The Beatles: Get Back

Documentary • For The Beatles • Directed by Peter Jackson

Timeline This film has been released in 2021
Release date:
Nov 25, 2021

Master release

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Whenever I was in the band, playing live, I’d be facing out. John was to the left or to the right of me, so I never got to sort of see him perform so much. Except in the film. And there he is in massive closeup. I can study everything about him.

Paul McCartney – About the “Get Back” movie – From The New Yorker, August 18, 2021

The Beatles: Get Back” is a documentary directed by Peter Jackson that covers the making of the Beatles’ 1970 album Let It Be. It was announced on January 30, 2019 – on the day of the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles’ rooftop concert. It was scheduled to be released in 2020, but due to the covid-19 pandemic, its release got pushed back to August 2021 and then November 2021. Initially considered as a movie to be released in theaters, “The Beatles: Get Back” became a 3-parts documentary series, totalling 6 hours.

in December 2017, when Paul McCartney was in New Zealand for his “One On One” tour, he took the opportunity to meet with Peter Jackson, who had recently received the rushes from the “Get Back / Let It Be” sessions from January 1969. From Vanity Fair, June 17, 2021:

When Jackson went backstage at a Paul McCartney concert in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2017, he was surprised to find McCartney nervous to meet him, concerned with what Jackson had found in the footage. “I could see on his face he was imagining the worst,” says the director. “I just said to him, ‘Look, I’ve got to say, it surprised the hell out of me because I was expecting it to be a miserable experience for you. I expected to have to witness a rather bleak moment—but it’s actually the exact opposite. It’s incredibly funny. It’s incredibly lively. It shows you guys having a great time.’

And he couldn’t believe it,” says Jackson. “He said, ‘What? What? Really? Really?’ And it certainly surprised him. Because he has never seen this stuff, even though he lived through it. It’s a long time ago, and subsequent events, I think, just muddied the whole memory of this thing.

Having McCartney onboard (as well as the other Beatles or right owners), Peter Jackson would work the next three years on the “The Beatles: Get Back” movie, released in November 2021.

Press release, from The Beatles website, January 30, 2019:

London – January 30, 2019 – Apple Corps Ltd. and WingNut Films Ltd. are proud to announce an exciting new collaboration between The Beatles and the acclaimed Academy Award winning director Sir Peter Jackson. The new film will be based around 55 hours of never-released footage of The Beatles in the studio, shot between January 2nd and January 31st, 1969. These studio sessions produced The Beatles’ Grammy Award winning album Let It Be, with its Academy Award winning title song. The album was eventually released 18 months later in May 1970, several months after the band had broken up.

The filming 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.

Peter Jackson said, “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 dreamt 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.”

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,” continues Jackson, “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”. […]

The point I am trying to make was from day one, 30 days later, no matter what happened we had an album, we did the show on the roof and did all this video. There is no doubt of the record and we did have a few ups and downs, but that is what life is all about. “First of all I never liked the film that came out. It was always [centred] around four seconds of a month. I thought there was no joy and no laughter, and I was telling Peter Jackson this.

Ringo Starr – from Ringo’s joy at new version of Let It Be docu that shows the Beatles weren’t at war during | Music | Entertainment |, September 12, 2021

We were laughing, we were lads. But to get back to the original one, there was a discussion and there were four guys in a room for a month, that had up days, down days, music days. But the music never, ever once got lost in what we were doing.

It was the first time we went in the studio, especially George and I, and John did not have any songs and Paul didn’t have any songs.

Usually they had two or three, so we could start. So there was a whole discussion. But when you look at it, it’s a six-hour documentary and it is like the ocean, the waves of joy and ‘Oh what is that going on?’

Laughter and playing great. We never stopped loving each other. Once we heard the count in… whatever was going on, everybody did their best.

Ringo Starr – from Ringo’s joy at new version of Let It Be docu that shows the Beatles weren’t at war during | Music | Entertainment |, September 12, 2021

You originally were thinking about doing a two, two and a half hour, film that was going to be released in theaters and then obviously Covid hit. And now it’s a much longer cut. Do you have a version for a more casual fan like a two, two and a half hour, version of the movie that you’re happy with?

No. We were heading in that direction, and we were supposed to release, I think, September last year. Come February/March, my editor and I had something about eight hours long at that stage. And I was feeling uncomfortable because, I should have done it at the beginning, I started to work out the maths. Because I’m telling a story over 22 days, I’ve got the rooftop at the end that’s 45 minutes. So two and a half hours, take the 45 minutes away, that only leaves me like two and a half minutes per day. And I can’t do this two and a half minutes a day… Well what the hell was I thinking, it’s impossible and then the pandemic struck.

And Disney said “we’re going to delay the whole thing a year so now we’ll do september 2021”. I was like “oh really great”. So we didn’t talk to Apple or the Beatles. They all thought we were doing two and a half hours and James and I just spent a year during the pandemic making the movie that we wanted to make. So the days became 15 minutes long, 20 minutes long, some of them are 30 minutes long, but they do the job and
we ended up with something that was like six hours long… Nobody on earth could take that down to two and a half hours and leave it sort of making sense. I mean, they could, but it would be awful. So we showed it to the Beatles early this year and said “look, we’re sorry about the two and a half hour thing but we think this is how it should be told”. They looked at it, said “great don’t change a thing” and then the whole thing went around the world at six hours now. But a lot of people don’t know, but James and I kept editing and now it’s eight hours long. It’s still three parts, but instead of being two hours long, each part’s like two hours thirty, two hours twenty, two hours forty. It sort of ends up to near eight hours. It’s certainly a long way from six hours but that’s where we think it best tells the story.

Peter Jackson – From Peter Jackson on The Beatles: Get Back & Technology Invented for the Docuseries – YouTube

The DVD / Blu-Ray didn’t contain any extra content compared to what had been released on Disney+ streaming platform.

Kim Masters: I know you’re doing an expanded version of “Beatles: Get Back”…

Peter Jackson: I’m not, no. […] I’m fighting to, Kim, help me. Disney and Apple are reluctant because they say — and they might be quite right—that there’s no market anymore for extended cuts. But I know that there’s five or six hours of fantastic material that we didn’t include, and I don’t want it to go back into the faults for fifty years. So, let’s just say that it’s a conversation that’s happening, but it’s not necessarily a definitive one at this point.

Interview of Peter Jackson with The Business podcast by Kim Masters, August 12, 2022
From Home / Twitter – Peter Jackson’s Get Back begins on January 2nd, 1969. If anyone fancies a #GetBackDayByDay viewing from tomorrow, here’s a handy cut-out-and-keep guide. Perfect for a rewatch or a first watch!

Last updated on December 22, 2023


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