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Q&A: Peter Jackson On His Middle Earth Exit, How The Beatles And Stanley Kubrick Nearly Did LOTR, And A Disguise That Let Him Haunt Comic-Con

Mike Fleming

Q&A: Peter Jackson On His Middle Earth Exit, How The Beatles And Stanley Kubrick Nearly Did LOTR, And A Disguise That Let Him Haunt Comic-ConPeter Jackson is coming to the end of a stay in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth that has dominated a quarter of the 53-year-old director’s life, right into middle age. The result: three Lord Of The Rings films and two installments of The Hobbit that have grossed $4.89 billion in worldwide box office.

By the time The Battle Of The Five Armies, the finale to The Hobbit trilogy, plays out, Jackson’s six films may reach $6 billion, and better the current hardware haul of 17 Oscars including Best Picture for Return Of The King, and 35 other noms. Unless James Cameron has something to say about it with his new Avatar trilogy, we may never see anything again in our lives to match Jackson’s cinematic accomplishment, all done with the same creative team.

If he’s feeling the weight of that, he wore it well at Comic-Con. Mostly, he battled jet lag after the long trip to San Diego from New Zealand, where the last film waits for him to finish. He’s tired enough when I enter his hotel room that he suggests I get in bed next to where he’s resting. Then he thinks better, unsure he can stay awake unless upright. I tell him I had the same problem the night before at a very funny live Chris Hardwick-hosted game show my son was desperate to see, only to nudge me again and again for snoring too loud. Our chat started with middle-age sleep apnea and moved to Middle Earth, how close The Beatles came to doing The Lord Of The Rings with Stanley Kubrick, and how Jackson will handle leaving Middle Earth, a place he almost didn’t get to visit at all.

JACKSON: So you almost ruined your son’s time by snoring? I once flew coach class from New Zealand to London, and my friends informed me they’d gotten a ticket for the theater at the West End stage. My friend had to elbow me because not only could they see me from the stage, they could probably hear me as well. When I worked as a newspaper photo engraver in the only job I ever had, many years ago, I’d get the train home to Pukerua Bay where I was staying with my parents. An hour ride, 16 stops and almost always I’d have automatic wake-up, seconds before we pulled into my station. Travel makes you tired more than anything, and Friday was my daughter’s 18th birthday and we celebrated here.

indexDEADLINE: One of those tiny gorgeous kids we watched grow up in glimpses during Lord Of The Rings films?
JACKSON: She was 3 when we made The Fellowship Of The Ring. Katie and Elijah Wood were talking today and they figured out she was 3 when he first met her. She’s 18. Kids, more than anything in life, chart time for us.

DEADLINE: Movies and sports do it, too. It’s easy to be cynical, but I am so charmed by these Comic-Con people and how the proceedings bring out the child versions of themselves. Total lack of cynicism. Do you get to appreciate that still?
JACKSON: There’s a certain reality to me going out now. I’d get six paces, no further, and it would be selfies, and nothing else. In the old days, people asked you to sign something, and half would be too nervous to ask. Now, there’s an aggression to it, like they want you as a trophy on their web page. It’s a social coup to nail you on their cell phone. It changed everything. I get six paces and then can’t walk another. But I went anyway, yesterday, found a way to walk all the way around the convention center.

DEADLINE: How did you manage that?
JACKSON: Oh, I got myself a secret identity. I became the Evil Jester. You can look at the photos on my Facebook page. Read More »

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Bert Berns, The Rock Phenom You Never Heard Of, Finally Gets His Due

By | Sunday July 20, 2014 @ 6:20pm PDT

Bert Berns, The Rock Phenom You Never Heard Of, Finally Gets His DueJukebox musicals are the guilty pleasures of Broadway and, ever more frequently, off-Broadway, offering well-heeled patrons the joys of nostalgia and the reassuring sense that the songs we grew up on were classics worthy of revisiting. How else to account for the extraordinary popularity of Jersey Boys, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Motown: The Musical, The Million Dollar Quartet, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Mamma Mia! and Rock Of Ages (not to metion the good, if less successful Holler If Ya Hear Me and A Night With Janis Joplin)? Piece Of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story, which opened Sunday night on 42nd Street, is a bargain-basement jukebox musical as entertaining as the best of those shows.

But it’s also on an evangelical mission: To make the case that Bert Berns has a rightful place in the pantheon of American rock-music writing legends that includes Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Bacharach and David, Mann and Weil, and Barry and Greenwich.

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Ron Howard To Helm Authorized Beatles Docu On British Invasion Years

By | Wednesday July 16, 2014 @ 6:02am PDT
Mike Fleming

Ron Howard To Helm Authorized Beatles Docu On British Invasion YearsRon Howard will direct a feature documentary on The Beatles. The focus will be the period from 1960-1966 when the mop-topped quartet took Europe and then the United States by storm with a flurry of 166 concerts in 15 countries and 90 cities. By the time they finished the last concert in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966, they were as big a band as Elvis Presley was a solo artist. The film has been authorized by the band’s holding company, Apple Corps Ltd, and will have the full cooperation and support of surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono Lennon, and George Harrison’s widow Olivia Harrison. The docu will be a co-production between Apple, White Horse Pictures’ Nigel Sinclair and Scott Pascucci, and Imagine Entertainment, whose principals Brian Grazer and Howard will produce with Sinclair and Pascucci. Imagine’s Michael Rosenberg and White Horse’s Guy East will be exec producers. They expect to have it ready sometimes next year, and don’t be surprised if there is a sequel, covering the band’s politicization and eventual break-up.

Ron_HowardThe film begins with the band honing its chops in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, to its first road trip shows in Hamburg, Germany, and other European countries in 1963, right before they came to America for an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. That appearance, on February 9, 1964 sparked a generation of future musicians like Eagles leaders Don … Read More »

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NBC Developing Event Series About The Beatles From ‘The Tudors’ Team

By | Friday June 13, 2014 @ 4:43pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Beatles NBC SeriesEXCLUSIVE: The team that brought to the small screen the story of King Henry VIII is taking on another English royalty, this time in the world of rock & roll. I have learned that NBC is in early stages of development of an eight-episode event series about the Beatles that would tell the story of the greatest band of all time. The series will be written by The Tudors creator/executive producer silvermanhirstweinbergMichael Hirst who will executive produce with Tudors executive producers Ben Silverman and Teri Weinberg. The project reunites the trio with NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt, who greenlighted The Tudors while he ran Showtime. The Beatles limited series is part of NBC’s push in event programming area that includes live productions like The Sound Of Music, miniseries like Rosemary’s Baby, and limited series like the 12-part Bible follow-up A.D.

nbclogoThere have been very few attempts to tell the story of the Liverpool quartet — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — on screen. The 2009 feature Nowhere Boy chronicled Lennon’s early years. The Fifth Beatle, a movie about the Beatles manager Brian Epstein, had been in the works with Peyton Reed attached to direct. Read More »

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Animated Children’s Series ‘Beat Bugs’ To Feature Beatles … Music That Is

By | Tuesday March 11, 2014 @ 10:32am PDT

BeatBugsAussie-U.S. production company GRACE has acquired worldwide rights from Sony/ATV Music Publishing to The Beatles‘ catalog, a rare rights deal for the iconic band’s music that will be used to make the animated children’s series Beat Bugs, which is currently in development. The project is from GRACE principal Josh Wakely, who pitched Sony/ATV with the idea for the series, which uses original narratives interwoven with Beatles songs to tell the story of young bugs that live and learn life lessons in the magical universe of an overgrown backyard. Talks are underway with animation studios and licensees for distribution, with worldwide rights being sold by CAA and Hirsch, Wallerstein, Hayum, Matlof & Fishman. ”Josh’s ingenuity and creative exploration of these iconic songs in a wholly imaginative world was too good to pass up and the idea of opening up the single greatest music catalogue of the 20th Century to the next generation is something we are particularly excited about”, Sony/ATV managing director Damian Trotter said in a release announcing the tie-up.

Yellow Submarine BeatlesRelated: CBS To Salute The Beatles’ U.S. Debut In Grammy Special

The deal is a rarity for a catalog that has always been particular about how it is deployed — the band’s albums were slow in CD adaptation in the 1980s and weren’t available on iTunes until 2010.  The Beatles are no strangers to … Read More »

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David Letterman Chats With Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr At Ed Sullivan Theatre On 50th Anniversary Of Beatles’ U.S. Debut: Video

By | Friday February 7, 2014 @ 2:44pm PST

Letterman BeatlesAmerican popular culture was altered forever 50 years ago this Sunday when four mop-topped lads from England hit the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in Manhattan. More than 73 million people watched in glorious black and white. A half-century later, the two surviving Beatles returned for a chat with the room’s current occupant. Here’s a clip of David Letterman talking with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr about that landmark night and the landmark theater where it all went down. After the jump, watch McCartney tell a funny story about how a Teamster made him nervous backstage during a later Ed Sullivan Show appearance. The clips are from The Beatles: The Night That Changed America, which CBS is airing Sunday night:

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Peyton Reed Set To Helm ‘The Fifth Beatle,’ On Fab Four Manager Brian Epstein

By | Wednesday December 4, 2013 @ 4:43pm PST
Mike Fleming

preedEXCLUSIVE: Peyton Reed is set to direct The Fifth Beatle, an adaptation of the bestselling graphic novel about the last years of The Beatles manager Brian Epstein. The film is being produced by Oscar-winner Bruce Cohen and Tony-winner Vivek J. Tiwary. Tiwary, whose credits include Green Day’s American Idiot wrote the graphic novel and the screenplay. Reed, who helmed The Break-Up and Bring It On, finds himself in an enviable position as this is the first film about the Fab Four that has been granted unprecedented access to the John Lennon/Paul McCartney music catalog. Production will begin next year. Now that Reed is aboard, the next step will be securing an actor to play Epstein.

brianepReed previously teamed with Cohen on the comedy Down With Love and he also helmed the Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man.

“From the moment I read Vivek’s graphic novel, I knew I wanted to be the person to bring Brian’s story to the big screen,” Reed said. “I’m a lifelong Beatles fan, obviously, but it’s Brian’s fascinating life that really blew me away and drew me to this project. He’s the ultimate outsider who, against all odds, became the ultimate insider. He was responsible for shepherding the most popular artistic expression of “love” in the history of modern culture, and yet he wasn’t allowed to express his own love during that time.” Read More »

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CBS To Salute The Beatles’ U.S. Debut In Grammy Special

By | Thursday November 14, 2013 @ 9:00am PST

The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute To The Beatles will air from 8-10 PM February 9, on CBS –  the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s first U.S. TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. No names were announced, but CBS said the special, which will be taped the day after the Grammys on January 27, will feature top artists covering the songs performed by the group during the landmark TV performance and other Beatles songs throughout the years. It also will include footage from the Sullivan Show performance and other archival material and various presenters will highlight the group’s musical, cultural and historical impact. The special is produced by AEG Ehrlich Ventures, LLC. Ken Ehrlich is the executive producer.

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‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Producer Boards Brian Epstein Biopic ‘The Fifth Beatle’

By | Monday September 30, 2013 @ 10:45am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Academy Award-winning producer Bruce Cohen (American Beauty, Milk, Silver Linings Playbook) is set to produce The Fifth Beatle, about the life of Beatles manager Brian Epstein. The English entrepreneur Paul McCartney dubbed “the fifth Beatle” helped launch the career of the Fab Five and managed them until his death by accidental overdose in 1967. He was also a closeted gay man whose close relationship with John Lennon was the subject of the 1991 Sundance entry The Hours and Times. Pic is scripted by Tony-winning producer Vivek J. Tiwary (Green Day’s American Idiot, Mel Brooks’ The Producers) from his own forthcoming graphic novel with art by Andrew C. Robinson and cartoonist Kyle Baker, which Dark Horse releases November 19. Tiwary will produce alongside Cohen, who won the Oscar in 2000 for American Beauty. Production is set to begin in 2014.

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