras. The first two days of the shoot involved busking on the streets of
Clacton-on-Sea, singing Jack's songs and performing "Let It Be" at The
Reedcutters Pub in Cantley. "It was a bit nerve-wracking," Patel admits. "That's
why I messed it up a couple of times."
The performer is referring to getting some of the piano chords wrong during a
take of "Let It Be" as the nerves got the better of him-although that was
perfect for his character. After all, wouldn't Jack feel nervous about singing
one of The Beatles' most iconic songs for the first time, especially to a crowd
who has never heard of The Beatles before? "It's true, especially playing this
song that everyone should know, but they don't, and he does," says Patel. "He's
almost waiting for someone in the audience to go, 'You didn't write that,' so
he's bound to be a bit nervous."
That's quite a few plates for an actor to keep spinning: the performance of
playing and singing the songs while being Jack at the same time. "It's a bit of
a weird juggling act, but it's fun," Patel says. "You learn the song as best you
can, and then make it part of your personal story. What does it mean to Jack to
sing that at that moment? Why has he picked that song? Of all the songs he could
remember, why has that one come into his head? Is it because it is famous or
because it means something to him?"
If all that musical-prep work was stressing Patel out, he didn't let it show.
Much. "Himesh did step up," commends Boyle. "He's a very modest guy, and he
would only talk about his nervousness in performing. I always felt he was so
relaxed during the songs. Whatever stress he was feeling about playing the main
scenes, he home banked so much by the performance of the songs that it relaxed
him in the rest of the role. He didn't get much time off. He'd be preparing the
songs and practicing the songs while doing everything else films require of you.
This was an endless call on his time and much repetition. But he was way ahead
already because of his touch with the songs."
Patel considers it an honor to bring the music of the Fab Four to a new
generation. "My mum's favorite song is 'Imagine,'" the actor says. "She fell in
love with it when she first came to England, so I discovered The Beatles through
her early in my life. This film serves as an introduction to a lot of young
people who haven't had the privilege of listening to The Beatles. Both people
who are diehard fans and those who are new to the music will appreciate the film
for different reasons, but it affirms the magic of their music for all
Jack's Home Town
Another indisputable star of the film is Yesterday's principal location,
Suffolk, and its borders. Central to Jack's emotional journey, it's where the
film begins and ends, both literally and metaphorically. This is not the first
time Curtis has set a story in Suffolk, but it is the first time he's been able
to lens there. "I wrote About Time about Suffolk," the writer/producer says. "It
all took place in a house by the sea, but we just couldn't find the right house,
so we had to move the whole thing to Cornwall. It's quite nice this time we've
been allowed to set it in the place it was written about.
"This is a place we know well," continues Curtis. "I write in a little room
facing out toward the creek at the beach and the sea. To some extent, there's a
lot of Ed Sheeran in the story, as he comes from here. We love the accents and
the names. This is very much where I wanted to set the film. It's a little part
of England that you wouldn't expect a massive popstar like Ed to come from, had
it not happened to him. I also felt that I knew it. But what is interesting-when
Danny came on board-is that he said we've really got to get to know it. He
wanted to spend a lot of time here, hang around and get a feeling for it. In the
process of his searching for perfect locations, it spread much further than the
little world I was describing."
The film ended up being shot all along the east coast of England, starting
with Clacton-on-Sea and reaching all the way up to Gorleston-on-Sea. "Danny
wanted to understand Suffolk and whilst Richard showed him around, Danny went
for the harder-edged 'Danny Boyle' Suffolk rather than Richard's softer side of
Suffolk," producer Bevan says.
"Much of the story is set in the more rural areas of Suffolk with an obvious
connection with Ed," adds Boyle. "There are very beautiful beaches around there,
but they're not just picturesque; they feel a bit more interesting than that to
me. It was wonderful to be able to put it at the seaside but not just picture
it. I wanted to drag it more toward the towns, like Lowestoft in Suffolk and
Gorleston in Norfolk, just south of Great Yarmouth. These amazing towns are a
bit forgotten, really. Gorleston's got an amazing history. It was huge in
Edwardian times, like Brighton. It was the place. Yet, it's fallen off the
The locations Boyle chose had a quirkiness that juxtaposed Curtis' vision of
picturesque Suffolk with an edgier undercurrent of Boyle realism, an example of
which can be seen in The Reedcutters Pub scene where we see Jack play. "It's a
lovely little pub which has this extraordinary sugar-refining factory in the
background," Curtis says. "It becomes a more definitive version of what I
The screenwriter's collaborators appreciated having a local tour guide at the
ready. "I lived in a little cottage on the seafront in Walberswick," James says.
"Richard has a house there and is basically the King of Suffolk, so he was able
to let us into his world and show us around the beautiful town. There's a
different pace of life and a sense of community in Suffolk that translated over
to the film."
For Sheeran, filming where he grew up proved to be a double-edged sword. "On
one side, it's nice to have this little secret beautiful space," he says, "but
it's also nice to show it off on a global scale like we did in the film."
Location supervisor CAMILLA STEPHENSON was tasked with finding locations that
captured the realism Boyle was striving to capture. "Danny was very clear, from
my first meeting with him, that he didn't want 'chocolate-box' locations,"
Stephenson says. "But he wanted to be true to the script, so we started looking
at places on the east coast that had a harder edge-working docks, factory HQs.
By choosing Gorleston, we've got an Edwardian seaside town that's charming but
also has a real edge with very busy working docks. He wanted it real but didn't
want it gritty. He absolutely didn't want anything grim. Danny wanted to see the
beauty, but not the quaint, English village prettiness."
Two crucial scenes take place at the Pier Hotel on the beach at Gorleston-on-Sea.
In a flashback scene that takes place before his accident, Jack and Ellie show
up at the Pier Hotel for a gig, only to discover that it has been closed for
three months. "Jack's been planning his running order and song list with great
care and in the end, he just doesn't get to play one song," Curtis says. "A year
later, when he's suddenly the most successful person in history, we decided we'd
have him perform on the other side of the hotel on this balcony looking over
this beach. He's never had a crowd of more than 17 people, and suddenly he's got
a crowd of 5,000 people. We also loved the idea of it being on the roof because
there's the reference to The Beatles playing on the roof of Apple when they
played 'Get Back' and 'Don't Let Me Down.'"
Boyle elaborates, "Jack goes out on the rooftop and actually returns 'Help!'
to its roots. It's a cry of despair, a cry for help, not just a catchy pop tune.
Jack hammers out a cry of real pain with the band in a glorious-punk version.
That is one of the lovely ways that Himesh not only rebirthed but reimagined the
songs without them being forced; he was very honest and true to the story of his
position and that time. This was all filmed at the Pier Hotel, working port
behind with ships coming and going, giving a fitting industrial landscape to
that song." And an elegant echo to the early lives of the Fab Four themselves.
"The lads did also come from a great industrial port, after all," Boyle says.
Patel explains just how the pivot happens: "The Pier Hotel performance is a
key moment in the film because it showcases the lie that Jack has been telling.
Jack realizes that he's lost Ellie, that he lied to his parents and is at a
complete loss. When he steps out onto the roof, he's not only singing the song
'Help!,' he's screaming out for help during his lowest moment."
Return to Liverpool
Where The Beatles Were Born
The production returned to Liverpool for a few scenes where Jack flees L.A.
on the eve of his album debut to try and connect with the spirit of The Beatles
in their own hometown. "It's weird for him going to Liverpool because he's kind
of stealing the songs," Boyle says. "But the connection that you have between a
songwriter's gift and their hinterland-all the texture and culture that feeds
into and produces the music. Jack just goes and piggybacks onto it. I guess you
can forgive him because there is a danger that the songs will be forgotten, and
he's returning them to the people. It felt right to return to Liverpool to film
it in a way that made it look as though The Beatles had never existed. That's
tough in Liverpool because they're very proud of The Beatles." He laughs, "We
did have to do a bit of digital erasing!"
The filmmakers scouted Strawberry Fields months before production started,
ear-marking the now-iconic location as a filming location, but when they arrived
to shoot there, the fields, aside from the heavily graffitied gates, had
literally been demolished.
"It was poignant," Boyle says. "These memories are very specific to
Liverpool. There's another scene where Jack hears my personal favorite Beatles
song, 'Hello Goodbye' in the Mersey Tunnel. I think those things will only mean
stuff to the people of Liverpool, but I'm proud of that. There's a couple of
things in the film that will just be bewildering to the rest of the world, but
they survive because the connection with the town is more important than
comprehension around the world. So, they'll know."
Wembley, Latitude and L.A.
Additional Filming Locations
In addition to Suffolk and Liverpool, the production also shot at Wembley
Stadium, the Latitude Festival and in Los Angeles, where Jack finds himself
entering an entirely different world from the one he is used to. After shooting
in cool Suffolk, the L.A. weather was a bit of shock to the cast and crew. "It
was unbelievably hot," Curtis sighs. "We'd been down to Venice Beach, the
Pacific Highway and the palm trees, The Beverly Hills Hotel and Sunset
Boulevard. A definitive L.A. day. It was 40 degrees [Celsius] and we'd been
shooting a taxi with a Russian Arm, which is where you have this huge camera
mounted on a car behind that can go behind or beside or in front. So, we had
been in a car in a heat storm."
The crew was in L.A. for seven days in which time they shot at the Cooper
Wave House, the talent agency WME and the W Hotel. "Obviously, we associate L.A.
with the movie industry, but it's a big part of the music industry as well,"
Curtis says. "That's the hub of Debra's empire, where Jack abandons himself."
The stunning Cooper Wave House, on Malibu Beach, comes to symbolize the
radical turn Jack's life has taken. "At the start of the film, Jack and Ellie
are walking down Frinton-on-Sea Beach in Essex, with its classic, British beach
huts on stilts," production designer Patrick Rolfe says. "Suddenly, in Malibu,
Jack's faced with these amazing houses on stilts. We're showing how much his
world has turned upside down."
It's in L.A. where the "marketing meeting of meetings" takes place, in which
Jack's new record company presents Jack with the concept, look, messaging and
marketing plan for his debut album in a massive high-tech conference room. "The
head of marketing of the record company is played by this wonderful comedian
LAMORNE MORRIS, who was glorious in a sitcom I love called New Girl, with the
great Zooey Deschanel," Curtis says. "We were just so lucky. We got a really
good performer in to do one day...in what I hope will be one of the best scenes in
That record-company scene was shot in a meeting room at the venerable talent
agency WME, thanks to Boyle's relationship with the firm. His longtime agent,
Robert Newman, is a partner there. "Robert, who's been with me since the start,
got us to film in the 'marketing meeting of meetings' room," Boyle says. "This
is this glorious example of power housing all these talents, all these agents,
gathered together to try and change the course of history, literally in front of
you. We shot it there and we had to shoot it very quickly. We could only get a
day, and Lamorne was outstanding. We couldn't have done it without him because
it's basically just a big speech from him with everybody just aghast and
Adds Curtis, "Lamorne delivered in spades. He had a monologue that day and he
monologued it about 50 times. He was brilliant. There were some funny props
because they tried to design album covers, which Jack had suggested, but you can
imagine how boring the cover of 'Abbey Road' is, which is just a picture of
Abbey Road and how bad the cover of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' is
because it's got a lot of peppers on it and hearts."
Morris was happy to do it. "Danny allowed all the actors to have a lot of
freedom, and he trusted our judgment," the actor says. "It was interesting to
watch how he adjusted the shots to make them unique."
That scene played through the roof when the filmmakers screened it for the
execs at Universal Pictures. "When Universal saw that scene they loved it
because they said they have meetings exactly like it," Boyle says. "It was funny
when we sat in a cinema watching them watch the film. They went mad at that bit,
roaring with laughter because we had these electronic blinds coming down and
that's what they do in their meetings as well, to focus everybody, and add a bit
of drama so it feels very important. That was a very entertaining ingredient in
the film. It's a lovely bit of comic writing by Richard and a great performance
When it came to Patel, his return to the City of Angels was a bittersweet
one. "I was seven years old when I first went to L.A. with my mum, and I wanted
to go to the Hollywood sign but wasn't able to," Patel says. "All these years
later, we shot a scene at the top of the Hollywood sign with a beautiful view
across all of L.A. I texted my mum saying, 'I got here eventually.'"
THE PRODUCTION DESIGN
21st Century Mod
Channeling 1960s Style
The contemporary look of Yesterday is inspired by the 1960s when The Beatles
rocketed to fame and changed the course of music history. The location at
Gorleston-on-Sea, with is Ocean Bingo amusement arcade lit up in bold reds and
oranges, harkens back to classic John Hinde and Martin Parr photographs of the
"We've tried where possible to keep it in the '60s vibe," production designer
Rolfe says. "In the Suffolk element of the shoot, we brought back the Sgt.
Pepper's colors, the faded look of Martin Parr beach world and John Hinde.
Wherever possible, we tried to get it in without being too obvious. We used
accent colors in cushions and curtains, trying to subliminally keep that feel.
It gave Suffolk a kind of faded beauty, almost like a Wild West, a seaside town
that has seen better days. We kept a slightly retro feel to the look and then
used Beatles' references, and then found a way to bring that into the
contemporary world, all while keeping that essence of the '60s."
When Jack transitions from the sleepy world of Gorleston-on-Sea into life in
Los Angeles, the color palette and visual tone change. "In terms of his props,
we tried to use a modern/retro feel," Rolfe says. "As Jack gets more into the
groove of becoming The Beatles and gains in confidence, his look becomes
stronger, the colors more vibrant. When he gets plucked out of his world and
dropped into L.A., we could be a little bolder."
The Beatles' iconography proved to be a constant source of inspiration. For a
press conference Jack holds for the debut of his album, Rolfe created a
symmetrical blue backdrop behind him. "We found a nice reference from The
Beatles in Japan, which had this lovely backing behind them," Rolfe says. "We
are bringing that into our world." The color alone screams Fab Four. "We try to
keep those colors going through in the domestic environments, choosing colors on
the walls to represent those colors, but with the feel that they've been
battered by age and the elements. We've taken it right back and dialed back the
very vibrant color of their Sgt. Pepper's suits."
The Fab Four even inspired the look of the cover of Jack's debut album, "One
Man Only." The double-album cover features both a selfie and a dramatic tight
shot of the back of Jack's head. In fact, the images are a direct reference to a
famous self-portrait Paul McCartney took in a mirror as The Beatles were
beginning to take over the world, as well as one paying homage to John Lennon
with the final image of the credits to the movie A Hard Day's Night.
From Drab to Fab
Jack's Style Evolution
References to The Beatles are also woven into the fabric of Jack's costumes,
which become more sophisticated and dapper as the film progresses, and as he
transitions from boy-next-door drab to sleek rising star. Jack's journey from
his humble Suffolk beginnings to showcasing stadium concerts and rolling around
L.A. was quite a trip for costume designer Liza Bracey. "We see a change in
Jack," Bracey says. "He starts off just a Suffolk busker in a uniform of
T-shirts and checkered shirts, but as the film progresses and he gets more into
the whole Beatles thing...we make him take on a bit of a Paul McCartney look."
Although, to be accurate, there is no singular McCartney look. Over the
decades, the icon's style has constantly shifted. "There's thousands of pictures
of McCartney wearing all sorts of different clothes," Bracey says. "He doesn't
do one thing, so designing for Jack, it meant extracting bits from everything
that was available and putting it all together. It was our mission to find looks
that hopefully have a sense of Paul McCartney about them."
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