Interview with Nigel Sinclair, the producer of the recent Beatles movie “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years” by phone about decisions involved in the making of the film and the Beatles' involvement.
The film will be released on :
AXS: How did you approach the film?
Nigel Sinclair: I approached it first of all by talking to my to my friend Ron Howard and asking him if he would like to make a documentary about the Beatles.
AXS: So you were the person who brought Ron Howard into this?
NS: Yes, I worked with him on the movie 'Rush' and we came to know each other. I said to him, 'Ron, do you like the Beatles?' And he said, 'Everybody likes the Beatles. What a funny question.' And I said, 'Well, the reason I'm asking is I'm about to make a documentary at the request of Apple, the Beatles company, and therefore, indirectly the Beatles themselves, and I wondered if you have any interest in doing a documentary. Have you ever done a doc? And he said, 'No, I haven't. Actually, he went on to do one after that, called 'Made in America.' But he said, 'Sounds interesting.' Course, the rest you know. He came on board and he did this brilliant film.'
AXS: Was it difficult to tell the story?
NS: I think what was a challenge, not difficult, was to find something completely fresh to tell tell a story that was familiar. And I know Ron and I and the other producers, Scott Pascucci and Brian Grazer, we wrestled with that. We were very lucky to have Mark Monroe, a writer who has achieved great things in documentaries on our writing team. He's won Oscars for all sorts of things. And Paul Crowder, the editor. And what happened is Ron and Paul and Mark and I became a little caucus group working out the story. Ron wanted three or four things he declared at the beginning. He wanted to figure out how the Beatles worked as a team and how it worked between them. He wanted to figure out what the impact had on their journey and their decisions being cramped together in, as he put it, this space capsule called the Beatles. How did that affect their decisions that they were in hotel rooms together so much for these three or four years? And, of course, the answer is it got them to write great songs. The other thing we all wanted to do was to document what we called rather portentously a millennial approach to storytelling, which was to answer not what happened because people know what happened. So many people and reviewers say they know and they've seen every Beatles film and they know all about it. But to go on to the question of why did this happen? Why was this so explosive? Why did the Beatles appeal to so many people? What is the why of this, not the what? I think we feel we achieved that in the film, at least beginning to answer that question, which cultural historians will struggle with for another hundred years.
AXS: You answered what was to be my next question about what was the most challenging part of the film?
NS: I can amplify that if I may. The hardest part of the film for us was to come to terms with the fact that the film is about their touring, which is so triumphant and glorious and at the end of the story, they actually leave touring and choose to retire from at least the stage side of public life and go into the studio. And as we dug a bit deeper and we interviewed Paul and Ringo and we looked at the footage, what we found was that they felt actually, because they were such a strong collective unit together, that if they didn't stop touring, they wouldn't survive as a group because it was becoming so rugged. And the disconnect between their touring lives and their studio lives was becoming more and more apart. And then actually, the challenge of how to bring the film to an end. As you know, we have them going to the studio and have them record 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club', an album which becomes voted the greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone four years ago something like 46 years after it's recorded. Which endures to this day as one of the great masterworks of popular culture music. And that was actually the butterfly. We actually said in our outlying notes that we gave to Apple this is really the butterfly leading the chrysalis. The chrysalis like incubating the butterfly was going on tour, being locked in hotel rooms together. And very much in each other's pockets. And they go to the studio and they start to flower as men and diversify, which is a good thing and become more different people. And that feeds its way into the music, because it goes from one genius album to the next. So that for us we were really anxious how to bring the film to a conclusion. And when that worked out, we actually felt, 'Eureka, we figured this out.'
AXS: Why was the original concept of using a lot of fan footage changed?
NS: Actually, there's quite a bit of fan footage in there. The fan footage taken from the audience, with the movie cameras of 1964 and 1965 and 1966. They had limited batteries and they were 8mm. And in fact, they were over somebody's shoulder. It's not, actually, that much fun to watch. And as Ron wanted to tell a story, you know, there are places like, in Australia, where they're doing, I think it's 'You Can't Do That,' there's some color footage taken by a fan jumping around. The stuff in Stockholm is fan footage. George singing 'Roll Over Beethoven.' And we have quite a bit of fan footage. The whole Candlestick sequence. All of that footage is from fans, so-called bootlegs from fans. The sort-of fan footage from the audience wasn't going to carry the story. So we used it where it helped us move the story along. But of course we have some great performances which people may have seen. They've not seen 'Can't Buy Me Love' the way we've got it there on the screen with the sound fixed and, in fact, we colorized it. But we used the fan footage where we could. There's about 18 pieces of not before seen footage in this film.
AXS: You mentioned the colorized material. Was any of that in color that you did not colorize or did you colorize everything that was shown?
NS: The Manchester songs 'She Loves You' and 'Twist and Shout' were already colorized. They were shot in some fancy 35 mm.
AXS: That was for a newsreel thing, wasn't it?
NS: It was for a Granada TV special, yeah. They only did those two songs, actually. They did them a number of times. We were given the originals stems from the stems from the sheet. There were a few cameras. And Paul Crowder, our editor, re-copied it and we mixed the sound much more clearly and successfully. The footage like when they're going down to the Cavern it looks like we colorized that but that's actually natural color footage. And the second half of the film most of the footage in color was naturally in color. We colorized. Ron had a rule to colorize anything where they might have actually been a color camera there. So we transgressed that ruling in one place because that we felt that with the Washington D.C. concert we did an experimental test on it just because the company that was going to colorize we had something around. And when it came back we could see all the details of the cymbals on the edge of the stage. We could see Mal Evans and all these personalities. It goes from 2-D to 3-D. So we made the decision to colorize that, Ron did. And because he brought it to life, people seem to like that. There's a moment when Paul and the Beatles are running into a room from a car and they're getting crushed against the wall. And you can't really see it in black-and-white. So we colorized that. It's only a few seconds, but then you can see quite sharply them being sort of not roughed up but really that it's borderline unacceptable what's happening to them. We wanted the audience to see that so they understood what they were going through.
AXS: That Washington piece really blew me over. It looked good. That was a great job.
NS: We were worked on it and people at the vendor put their heart and souls in to it. I think they felt it was important. So, I feel that was good. We were very excited to hear from Larry Kane the story of them refusing to play the Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, which hasn't been widely reported previously. And then a friend of mine told me he'd read an article in MOJO about a woman who'd gone to that show. I was telling him I'd been working that day on that subject and we'd interviewed Larry Kane. And he said, 'You know I read about a woman who went to that sound. So we tracked down the MOJO article. Took us a long time. Got hold of the journalist that wrote the article. And he wasn't sure how to get a hold of Kitty Oliver. But we did eventually find her. We called her up and said, 'Are you the person who went to the concert?'” We thought, 'Wow, this is really exciting. Historical reconstruction. We brought her into town, interviewed on the same day as we interviewed Ringo Starr, coincidentally, in Los Angeles. And the rest you know. She was there. That was something to see both Paul and Ringo discover this piece of information. That was a humbling experience for Ron and his producers.
AXS: How did Paul and Ringo help you?
NS: Well, first of all they gave two interviews at the beginning of 2015 after we'd done enough research and we some footage where we knew where we were going. And then again, quite recently, in April of this year. And in both interviews, Ron approached it from the point of view that they've now lived another third of their life since the last mash of Beatles interviews which was, of course, the Anthology in 1994, and we very respectfully asked about perspectives and how it's changed having lived another third of their lives. It was very interesting and a more historical appreciation of the magnitude of what we achieved. And Paul has said in the Rolling Stone interview he's comfortable now looking back on the Beatles and thinking this was actually quite amazing. Because he's a lovely man and how did this happen. Both of them in the second interviews, in particular, answered a lot of really detailed questions about how this happened.
AXS: Was it hard to determine which concerts to use and which not to use?
NS: Yes. We had, we called them ten-folds. We had about ten of them and the film was much longer. As it became clear to us that the story was one of survival and one of brotherhood. Really to sort of, to use the jargon, really what the story was, was that the Beatles at an extraordinarily very young age, formed what's call in the fine arts business a collective, an art collective. Which sometimes artists do in the arts, occasionally directors do. But musicians not often. Where it was john's band at the beginning, it became all their bands, particularly when Ringo joined. And it was just really fascinating to see how that unfolded. So I would say that the thing intrigued Ron was the way that more than if you want to use that .. .the thing that intrigued Ron as we discovered it was how much what they did was shaped by the collective nature of the way they operated. They picked their own music. They wouldn't agree to do 'How Do You Do It', they insisted on 'She Loves You.' They picked the running order of songs on their albums. They picked their album covers. They decided what they would play and where they would play it. They decided what their image is. They decided not to change their accents and to become posh London and retained their Scouse Liverpool accents. They decided what they would wear. They were in the way that was completely radical in 1962, 1963. Certainly, '63. They were running their own lives. And the other thing is their whole operation was that they worked together … when you look at them telling jokes, they're not looking at you to see if you're the interviewer and if you think it's funny. They look at each other to see if it's funny. If you watch it, notice they're not interested in what the audience thinks, like at their press conference. They're like the Marx Brothers. They're cracking jokes to each other. The only audience they care about is each other. And what Ringo said to us was 'One of us would get big headed,' he said. 'With all the stuff that was happening, it was impossible not to. And he'd start throwing his weight around and the others would just level him. They'd say, 'Who do you think you are?' That kept us on the level through this entire touring period.' And we thought that was a really interesting and fascinating insight from Ringo.
AXS: What kind of reaction have you gotten so far from the Beatles? Have you talked to them directly?
NS: At the premiere, we were all blessed to talk to them after the film. I spent some time talking to Paul and Ringo. And they were very complimentary about the film. Based on what they told me personally, they liked the film and they told Ron they're very happy with the film. And they promoted it very hard, as you probably have noticed.