It’s not quite as difficult as hobbits driving to Mordor to destroy Sauron’s ring, but Peter Jackson‘s undertook four years to bring an end to the long and winding road of life The Beatles. The result is 7 hours The Beatles: Go back, which restored Jackson from 60 hours of studio sessions to a rooftop concert. Everything was shot in 1969 by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for his film let it be at a time when Apple forbade him to contain much that created understanding and context of the group’s creative process and difficulties that led to controversy and separation. A fan of the hits John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison in the Ringo Starr since he was a pint-sized kiwi, Jackson used the technical cleaning process that brought his WWI documentary to life. They will not grow old so that it seems as if you are watching live matches. The film will be released from 25-27. November shown in three parts at Disney +. Here he explains the monumental task and reveals who really broke up the band. Contrary to legend, it was not Yoko.
DEADLINE: Where have you been in your life since you discovered the Beatles, and what did they mean to you then?
PETER JACKSON: I was an only child and grew up in the 60’s. I was born in ’61 and was so alive all the way through the time they released their albums. We had a gramophone thing in [my parents] had a soundtrack album by South Pacific in the Camelot and the mother was a bit of an Engelbert Humperdinck fan. I must love them on radio and television. My first real passion with them was, I saved pocket money when I was 12 or 13 years old. I had gone to town to buy a model airplane, which I had my eyes on and saved. I drove past the record store on my way to the mall and there was a window display for the two albums, the compilation album they put together in the early 70’s. One red and one blue, and I’m dead in my tracks. I had never seen the two photos side by side looking over a balcony. I went inside, I recognized some of the songs and I blew all my pocket money on those two albums. I still have not bought that plane. But I had two Beatles albums, I played them at home, especially when my parents were not there, and I slowly bought all the other albums. So it started for me.
DEADLINE: Beatles mythology has been featured in many books and movies. What convinced you that it was new enough to make it worthwhile in ours?
JACKSON: There was obviously enough footage to do incredible things. I just wanted to take a look at the footage due to the reputation of the period in the Beatles career, the so-called Let It Be Period. It was considered the breakup album. I wanted to see the footage. If it was all miserable, arguments and fights, if it was all that Michael Lindsay Hogg should not put in his film, I thought, my God, what horror would I see here?
DEADLINE: What did you find?
JACKSON: Exactly the opposite. It’s no secret really. The split in Michael’s film took place in 1970, and this one was shot in January ’69, so it was filmed 15 months earlier. Michael made his film from exactly the footage I made. I had 60 hours of footage and 130 hours of audio. It was a big job that took me four years. At the end of January, Michael disappears with the footage and he has to edit his film. The Beatles do not want to release the album until the movie is released side by side. The Beatles, while waiting for the movie, make the Abbey Road album that will be released later, and shortly after Abbey Road break it up. Unfortunately for Michael, terrible timing. His film got this breakup rush unfairly plastered everywhere. I saw let it be lately. It’s not a breakup movie; Human psychology is what it is, everyone projects the abortions they have read in newspaper headlines onto their film. It did not do the film any good at all. To see the original footage, it has drama, it is not all game. They set out to carry out a project that involved a long journey. It goes off the rails, there is a pear shape and they try to figure out what to do. On the other hand, comes the best drama of things going wrong. I was lucky as a narrator that it was not all smooth; otherwise the movie would have been a lot more boring than it turned out. There were crises, and that showed who the Beatles really are. What better way to show who people really are, than to deal with different kinds of crazies? And that’s what you see here.
DEADLINE: Was it an extraordinary surprise that struck you and needs to tell you this story?
JACKSON: Not in the beginning because it was the peak of 60 hours and you do not really know what the story is. You watch it and it’s 60 hours of incredible things. We had to grab and find the story. The story is usually contained in scripts and this was real life, and there is a period not very precisely written. It has a notorious reputation that is actually false. It is difficult to find an exact account. I had to listen and make my own determination what the story was and show, day by day. It’s 22 days of Michael filming, the whole of what was called the Get Back Project, which became Let It Be 15 months later. I wanted the audience to experience it like the Beatles did. They did something on Tuesday without knowing that on Thursday everything would go wrong. We very much live their experience next to them. That’s ultimately the movie I made in the end.
DEADLINE: What connective tissue did you find between the process your creative team went through to edit great movies, and what you observed the Beatles go through as they created from scratch what becomes a classic album?
JACKSON: It’s friendship, and trust. I often thought that when we write the scripts I did with Fran [Walsh] and Philippa [Boyens], You get to a point where you do not have to press on the teeth around the feelings or ego of the people. You’re just three people, and if you come up with an idea that’s not very good, you can just say it’s not going to work and you’re going to move on together. The other thing is, it’s great when there are three people and in this case four Beatles. If someone holds on, someone else has an idea. It may not be the right one, but it may trigger a different idea. You see pretty much the same thing on screen with The Beatles. It’s pretty much the same deal.
DEADLINE: What was the most helpful observation you got from either Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles members?
JACKSON: A comment from Paul that I was glad to hear … I was not there and I had a lot to compress. I could have twisted it one way or another, and when Paul saw it, he said, yes, you caught exactly who we were at that time of our lives. He recognized his three fellow citizens and had no problems with the way I showed them in the end. What I tried to do with the utmost honesty. I did not mucked or did any stupid tricks to do to anyone other than who he was then.
DEADLINE: How was it for them to see what you did? John was abruptly taken from them, and George left as well. Were they emotional?
JACKSON: Paul said something interesting. In the end, they climbed onto the roof to perform. The three in the front row and the Ringo behind. He said something about I did not think. He said: “When I was performing with the Beatles, John was next to me, but I could not study the others. I can now see how John played, how his fingers moved. I can study like George and seeing Ringo play what he could not because Ringo was after him.He liked to see his bandmates doing their thing.Even though he played hundreds of hours with those guys, he could not see what they were doing.
DEADLINE: In the footage I saw, Yoko Ono is omnipresent. She’s quiet, but always by John Lennon’s side. The rest seemed to accept that she was there, they did not talk much to her. What did she bring to John that helped him? We’re always heard that Yoko broke up the band. What you think?
JACKSON: Yoko did not break the band. The band broke up over disagreements, with Allen Klein coming in to conduct their business affairs. With whom Paul did not agree. The Beatles have always been a band that always had a hard and fast rules that there are four voices, or it does not happen. If the four disagreed, it would not happen, it had to be unanimous. For the first time in the history of the Beatles, there were three votes against one. John, George and Ringo wanted to bring in Allen Klein to run their business, and Paul did not and they said, well Paul, Allen Klein is coming in because we are three votes and you are one vote. Paul tried to beat it and they did too, but it pushed a wedge between them and so the band broke up. It has nothing to do with Yoko.
Yoko comes in and does not disturb. She does not express opinions, she is quiet. She’s there because she’s in love with John. There is no other complicating factor for it. John has to go to work and disappear for 12 hours, and he does not want to disappear from here. So she comes and sits next to him. It’s love, nothing more complicated than that. She is very respectful. She does not talk to them because engaging would take their thoughts from work at hand. When she starts chatting with them, it is a disturbing force and she is very respectful. She sits there, she knits, she reads books. Because they are focused on their work, they do not talk to her, but she is just in love with John. And she is very respectful. And she told Paul to go solo or give George advice, that’s not who she is and was. That’s what I’ve collected from the footage.
DEADLINE: An They will not grow old, You took this dirty footage of men who fought WWI and brought it to life. What has this technology allowed you to do here with this 50-plus-year-old footage?
JACKSON: I had different approaches before me. I could have interviewed all the people who were there in 1969 and are now here. You have Ringo, Paul, Michael Lindsay Hogg who shot the original footage. I took the opposite approach. I did not want to be discussed about that 50 year void. I had always fantasized as a Beatle fan that before I died, someone would invent a time machine. And if I got my trip in a time machine, I would go back and see how the Beatles work. This was my opportunity. So I took those 50 years off; no interviews after the fact. It’s like we’re at the heart of the studio watching the Beatles. That was my dream, and to bring it to life, I had to let go of all traces of a movie. I had to clean the 16mm negative. Make it sharp, make it clear, get rid of scratches. Really you’ve got the whole curtain off and you’re all there with the Beatles. They tell their own story. I let her rough conversations inform her. They talk about what to do, what plan b will be. It does not need a narrator. Her private conversations from 1969 are enough for us to follow the story.