John Lennon’s life story was adapted in the 2009 feature Nowhere Boy by filmmaker Sam Taylor Johnson. But there were certain liberties taken with the story that Lennon’s Beatles band-mate Paul McCartney didn’t approve of.
Paul McCartney had problems with Sam Taylor Johnson’s John Lennon biopic
Nowhere Boy covered the adolescent and young adult years of Beatles member John Lennon. Aaron Taylor Johnson, who would later become the filmmaker’s husband, ended up in the lead role as John Lennon. Actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster played a young Paul McCartney in the film.
The real Paul McCartney not only watched the feature, but he was a bit involved in the movie as well. When reviewing the script, he didn’t appreciate the way Lennon’s aunt Mimi was portrayed in the film. Nowhere Boy originally wrote Mimi much harsher than she was in real life, and McCartney brought the discrepancy to the director’s attention.
“I said, ‘Sam, this isn’t true’,” McCartney said in a 2009 interview with Daily Mail. “Aunt Mimi was not cruel. She was mock strict. But she was a good heart who loved John madly.”
But that wasn’t the only issue McCartney had with the script. The iconic Beatles member also had reservations about the actor who played him, citing him as too short.
“I haven’t actually seen it, but I hear I’m OK in it. But you know what I’m slightly peeved about? My character, my actor, is shorter than John! And I don’t like that. I’m the same size as John, please. Put John in a trench or put me in platforms,” McCartney once told Seven (via Contact Music).
According to reports, McCartney clashed with the director on other issues regarding the script as well, and rejected an invitation to see the picture.
Aaron Taylor Johnson revealed Paul McCartney complimented his performance
According to Aaron Taylor Johnson, it seemed McCartney might have eventually seen the feature after all. The actor dedicated a lot of his time to researching Lennon to do the singer justice. This included using countless interviews with the singer as a reference.
“I tried to cover every angle. There was an interview with Rolling Stone where he said that when he met Yoko, he was quite a free spirit at that time, and that the Beatles were a front. When his mother died, he felt pretty bitter inside and angry. I used a lot of that. He spoke about his Aunt Mimi and his mother, and talked about insecurities,” Taylor Johnson once told Collider.
Johnson met both McCartney and Lennon’s former partner Yoko. They had high praise for the actor’s Nowhere Boy performance.
“Yoko saw the film and, the moment she saw it, she said, ‘I’ll give you the rights to ‘Mother.’ She was in tears. She and Paul were both complimentary of our performances and thought the film was great,” he said. “Who could have asked for anything more?”
Sam Taylor Johnson had a hard time casting Paul McCartney because she knew he would see the film
The Fifty Shades director recalled how challenging it was casting Lennon and McCartney in the first place. She didn’t have to search too hard for actors who actually looked like the legends, because they all showed up at her doorstep.
“It was difficult mostly because 70 people come in and look really like Lennon, McCartney, Harrison. So there are 70 look-alikes who come in and but I quickly had to decide early on not to go with the look-alikes necessarily because we weren’t making that type of film. It was an important decision that whoever was going to play these characters, that they embodied the soul and the spirit of the people. It wasn’t an impersonation,” she once told Sundance.
She felt she found her ideal choice in Taylor Johnson. But the director still saw quite a few other potential Lennons before officially hiring the actor.
“It was tough. I saw Aaron probably eighth or ninth in the realm of casting. I knew he was right immediately but then I saw another 300 just to make sure,” she said.
But perhaps the real challenge was casting McCartney, since McCartney was still alive to offer his criticisms for the film. Which he eventually would.
“And then it was equally hard with McCartney because I thought, ‘Shoot, he’s going to see the film,’” she said.