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Yesterday: Inside Danny Boyle’s world without The Beatles

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The Beatles are shown the exit door in Yesterday

Imagine there’s no Beatles. It’s easy if you try.

Easier still if the award-winning writer/director team of Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle do the bulk of the hypothesising for you, as they have in their new film, Yesterday.

The movie, which premiered on Tuesday, stars former EastEnders actor Himesh Patel as a struggling singer-songwriter from Clacton-on-Sea.

His character Jack Malik wakes up after an accident caused by a global power outage to a world that has forgotten all about John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The first belly laugh drawn from this strange situation is that a cursory search online for “Oasis” no longer throws up the Beatles-borrowing Mancunian rock ‘n’ roll band, but merely a description of ‘an isolated area of vegetation in a desert’.

“I can’t tell you how badly that joke goes down in America,” Curtis tells the BBC.

“The Americans just completely assumed that Danny and I would cut it but we were having none of it.

“Americans don’t cut jokes out of their films because we don’t know where New Jersey is so why should we cut the Oasis joke?”

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Universal

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Himesh Patel as Jack Malik and Ed Sheeran as a version of himself

In this alternative Fab Four-free universe, Jack revises the lost Beatles back catalogue and claims it as his own work on a helter skelter ride to fast fame.

He gets by with a little help from one of Curtis’s real-life pop star friends and fledgling actor, Ed Sheeran.

“When we came up to Suffolk to research the movie I just said to Ed ‘why don’t you come to dinner with Danny’,” says Curtis, who was also responsible for Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

“I said after the dinner, ‘Danny, if we cast him, he’s not experienced at acting’ and Danny said ‘from the way he is as a person, I’m absolutely sure it’s gonna be fine.’

“So Ed committed to rehearsal, instead of saying ‘I’ll just turn up’, and Danny just gave him a few simple things. We were part of the miseducation of Ed Sheeran.”

Educating Ed

Sheeran’s previous main acting role involved a brief cameo as a singing soldier in Game of Thrones and so the director had to help him navigate the major pitfalls that singers often find on the road to Hollywood.

“Obviously Ed’s a wonderful musician,” explains Boyle, from the adjacent room of a Soho hotel at the film’s big press day, “and it was amazing watching him in concert.

“But actually in terms of acting I felt I could help him a bit.”

Boyle advised Sheeran to “listen to the scene”, rather than just learning his lines and waiting for his cue, which he says is always “the big mistake” non-actors make when performing a cameo.

“What you’ve got to do is listen to the actors and then it doesn’t matter if you miss your cue because it’s film – it’s not like theatre and you can stop and go back and do it again.”

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Media captionYesterday: Which band would you erase from history?

While Sheeran was learning something about acting from the Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director, Patel was spending more than a day in the life of a real musician.

Boyle remembers “a wonderful moment” when Patel had to actually perform the “intimidating” piano ballad, The Long and Winding Road, in rehearsal for the first time and realised the Ed-ephant in the room.

“The biggest pop star in the world is listening to him do a cover of a Beatles song!

“Ed said to him ‘that was very good’, and it was genuine as well, he wasn’t just buttering him up and I think that was a big step in his confidence level.

“There’s something familiar-yet-strange about his performance of the songs that kind of transcends karaoke and you don’t really think about The Beatles – you think about the song being re-discovered or re-presented to you.”

Patel admits it was “surreal” and “a real joy” for them to find their own way into the band’s famous songbook.

He describes the process as “paying tribute to them, but not being beholden to them and respectfully making our own versions.”

‘Mega Asian pop star’

While the legendary Scousers made some major breakthroughs following a trip to India, only a few UK artists of Asian descent have ever truly troubled the mainstream charts.

Patel’s character embodies the potential for a British-Asian pop giant that – namesake Zayn Malik or M.I.A aside – has been largely missing.

“I know that will mean something to a lot of people,” he says. “It does break a boundary, absolutely. I’m hopeful that perceptions are changing and we move forward.”

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Universal

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Malik hits the big time and big screen

Although his newfound rock star status may be fictional, the actor and musician actually appeared on-stage at one of Sheeran’s real-life Wembley Stadium gigs during filming last summer, as well as a much smaller gig at Latitude festival.

He also played a rocked up guitar version of Help! in front of 5,000 people from the roof of a hotel in Gorleston during the making of Curtis’ favourite scene.

The writer saw the wider social effects of Patel’s performance unfold before his eyes.

Curtis recalls: “The TV presenter Anita Rani came along on the day when we doing the Pier Hotel big concert and I noticed she’d started to cry watching the monitor.

  • Anita Rani says ‘posh white men’ should not be the default on TV

“She said ‘I’ve waited my whole life for a mega Asian pop star and you’ve made us one’.

“He was cast because he was best but I love the fact that made him even more ordinary and more of a long shot.”

“But look,” he adds with a grin, “if Ed Sheeran can be a pop star anyone can!”

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Universal

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Ellie Appleton, played by Lily James looks on as her lifelong friend becomes a worldwide star

If Jack’s Beatles-inspired chart heist is the backbeat of the film then the real rhythm comes through his relationship with childhood friend, manager and number one fan Ellie Appleton, played by Lily James.

She has to look on from a distance as fame and his new US representative Debra Hamer, played by Kate McKinnon, begin to take hold.

“He doesn’t just have imposter syndrome, he is a fraud – it’s not his music,” says James, sipping her umpteenth green tea of the press day.

“If you get to those levels of success and you have your integrity [like Sheeran] that’s a different story but for him it was just false and it wasn’t what he needed or wanted or thought he wanted.”

“Sometimes it takes losing things or getting there to realise what you really really want,” she concludes, channelling another band altogether.

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Universal

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Ellie and Jack just before The Beatles get back to where they once belonged

The Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again star has developed a penchant for music-themed films of late and reveals that in an ideal world she would love to portray the late rocker Janice Joplin on screen.

Back in Boyle and Curtis’ parallel universe, the writer acknowledges they “didn’t go deep” in analysing exactly how Lennon, McCartney and co “probably changed our whole culture”, bending their story towards “youth and love and joy” instead.

“I hope people won’t think it’s a maudlin thought on mortality and music,” stresses Curtis, “because it’s in fact a galloping romp with some childish jokes and a lot of teasing of Ed Sheeran.”

Yesterday is out in UK cinemas on 28 June.

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Love Island: Tributes paid to Caroline Flack as winners are crowned

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Caroline Flack was found dead at her London flat last weekend

Love Island paid tribute to Caroline Flack as its first winter series drew to a close on Sunday night.

The former host of the show was found dead in her London flat last weekend.

“The past week has been extremely difficult, coming to terms with the loss of our friend and colleague, Caroline,” presenter Laura Whitmore told viewers of the ITV2 programme.

“Caroline loved Love Island. She loved love, and that’s why tonight’s final is dedicated to her.”

She added: “We’re thinking of her family and everyone who knew her at this time.”

The programme then showed a montage of some of Flack’s memorable moments from the series in recent years.

The islanders were told about Flack’s death off-camera on Saturday, an ITV spokesman confirmed.

Finley Tapp and Paige Turley were crowned the winners of the series as the finale drew to a close.

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ITV

Two episodes of this series were pulled from the schedules last weekend after Flack was found dead.

The show returned the following Monday with a tribute to Flack from the show’s narrator Iain Stirling.

This has been the first series of the show to take place in winter and be filmed in South Africa.

Previous seasons have been filmed on the Spanish island of Mallorca over the summer.

Overall, the winter series has been a ratings hit for ITV2, albeit not as successful as previous summer series.

This series has been attracting around three million viewers per episode, including via catch-up services, compared with the 4.5 million the last summer series generally attracted.

Laura Whitmore is the show’s current presenter. She joined the show after Flack was charged with assaulting her boyfriend.

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EPA

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Laura Whitmore pictured at the Brit Awards last week

Tapp and Turley were crowned the winners of this series on Sunday night, winning the £50,000 prize, which they chose to share between them.

In a twist that occurs in every series, Turley was given the chance to “steal” the full prize money before she decided to split it evenly.

“It’s been such an amazing experience,” Turley said earlier in the episode. “It’s been filled with challenges, but it’s been amazing.”

Asked what first attracted him to Turley, Tapp said: “I loved how outgoing she was. I wasn’t wrong in picking her because I thought she’d make me laugh and smile all day long. She’s made me very happy.”

Earlier this series, they became the first pair to become an official couple in the villa.

Turley attracted headlines when the series launched in January because she is the ex-girlfriend of singer Lewis Capaldi.

The Scottish star referred to her while accepting the Brit Award for best single earlier this month, for his song Someone You Loved.

“A lot of people think this song is about my ex-girlfriend, who you can now see every night on Love Island,” he said.

“But it’s actually about my grandmother, who sadly passed away a few years ago. I hope ITV don’t contact her to be a on a reality dating show.”

During the finale, Whitmore confirmed the show would return to Mallorca for a new series this summer.


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Earth Harp: The man behind the unique instruments ‘epic’ sound

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William Close is the inventor behind the Earth Harp – the world’s longest string instrument which uses architecture and landscapes to create a unique sound.

Mr Close, who has performed the giant harp all over the world, says the audiences are often left feeling like they are “inside the instrument” during his performances.



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Verdi opera: Conductor stops performance over ‘phone miscreants’

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Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi learnt to speak Welsh while serving as the music director of Welsh National Opera between 1992 and 2001

A conductor has twice stopped an opera in Cardiff after mobile phones rang in the audience.

Carlo Rizzi was conducting Welsh National Opera’s new production of Verdi’s Les Vêpres Sicilienes, at Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday night.

Audience members said Rizzi twice stopped and spoke to the audience about the distraction it caused.

Verdi’s opera is based around true events in Sicily in 1282.

‘Phone miscreants’

David Jackson, a BBC employee who was in the audience, said Rizzi was applauded after bemoaning the interruption caused by mobile phones.

He said: “I spoke to Carlo afterwards and congratulated him on the performance, but also on tackling the phone miscreants.

“He got a warm round of applause after he stopped and ticked off the audience member. Both incidents were right at the beginning of the show and all was well after that.”

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Robin Drayton/Geograph

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Based at the Wales Millennium Centre, the Donald Gordon Theatre is named after its patron, a South African businessman

The opera is sung by WNO in French in its new production directed by Sir David Pountney.

Another audience member confirmed the two instances of disruption caused by mobile phones.

It is not the first time a mobile phone has drawn irritation during a high-profile live performance, with the devices falling foul of numerous artists in the past.

Pianist Krystian Zimerman stormed out of a concert in 2013 because a fan was filming with his phone.

And film and stage actors Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman and Benedict Cumberbatch have all voiced their anger at the use of mobiles while treading the boards in London.

Last year, singer Madonna said she would ban mobile phones from future gigs.

Jackson said his enjoyment of the opera in Cardiff was not affected by the interruptions.

“It was a wonderful performance of a comparatively rarely done piece of Verdi – the mobile phone business didn’t detract,” he said.

WNO confirmed there were “short pauses” and that Rizzi addressed the audience following the second interruption.



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