Ron Howard To Direct Beatles Documentary Focused On The British Invasion Years

Ron Howard has been chosen to direct a Beatles authorized documentary focused on the period between 1960 and 1966, known as the British Invasion. During this time the Fab Five, toured 15 countries and 90 cities, performing in 166 shows.

In that time the Beatles became as big as the King, Elvis Presley and left millions of females fans in a frenzy. The last show performed by the Beatles, during this tour was at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966.

According to Deadline, the yet-unnamed film was authorized by the Beatles holding agency Apple Corps Ltd. and will received the full cooperation of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr — the only surviving Beatles –, as well as John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison’s widow Olivia. Even though there is no set release date yet, it is expected that the film will debut sometime next year.

When the Beatles came to the United States for their famous appearance in The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, Ron Howard was 10-years-old and working in the Andy Griffith Show. The Ed Sullivan Show was one of those transcendent events in pop culture that affected many of those who watched it and Howard was no different. He told Deadline:

“Not only did I see The Ed Sullivan Show along with everybody else, the only thing I wanted for my tenth birthday was a Beatles wig, which I got. I’d never thought about bands before, only Elvis. These guys looked and sounded different, and were absolutely explosive to watch. The girls were screaming. It was this flash of genius and uniqueness, but they were also relate-able. Seeing them on The Ed Sullivan Show was right up there with the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, in terms of images from the television set that I’ll never forget, and that were pivot points of what was possible.”

Ron Howard’s documentary will begin with the Beatles’ early performances at the Cavern Club in their hometown of Liverpool, England and follows them through their first shows in Hamburg and the rest of Europe in 1963, prior to coming to America in 1964. The always busy director of Rush is already compiling live footage from the concerts and has been working with Nigel Sinclair, who has produced documentaries about Bob Dylan, The Who, and the Foo Fighters among others.

“There were eight national newspapers, and every one of those papers during that period had a Beatles story on the front page, every day. The Beatles were 22 and 23, and there was no culture of celebrity and stars then. The Beatles pioneered the idea of the meta-celebrity and the idea that so many people could be thinking and feeling the same thing at the same moment, listening to the same record.” Sinclair says about the Liverpool boys.

“What’s so intriguing to me is not only the subject, but the context we can bring to it now,” Ron Howard says. “Not only can we do a study of these touring years, the narrative of an odyssey, we can look at the significance of the Beatles as individuals—as musical geniuses, as societal leaders and their effect on global culture. Dramatically it makes a lot of sense and cinematically, we have a chance to offer a unique experience.”

Ron Howard has had experience with musicals or music focused films before, with his documentary about Jay-Z organizing the Budweiser Music Festival, however, the Beatles film is a completely different animal:

“The focus on the touring years of the Beatles creates a natural narrative shape, and it’s more like an adventure story. These remarkable individuals throw themselves out into the world, on this remarkable journey. At the end, both they and we changed in a lot of ways, but are steadfastly the same in other ways. Looking at it from the perspective of The Beatles as geniuses who are venturing into new territory, at a time of transformation that affected and influenced them, is a remarkable opportunity. Looking at them from our perspective, the difference between an individual from 1960-66 was likely to be very significant. Those are great story lines to be able to follow.”

For Ron Howard, the black and white films available to him for the Beatles documentary are invaluable in his quest to offer viewers an experience of what it was like to be in those concerts.

“Applying digital technology to this 8 mm and Super 8 footage that has been located and continues to be found, that has never been seen before, and combining that with what has also been collected, these mixes, these tracks from these soundboards, will allow us to synch up these Super 8 and 8 millimeter images, those home movies, and create this very intimate concert experiences for audiences. We get to tell the story and offer this very visceral, exciting, emotional experience for people who go see the film.” Ron Howard says of the Beatles documentary.

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