‘Hotly contested casting’: James Bond director set to make separate Beatles biopics

A rare version of the Beatles' debit album Please Please Me has been found in a UK charity shop.

A rare version of the Beatles' debit album Please Please Me has been found in a UK charity shop. Photo: Getty

“Have you heard the news? Oh boy,” posted former Beatle Ringo Starr.

The most famous band in the world, The Beatles, are getting the big-screen biopic treatment in not just one film, but a Fab Four of movies that will give each band member their own feature-length story.

The brainchild of British director Sam Mendes – the Oscar-nominated filmmaker of American Beauty, war drama 1917 and two James Bond films, Skyfall and Spectre – the 58-year-old now has a very “hotly contested casting” job to worry about.

Who will play Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Starr is anyone’s guess as the four films are another three years away from a launch date, but there are already contenders floating around on social media.

The Beatles, long among the stingiest rights granters, are giving full life and music rights for a scripted film, announced by Sony Pictures on February 20, in a deal that may dwarf all music biopics that have come before it.

McCartney, Starr and the families of John Lennon and George Harrison all signed off on the project through the band’s Apple Corps Ltd, while Sony Music Publishing controls the rights to the majority of Beatles songs.

“Finding the right actor to play each of them will be nearly impossible because so few people have that rare combination of singing ability, sex appeal, charm and that certain something that separates pop music deities from the merely talented,” writes Variety.

“Expect a hotly contested casting round to bring together the Fab Four,” adds Empire magazine, which suggests Chilean-American star of The Last of Us and Game of Thrones, Pedro Pascal, might audition for Starr.

Which Hollywood star has the clout and theatrical range to play John Lennon, who was shot and killed outside his Manhattan apartment in 1980? Should it be his son, Julian?

“There is only one nose in show business that can match Peace man himself and that is Adrien Brody. Perfect choice for a difficult man,” wrote one Facebook user.

Paul Dano (The Fabelmans), Jacob Elordi (Saltburn, Priscilla) and Kit Connor (Heartstoppers) could also make the shortlist for Lennon, while Irish actor Barry Keoghan (Saltburn, The Banshees of Inisherin), definitely is in the running for George Harrison.

Variety speculates on Spider-Man Tom Holland – “[but] more Spidey sequels could create scheduling conflicts” and he’s probably too expensive, and Billy Elliot‘s Jamie Bell, who is 37.

The Beatles trailer Get Back

Vanity Fair reckons it’s a gamble so crazy it might work. Photo: YouTube

Each film will be from the perspective of a Beatle

As conceived by Mendes with the two surviving Beatles, he says he is “honoured to be telling the story of the greatest rock band of all time, and excited to challenge the notion of what constitutes a trip to the movies”.

He will direct the four theatrical feature films, each one from the individual band member’s point of view.

“Theatrical movie events today must be culturally seismic,” says Sony boss Tom Rothman.

“Sam’s daring, large-scale idea is that and then some. Pairing his premiere filmmaking team, with the music and the stories of four young men who changed the world, will rock audiences all over the globe.”

The Beatles crossing Abbey Road in 1969. Photo: EMI Studios

Biopics are big business

The Beatles’ most famous forays into film were in their early years, appearing in five movies including A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Yellow Submarine (1968).

They have been the subject of documentaries, most recently New Zealand director Peter Jackson’s 2021The Beatles: Get Back, but attempts to dramatise the Beatles’ story have been more sporadic.

There was a 1979 biopic called The Birth Of The Beatles, 1994 indie drama Backbeat, and Nowhere Boy in 2009 which starred Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Lennon.

Vanity Fair says the “upfront commitment to multiple feature films is a risk that doesn’t always pay off”, but it’s not so different from “committing to three Lord of the Rings films” back in the 1990s.

“It also could be a sign of where the movie industry is headed … away from the tangled cinematic universes that have worn us all out and toward what television has been excelling at for over a decade – the limited series.”

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