John Lennon and Yoko Ono Biopic Gets Director, Possible Studio

New biopic starts where the Ballad of John and Yoko left off.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono introduced Nutopia at a press conference in New York City on April Fool’s Day 1973. The conceptual country was to be a new utopia, open to all. Lennon even wrote the “Nutopian International Anthem” for his 1973 album Mind Games. The song, apparently inspired by John Cage, consists of 4 seconds of silence. John and Yoko played with art forms throughout the post-Beatles era, trying to make a universal noise. So who better to produce a John Lennon and Yoko Ono movie focusing on their love story than Universal Pictures? The studio is in negotiations to option the rights to upcoming biopic, according to Variety

The film will be directed and edited by Jean-Marc Vallée, who pulled out of directorial consideration for Bond 25 to make the Lennon/Ono love story, directed the Academy Award winning film Dallas Buyers Club, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, as well as Wild, which starred Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. He also directed the HBO series Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects. Vallee also produce with his producing partner Nathan Ross through their production company, Crazyrose. 

“We are all huge Beatles fans, and this is a dream come true,” Ross told Deadline. ���There were inner and outer struggles John had, and family turmoil as a child, and things she had to endure before John’s tragic death. The thing we loved about the script was its stark honesty. You see so many biopic scripts where you can see that the cooperation of the subject’s family had something to do with the editorial, and that wasn’t the case here.”

Vallée will also rewrite the script alongside Anthony McCarten, who co-wrote the upcoming Freddie Mercury film Bohemian Rhapsody. McCarten was nominated for an Academy Award for telling the love story of Stephen and Jane Hawking in Theory of Everything. McCarten also worked on Darkest Hour, with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. John Lennon’s middle name was Winston before he changed it to Ono. Lennon’s music will serve as the soundtrack.

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Further reading: New Beatles Let It Be Movie in Development

The as-yet-untitled film is being produced by Ono, Josh Bratman of Immersive Pictures, and Fifty Shades of Grey producer Michael De Luca, who also made The Social Network, Captain PhillipsMoneyball, and the 2017 Academy Awards broadcast. 

“The story will focus on ripe and relevant themes of love, courage and activism in the U.S. — with the intention of inspiring today’s youth to stand up for and have a clear vision for the world they want,” De Luca told The Hollywood Reporter when the film was first announced.

The biopic, although knowing Lennon’s dedication to wit it could also be a romcom, will focus on the founder of the biggest rock band ever, the Beatles, and the cult-film and performance artist Ono. The pair famously met at Ono’s art exhibit, Unfinished Paintings and Objects, in the basement of London’s Indica Bookshop in 1966. Ono charged the famous ex-mop top to hammer a nail into a living art piece. Lennon balked at the price and offered imaginary currency to do imaginary woodwork. Imagine that. No countries, no religion and no hammer.

Further reading: Beatles vs. Stones and Two Unmade Stanley Kubrick Movies

Lennon and first wife, Cynthia, divorced in August 1968. Lennon and Ono were married in March 1969 in Gibraltar, near France, according to both Peter Brown and the song “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” the last single to hit number one in England by the Beatles.

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John and Yoko weren’t only musicians, they were activists for peace and civil justice. They were also filmmakers who made experimental films like Bottoms, which featured 365 buttocks on a continual loop. Lennon called it “Many Happy Endings.

Further reading: John Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep?’ Footage Reveals Unrest

The Beatles, whose own films A Hard Day’s Night, Help, Yellow Submarine, Let It Be and the TV movie Magical Mystery Tour still inspire filmmakers, are ripe for cinematic audiences. Ron Howard directed The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, a documentary of the band’s touring years from 1962 and 1966. Aaron Taylor-Johnson played Lennon in the 2009 film Nowhere Boy, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. Lennon’s murder was brought to the screen in the 2007 film Chapter 27.

Ono is still an active artist. She reissued three albums last year, Unfinished Music Nos. 1 & 2, which she made with Lennon. The Yoko Ono Reissue Project released several of her other albums in 2017.

Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.

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