BREAKING: Peter Jackson and The Beatles are coming together. Apple Corps Ltd. and WingNut Films Ltd. are teaming the director of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and The Beatles for a feature documentary. Jackson will direct a movie that is based on 55 hours of never-released footage of The Beatles in the studio. Shot between January 2 and January 31, 1969, the studio sessions produced The Beatles’ Grammy Award winning album Let It Be, with its Academy Award winning title song. The result was the swan song of the super group: the album was released 18 months later in May 1970, several months after the band had broken up.
The footage was originally intended for a planned TV special, but organically turned into something completely different, climaxing with The Beatles’ legendary performance on the roof of Apple’s Savile Row London office — which took place exactly 50 years ago today.
There is no release date yet for the new documentary, which is being made with the full co-operation of Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon for the late John Lennon, and Olivia Harrison for the late George Harrison.
The executive producers are Ken Kamins for WingNut Films and Jeff Jones and Jonathan Clyde for Apple Corps. Apple Corps and Kamins will broker distribution rights on the film.
Jackson is fresh from directing They Shall Not Grow Old, the groundbreaking WWI documentary which has been nominated for a BAFTA for Best Documentary and was acquired for release by Warner Bros. He will work with his partners from that film, producer Clare Olssen and editor Jabez Olssen. The Beatles footage will be restored by Park Road Post of Wellington, New Zealand, to a pristine standard, using techniques developed for the WW1 documentary. Those techniques transformed dusty war footage into something both relatable and modern.
“The 55 hours of never-before-seen footage and 140 hours of audio made available to us ensures this movie will be the ultimate ‘fly on the wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamed about – it’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together,” Jackson said in a statement.
Although The Beatles were filmed extensively during the 1960s – in concerts, interviews and movies – this is the only footage of any note that documents them at work in the studio.
The Let It Be album and movie, having been released in the months following The Beatles’ breakup, have often been viewed in the context of the struggle the band was going through at that time.
“I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth,” Jackson said. “After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure-trove. Sure, there’s moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with. Watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating – it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate. I’m thrilled and honored to have been entrusted with this remarkable footage – making the movie will be a sheer joy.”
After Jackson’s film is released, a restored version of the original Let It Be movie directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg will also be made available.