Norwegian directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg drew keen attention from Hollywood in the wake of their Oscar-nominated sea-faring adventure Kon-Tiki, pacting with Legendary Pictures on supernatural project Spectral and becoming involved with a sci-fi period piece at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. Closer to home for the duo is Beatles, a passion project they’ve been working on for years and which has just scored the rare feat of securing rights to original recordings of the Fab Four.
Based on the best-selling book by Norwegian author Lars Saabye Christensen, which was first published in 1984, the 1960s-set coming-of-age story follows four teenage boys living in Oslo during Beatlemania. “It’s a book we grew up with,” Rønning tells me. “For us it’s like the first movie about the first youth generation that didn’t automatically do the same jobs as their fathers and mothers. It’s the first rebellion, especially in Europe and Scandinavia.” The duo, along with producer Jørgen Storm Rosenberg, acquired movie rights from Christensen in 2009, but the parties were steadfast that a film would never happen unless they got the rights for the tunes. Speaking from Norway this morning, Rønning beamed, “And now we have them and it’s amazing!”
Few feature films outside the Beatles’ own oeuvre have used the original recordings which involve a series of approvals and are notoriously expensive. To use “Tomorrow Never Knows” in an episode of Mad Men last year, it’s been suggested that Lionsgate paid $250,000. Rosenberg tells me the $7.5M Beatles is fully financed and that the budget allowed for “a fairly big amount” to be set aside for the tunes “just to be sure we could pull it off.”
In the end, he needed to scare up a bit more money, but says: “I think we got a fair deal. I’m happy with it and very happy with the way the whole process went and all the people we had to deal with.” The producer and directors are keeping the number and titles of songs that will appear under wraps for now.
Beatles is in the final stages of casting and a June shoot is eyed. On juggling their busy schedule, Rønning says, “For us, it’s always been a career goal to have several options… Everything is possible and now we are laying out next year’s plan and we’ll see what happens.” Svensk Film has theatrical distribution in the Nordic region and will release on February 14 next year to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the novel. Rosenberg is in talks with international sales agents.