Fifty years on from the height of Beatlemania, it continues to generate fascination — as much as, or perhaps even more so, than the Fab Four’s actual music, heretical though that sounds. Three of the four upcoming movies inspired by the Beatles’ global domination of pop culture in the mid-1960s are fan-related.
The first to appear will be “Good Ol’ Freda,” a probable late summer release from Magnolia Pictures. Ryan White’s documentary, which was mostly Kickstarter-funded and premiered at the SXSW festival in March, looks at the Beatles through the eyes of Freda Kelly.
A shy regular at the Beatles’ legendary lunchtime gigs at the Cavern Club on Mathew Street in Liverpool, Kelly became the group’s secretary when she was 17. She lasted 11 years in the job, a year longer than they stayed together, and also ran their fan club.
She is famous for not dishing on them, but shares her anecdotes in the movie. White secured the rights to four Beatles songs for it, including the obscure “Love Letters,” a 1962 hit for Ketty Lester that was written in 1945 by Edward Heyman and Victor Young.
Before they tackle “Pirates of the Caribbean 5,” the “Kon-Tiki” directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Running will film “Beatles” from Axel Hellstenius’s adaptation of Norwegian novelist Lars Saabye Christensen’s 1984 bestseller. As Screen Daily reported in March, the production was enabled by producer Jørgen Storm Rosenberg securing the rights to the Beatles’ music, essential to winning financial support from the Norwegian Film Institute. Shooting is scheduled to start this summer.
Narrated in flashback by an asylum escapee, it tells the story of his and his three best friends’ obsession with the Beatles — each boy adopted a Beatle first-name — and their later travails. It engaged with hippiedom and drugs and the boys’ politicization. Christensen wrote two sequels, “Lead” (1990) and “The Funeral” (2008). The chapters in “Beatles” and “The Funeral” were named for the band’s songs, those in the latter taken exclusively from “Magical Mystery Tour.”
Spanish filmmaker-actor-novelist David Trueba is currently shooting “Vivir es fácil con los ojos carrados.” The title translates as “Living is easy with eyes closed,” the first line of the first verse (following the chorus) of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
Written by Trueba, the story follows a teacher, Antonio (played by Javier Cámara), who uses Beatles songs to instruct his students in English. When he learns that John Lennon is in Almería, where he’s acting in “How I Won the War,” he makes a pilgrimage there to meet him. It was while he was on location for Richard Lester’s black comedy in September and October of 1966 that Lennon began writing “Strawberry Fields.”
En route, Antonio meets a runaway youth (Francesc Colomer) and a troubled young woman (Natalia de Molina). Cineuropa’s item on the film hints that the trio’s interaction is contextualized by the declining years of the Franco regime.
The stars Ariadna Gil and Jorge Sanz will appear in the film, but the cast list posted on IMDb doesn’t include a “John” among the characters. If Trueba plans to introduce Lennon, the movie will be the second to show him in Spain. Christopher Münch’s “The Hours and Times” (1991) is a masterly philosophical meditation, just 60 minutes long, on what passed between Lennon (Ian Hart) and the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein (David Angus), when they took a 12-day vacation in Barcelona in April and May, 1963.
Epstein is meanwhile the subject of “The Fifth Beatle,” Vivak Tiwary’s screenplay and his 130-page Dark Horse graphic novel (illustrated by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker) that will form the basis of the biopic.
The Hollywood Reporter announced in April that Tiwary “has approval to use Beatles music (though not master recordings), including ‘All You Need Is Love,’ ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,’ ‘A Day in the Life,’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ ‘Yesterday,’ ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ ‘Help!’, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money,’ ‘Girl,’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’”