How the film “Yesterday” was able to use so much of The Beatles music
The film Yesterday goes into the story about how a struggling songwriter is losing his passion for music and he gets hit by a bus. Upon awakening, he realises that he is the only one in the world who knows who The Beatles are and uses their discography to rise to fame.
However, many people were surprised that the film managed to get some of the most recognisable songs from the band into the film. Surely, that would’ve cost a fortune.
Danny Boyle, the film’s director, had a plan.
The production company behind the film had a deal with Apple and Sony which allowed screenwriter Richard Curtis and Boyle to choose up to 18 songs and even switch their picks when they were shooting and editing the film.
After all, there’s no point having a joke hinge off a niche Beatles song. The audience won’t get it.
Curtis explained this to NY Daily News:
“For the jokes to work it has to be songs people recognize… if Jack sat down at the piano in that Ed Sheeran scene and plays “Not a Second Time,” most people won’t know it’s the Beatles.”
The scene in question is where the main character of the film is working with Ed Sheeran and singing “Hey Jude”. Sheeran has a brainwave and suggests changing it to “Hey Dude”.
Boyle told Billboard what happened when they obtained the rights.
“Apple and Sony are very picky about not only who uses the band’s music but how it is used. Working Title did that first because there’s no point in spending money on a film like Yesterday unless you can guarantee you’ve got the music. It made for a top-heavy budget -- the costs for the songs were very expensive, a substantial part of the film’s budget. But they made a clever deal, allowing us the freedom to change songs up to the last minute.”
Billboard estimated that it cost $10 million for the songs to be featured in Yesterday. However, Boyle also did his due diligence and reached out to Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of George Harrison and John Lennon about his intentions for the film.