Peter Jackson Beatles Documentary

Today marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles‘ final live performance together on the roof of the band’s headquarters at Apple Corps at 3 Savile Row in London. So it’s only appropriate that today also brings news that The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is working on a new documentary about The Beatles.

There have been plenty of documentaries about the British rock sensation known as The Fab Four, with Ron Howard most recently tackling the historic band in a documentary called Eight Days a Week. However, this one will be very different because it will focus on the recording of the band’s final album, Let It Be, and it will feature tons of never-before-seen footage cut from 55 hours of the band working in the studio, something that has rarely been seen on film by the public. 

Let It Be was not the final album that The Beatles recorded together, though it was the last album to be released by the band. The album was recorded in January of 1969, but Abbey Road was recorded later that year. However, the band continued to work on Let It Be, which wouldn’t be released until 1970, after Abbey Road was released in 1969. The acknowledgment of which album is actually The Beatles’ final album is a hot topic of debate among fans.

Whether or not you regard Let It Be as the true final album of The Beatles, this documentary will be something to behold. Rarely have fans been provided an opportunity to see Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr working together in the studio, and this documentary will provide endless footage of that. Peter Jackson says (via Deadline):

“The 55 hours of never-before-seen footage and 140 hours of audio made available to us ensures this movie will be the ultimate ‘fly on the wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamed about – it’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.”

Considering this was late in the game for the band, this might be the best representation of the tension that had risen between the members of the band – they would break up just over a year later in April of 1970. However, don’t expect to see a bunch of footage of the band arguing endlessly. Peter Jackson says the footage actually packs away some of the myth about how tense things were between the band when they recorded Let It Be, as well as the 1970 documentary which shares the same title:

“I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth. After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure-trove. Sure, there’s moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with. Watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating – it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate. I’m thrilled and honored to have been entrusted with this remarkable footage – making the movie will be a sheer joy.”

Paul and John certainly weren’t shy about expressing their distaste for each other in the press, and George had on-and-off arguments with both of them. All of the Beatles ended up providing some kind of commentary on their break-up in the solo work that followed. But it sounds like this won’t dig as much into the gossip about their break-up (which has been covered extensively in the decades since) and will instead celebrate the iconic work of the influential rock band.

The documentary has the full support of surviving Beatles members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison, the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison. It will be executive produced by Ken Kamins for WingNut Films and Jeff Jones and Jonathan Clyde for Apple Corps.

There’s no release date for the Peter Jackson Beatles documentary yet, and it still needs a distributor too, but we’ll keep you posted on that front. Fans can also look forward to a restored re-release of the original Let It Be movie directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg sometime down the road as well.

In the meantime, if you’re anxious to see Peter Jackson’s work as a documentarian a little earlier, his World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old is expanding to a lot more theaters this weekend.

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