Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis’ new film “Yesterday” imagines a world where The Beatles never got together and became one of the most successful music acts in history. Curtis’ script does not wipe Beatles members Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison out of existence, which leaves the door open for a third act shocker when lead character Jack (Himesh Patel) comes face to face with an elderly John Lennon, who is living the long and peaceful life he never got to in real life.
Boyle said he was taken aback by the decision when he was reading Curtis’ script for the first time, but the ability to resurrect Lennon for “Yesterday” ultimately proved to the director the inspiring way “cinema, above all art forms, deals with and changes time.” As Boyle told USA Today, “Somebody’s life was robbed and movies can give him back to us, just for a moment. And I love that about movies.”
The resurrection of John Lennon has proven to be the most divisive moment in “Yesterday.” Boyle said the twist is the one that polarized fans most during test screenings. “Some people that don’t like it at all,” the director said. “But other people like it enormously. We call it a ‘Marmite scene’ in Britain. It divides people very clearly.”
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One person who does approve is Ringo Starr, as does the late George Harrison’s wife Olivia. “We sent everyone the finished film,” Boyle said, “and we got a lovely message from Ringo and Barbara [Bach], and a lovely message back from Olivia [Harrison], George’s widow. I don’t think Paul’s seen the film yet but he saw and liked the trailer.”
As for the actor playing John Lennon, that will remain a mystery for now. The actor and the character are not listed in the “Yesterday” end credits, and Boyle was adamant the film not make a larger deal out of the moment than was necessary.
“We worked very, very hard to make sure it remained a very pure moment,” Boyle said. “I know the actor – and this wasn’t the reason for casting him – but I also knew that he was a John Lennon fan. He knew more than any of us about John. That was wonderful, because it was a proper reverence and respect, really. The only thing he asked was that he didn’t want a credit…to try and avoid drawing attention to it in any way other than its appearance in the story.”