The Incredible Process Behind Peter Jackson's Fly-on-the-Wall Beatles Docuseries

'The Beatles: Get Back'Credit: Disney
It was "fab," and all the other pimply hyperboles.

It's amazing how quickly Beatlemania can come roaring back. For me it's always simmering under the surface—I hear that Liverpudlian accent or a few chords of "Norwegian Wood," and I'm sent into a spiral of album relistens and Hard Day's Night rewatches.

Naturally, I was stunned to find out one of my favorite directors, Peter Jackson, was making a documentary about the making of Let It Be, the Beatles' final studio album from 1970.

The music of the period is great, but Beatles fans know that the band was on the outs by then, and they broke up shortly after. It's a time ripe with conflict, so it makes sense Jackson would want to explore some of the band's final moments together in the studio.

Jackson sat down with Variety recently to talk about the making of the documentary, which is actually a three-part docuseries from National Geographic and is currently streaming on Disney+. We want to pull some of the most interesting quotes, but definitely go watch the full interview.

'The Beatles: Get Back'Credit: Disney+

The making of The Beatles: Get Back

Jackson reveals his first cut of the documentary was 18 hours and took four years to complete. He was working with hours and hours of not only archival film footage, but archival audio, as well. Jackson managed to get it down to a six-hour cut.

"At that point, you're starting to commit a crime against rock and roll history if you start trimming any more out, because there’s stuff there that people have to see," Jackson says.

He says that fans deserved to see archival footage that had been hidden away for 50 years, and felt it would be lost for another 50 if he didn't include it.

"The Beatles were the ones that we were waiting for them to look at it—Ringo [Starr] and Paul [McCartney] and Olivia [Harrison] and Sean [Lennon]—and the verdict came back from them saying: ‘Six-hour—great. We understand why it’s six hours. We’re happy with a six-hour version.'"

But guess what? The three-part series actually runs closer to eight hours. And Jackson is right, the story of 22 days with a very chatty band would simply not have fit in a two-and-a-half-hour format.

He specifically wanted to include the entirety of the famous rooftop concert, which would take 45 minutes, regardless. On top of that, he wanted each day to have a narrative arc, almost like a short film.

"They’re writing new songs every day," Jackson says. "Every day there’s a development occurring. So each of these days is like a little film unto itself, but each of the days joins together. You’re going on this journey as the Beatles experienced it back in the day."

'The Beatles: Get Back'Credit: Disney+
During the process, Jackson met with Paul McCartney about the outtakes. Jackson says that McCartney was nervous, because his memory of the time was clouded by the stress of their imminent breakup. But Jackson found the footage to be often funny and full of creativity.

"I just said, ‘Look, whatever you think it is, it’s not what you think it is. Because I thought it was going to be miserable, but I’m amazed at how funny and happy it is. It’s completely different to what I imagined,’" Jackson says.

The docuseries can serve as a more accurate representation of one of the most famous periods in rock history, and an amazing fly-on-the-wall experience for Beatles lovers who can see their favorite band members laughing and joking together again.

The Beatles: Get Back is streaming now on Disney+    

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The footage has been cleaned of grain with a digital process like one of those “enhancing contrast or movement” digital auto settings of new TVs. Looks weird and unnatural.

December 1, 2021 at 12:21AM

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Javier Diez
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