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Warning: spoilers for Yesterday are in play. If you’re interested in staying away from spoilers, bookmark this story and come back once you’ve seen the film.
Without their hordes of screaming fans and singles like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” climbing the charts in the ‘60s, the four members of that band were never famous; that's a fact we saw play out in the film when Himesh Patel’s Jack Malik met a very much alive John Lennon, played by Robert Carlyle.
But per a recent discussion CinemaBlend had with Richard Curtis, John Lennon was apparently not the only Beatle that was supposed to appear in Yesterday. In fact, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were supposed to also make an appearance, which came out in a story Curtis told me during the film’s press day:
I think George and Ringo were in it at one point. I think [Jack] just ran into them in a pub in Liverpool, and it was rather a sweet scene. And then [Danny Boyle] said, ‘I think that it’ll be diminishing returns. I think we should only play that card once.’ He definitely encouraged me to increase… there was a lot of temperature raising at the end.
That temperature raising that Richard Curtis mentioned is the fact that before he got Danny Boyle to sign on as the director of Yesterday, Boyle wanted about 20-25% of the script to be changed and/or trimmed in the film’s story.
That was one of the many facts mentioned during the film’s Tribeca Film Festival Q&A, which made for perfect conversation during our brief time chatting about Yesterday. In the name of full honesty, it’s an opinion that not only Richard Curtis agreed with, but it’s something I’m totally in line with.
Much like when the Love, Actually writer had to determine how far he could push the gag of what items were missing in the world of Yesterday, figuring out how many Beatles could appear before the effectiveness of their presence wore off was equally important to how much audiences would buy into the world of this particular fantasy-comedy.
Circling back to Danny Boyle’s remark about how that particular card should have only been played once, seeing John Lennon alive and well in the world of Yesterday is such a bittersweet moment, it shatters the heart of the audience. Lennon’s tragic death at the hands of his assailant is one of those pivotal moments in pop culture that defines how a fandom dealt with loss.
While the entire Beatles line-up being just regular joes is an interesting concept, narrowing it to the one member that left way too soon turns the twist into something that earns a lot of emotional real estate in the film. Not to mention, if that one scene with John Lennon divided audiences so sharply, could you imagine how much more polarizing it would have been with another run at that gag?
There are other things that Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis tinkered with in Yesterday, including a moment that was added to give the film’s third act its most romantic moment. All of these choices, be they additions or cuts, make that film into the special product that it currently is today.