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Sometimes, in the service of a story like writer Richard Curtis’ Yesterday, big changes have to be made. In some cases, material gets cut before the script goes in front of cameras directed by talent like Danny Boyle. Yesterday certainly had that sort of issue crop up, as Boyle and Curtis worked to drop 20 to 25% of the script in order to enhance other pieces of the narrative.
Because of this, there was one subplot containing an entire character who was cut from the film, despite staying in Richard Curtis’ script and even remaining in the trailer for Yesterday’s theatrical release. It’s her picture you see at the very head of this story, and her name is Roxanne, played by Blade Runner 2049’s Ana De Armas.
Originally, Roxanne would have been the third point of the typical love triangle you’d see in a romantic comedy like Yesterday, coming between the romance of Lily James’ Ellie and Himesh Patel’s Jack Malik. Still, since this is a Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis collaboration, it’s far from typical. And when CinemaBlend got to speak with Curtis about his writing process on the film, he explained the decision to cut Ana De Armas from the film as such:
That was a very traumatic cut, because she was brilliant in it. I mean really radiant. And [that] turned out to be the problem. … I think the audience likes the story [about Ellie and Jack] and goes with that, and it works out well. What we’d originally done was had, I don’t want to describe it too much, but had Ana De Armas as a complicating factor when he arrived in L.A. for the first time. And I think the audience did not like the fact that his eyes even strayed. Because then some people would go, ‘Oh, he really doesn’t deserve her. He really doesn’t deserve Lily.’ You know, it’s one of those things where it’s some of our favorite scenes from the film, but we had to cut them for the sake of the whole.
With a cut like that, you know you would be glad if you’re one of the audience members who really latched onto Ellie and Jack’s romance during Yesterday’s story of love and talent. Describing Ana De Armas’ performance as radiant, you can see how if Richard Curtis left Roxanne in the mix, the central romantic tension between Ellie and Jack would flounder. The way the film plays without Roxanne and Jack’s romantic complication does streamline the romance that buds between the one true pair occupying the center of Curtis’ story.
But with those cuts also came the omission of a joke that Curtis really enjoyed in the film. As he continued to describe the full weight of the Roxanne plot’s deletion, he mentioned this particular a gag that was near and dear to his heart:
Actually, we cut one of my favorite jokes from the film, which my son thought of. Because James Corden used to say, ‘Why don’t you write something right now? I hear you can write things really quickly, write something right now.’ And so he wrote ‘Something.’ [Jack] actually sang the song ‘Something,’ and I was so delighted by that joke. But that was the Ana De Armas scene, so we can’t have that anymore.
If “Something” is one of your favorite Beatles songs, you needn’t fear: it’s still on the soundtrack, and Himesh Patel has actually performed it a couple of times during the promotion of Yesterday. Having seen one such performance during the film’s Tribeca premiere, it is indeed a moment we’d love to see added back into the film.
Though, as promised earlier, you can actually see some of that song’s performance, through one of the deleted scenes from one of Jack’s appearances on James Corden’s show. To fully deliver a happy ending, you also get to see one of Richard Curtis’ favorite jokes from the film, reinstated in the theatrical trailer that sold Yesterday to the world.
To see what we’re talking about, you should skip to 01:57 in the trailer below, and watch through to the 02:16 mark.
Buttoning this whole story of deleting characters and actors from Richard Curtis films came a really funny anecdote involving James Corden himself. Not only did Curtis admit he’d cut him from an episode of a sitcom he’d made in the ‘90s, he also brought up the fact that scenes of his were also cut from his second directorial effort, Pirate Radio. So while Yesterday deleted another character from its total package, at least Corden got his moment this time around.
It’s always interesting to come across instances such as Yesterday where the story process is so openly on display, you can see where the film would have gone if it had taken a certain turn. But at the same time, that sort of thinking also helps one appreciate how the story turns out in the end; especially when the result is as beautiful as Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis telling a story about how the world would change without one key factor.
Though much as almost the entire world forgets The Beatles in Yesterday, only a few will remember Ana De Armas’ Roxanne, and her place in that very world. Quite the fitting irony, once you stop to think about some of the other changes that were made over time.
If you’re worried about how, or if those changes clearly work, you’ll be able to judge for yourself in a short while, as Yesterday will be in theaters in early showings tomorrow.