Talk about jumping in feet first! Director Sam Taylor-Wood makes her debut with the phenomenal film, Nowhere Boy a story about the formative teenage years of the legendary John Lennon. The film is clearly not a documentary, but a slightly fictional, probably realistic look at the forming of The Beatles — that is without EVER mentioning the bands name. Taylor-Wood focuses on the man behind the music, depicting Lennon just shy of 18. The film stars up and coming British actor Aaron Johnson (read review), followed closely by Kristin Scott Thomas and Ann-Marie Duff.
Check out our interview with Sam Taylor-Wood below…
Was is daunting making a film about some of the most famous people that have ever lived and some of which who are still alive and there to judge you?
Sam Taylor-Wood: Yes, it was daunting. I actually felt stupidly naïve until the point I stepped into Liverpool – which is then when I felt stupidly naïve. Because I had just gone at thing a bit gun-go – a great script, great story, it’s about Lennon, it’s a coming of age story. But stepping foot in Liverpool, it was, like, “okay, I’ve taken on something really big, and I haven’t talked about it. I’m a stupid idiot for thinking that this is just going to be straight forward” – from that point I realized I was carrying the weight of a large icon.
Can you talk about casting people that embodied the characters more than looking like the real life people?
STW: The thing that I felt was most important was that they could embody the spirit and soul of each character, and not have feel like they were mimicking or impersonating. It was really about finding the best actors who could take you on that journey, and you believed them. It didn’t matter that they looked slightly different, because you’re never going to get the match. When you look at the early pictures of Lennon and McCartney they don’t look like the Lennon and McCartney that we know… it was more about finding the people who had the right ability to take on that role and learn guitar and sing. It was a lot for someone to take on – I just had to find people who had the experience to a degree but also the broad shoulders to carry the weight.
Were there ever look-a-likes?
STW: It was sort of fuzzy in the beginning of casting Lennon and McCartney because there were so many doppelgangers that were walking through. It was difficult at first to go, “Do we go with someone who really looks like them? So when they’re on screen you go WOW that really looks like McCartney or Lennon?” But then I had to just go with the obvious choice of them being able to act, and if they embodied the spirit enough, strongly enough, that you’d forget if they look similar or not. You were on that journey and you just believed.
Can you talk about the relationship between John Lennon and his biological mother’s relationship? There’s an odd sexual tension there that taking place, what that true?
STW: The Phillip Norman biography had just come out, and in that biography there was an insert about Lennon saying very provocatively that his mother had come very close to him and he also described what she was wearing and that her breast touched my arm and in that moment I could’ve had her – it was something we couldn’t ignore.
Originally there was another scene – she was in the bedroom getting changed, but it’s not that she’s being provocative in anyway, sort of flirting, it’s more that I wanted to show that she was sort of unconscious of that and he was sort of more uncomfortable. Because for her, she was his mother, but from his perspective this was a new woman that he really didn’t know. And, so, he was in this suddenly uncomfortable scenario where it was all familiar but totally unfamiliar.
So I was trying to play with that a little bit. The reason we cut it out is because it gave away too much of the story too soon – there was a conversation of “why didn’t you come? Where was my dad?” It suddenly gave away too much. It just didn’t have it’s place, and it’s a shame because it was so beautifully played by both Ann Marie and Aaron, it was so delicate – the balance of something like that is so hard to keep. It was actually an incredibly tender scene, but it didn’t feel right.
How important was it for you for this to be a “true” story vs. making some of it fiction in order to help the story?
STW: It was hard from the beginning, one of my biggest realizations as an artists was that I couldn’t be as creative as I’d like to be because I had to stick to the facts.I like to feel that I’ll never let the truth get in the way of a good story m but I had to let the truth get through to this one. I contacted both McCartney and Yoko Ono for as much detail as they would happen to give me. McCartney gave me lots of detail on John’s mannerisms, short sightedness, the conversations, and that was gold dust really. And from Yoko she was much more concerned that Mimi wasn’t demonized because for a lot of people she’d been painted as a slightly formidable dragon type woman. She said you have to remember that John loved Aunt Mimi and Aunt Mimi loved John – and go from there. That really helped a lot in filming those characters.
What did Paul McCartney have to say about Lennon hitting him?
STW: He said “I saw your movie. I don’t remember Lennon ever hitting me.” He said, “I understand it’s a film and not a documentary.” He said “I enjoyed it. I saw it recently” – A friend of mine had gotten married and he was there. I saw him and just went “Ahhh, I’m not here”.
For us, it was really important that The Beatles were never mentioned and never formed. It would’ve distracted from this being just Lennon, and really this being sort of his coming of age story and trying to keep on that path. It was fun playing with the fact that we never mentioned the Beatles. But at the same time acknowledging what Lennon goes onto become by having the Hard Days Night chord right in the beginning just to set everyone’s heart pumping a bit.
How do you think the film will be received differently in the US vs. the UK?
STW: I think it will play differently. I think John Lennon/The Beatles is more of a British approach to it. America is sort of John Lennon, the peace activist and Yoko…having sort of been in audience attended screenings, I’ve snuck into movie theatres to see reactions in Britain and screenings here – it’s significantly different. I feel that here there’s a much warmer reaction in the sense that… I don’t know what it is, but there’s much more laughter than there was back at home. People get those jokes. I don’t know why because they’re sort of fundamentally British – maybe we’re being laughed at and not laughed with.
See Sam’s movie in theaters starting today October 8th in select theaters around the US!
Check out the trailer below…