UK film poster
|Directed by||Iain Softley|
|Produced by||Finola Dwyer
|Written by||Iain Softley and Stephen Ward|
|Music by||Don Was|
|Edited by||Martin Walsh|
|PolyGram Filmed Entertainment|
|Distributed by||Gramercy Pictures
Universal Pictures (current rights holder)
|Release date(s)||14 April 1994|
|Running time||100 minutes|
Backbeat is a 1994 Anglo-German drama film directed by Iain Softley. It chronicles the early days of the Beatles in Hamburg, Germany. The film focuses primarily on the relationship between Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff) and John Lennon (Ian Hart), and also with Sutcliffe's German girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee). It has subsequently been made into a stage production.
The original script was written by Iain Softley from interviews in 1988. After failing to secure funding, screenwriter Stephen Ward was brought in to completely rewrite the script in 1993. Ward interviewed Astrid Kirchherr and others who were close to the Beatles during their time in Hamburg. The project was green-lit that year.
The soundtrack to the film includes no songs written by members of the Beatles, but various songs the group performed in Hamburg, written and recorded by other artists.
Rather than re-create the period sounds, iconoclastic, rebellious musicians were recruited (as a producer noted, the Beatles' pre-recording stage act was "the punk of its day"). This was done to better convey the way the music came across to the audience, at the time. The musicians were all members of American rock bands:
- Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum): vocals
- Greg Dulli (The Afghan Whigs): vocals
- Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth): guitar
- Don Fleming (Gumball): guitar
- Mike Mills (R.E.M.): bass guitar
- Dave Grohl (Nirvana): drums
- Henry Rollins (Black Flag): vocals on "Love Me Tender"
Additionally, the film's distributor, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, was then under common ownership with the label which owned the rights to release and distribute the Beatles' music from the Hamburg days, Polydor Records.
|Stephen Dorff||Stuart Sutcliffe|
|Sheryl Lee||Astrid Kirchherr|
|Ian Hart||John Lennon|
|Gary Bakewell||Paul McCartney|
|Chris O'Neill||George Harrison|
|Paul Duckworth||Ringo Starr|
|Scot Williams||Pete Best|
|Kai Wiesinger||Klaus Voormann|
|Jennifer Ehle||Cynthia Powell|
|Paul Humpoletz||Bruno Koschmider|
|Wolf Kahler||Bert Kaempfert|
|James Doherty||Tony Sheridan|
Hart also played Lennon in the film The Hours and Times. Bakewell later reprised his role as McCartney in the television film The Linda McCartney Story, as Williams again played Best in the television film In His Life: The John Lennon Story.
Paul McCartney was not impressed with the film, stating:
One of my annoyances about the film Backbeat is that they've actually taken my rock 'n' rollness off me. They give John the song "Long Tall Sally" to sing and he never sang it in his life. But now it's set in cement. ('Paul' sang Long Tall Sally in the Glasgow stage version). It's like the Buddy Holly and Glenn Miller stories. The Buddy Holly Story does not even mention Norman Petty, and The Glenn Miller Story is a sugarcoated version of his life. Now Backbeat has done the same thing to the story of the Beatles. I was quite taken, however, with Stephen Dorff's astonishing performance as Stu.
Cynthia Lennon was unimpressed with Jennifer Ehle's portrayal of her, saying that in the film she was portrayed "as a clingy, dim little girl in a headscarf."
The film did well on limited release.
Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow
|Alex Robertson||Stuart Sutcliffe|
|Isabella Calthorpe||Astrid Kirchherr|
|Andrew Knott||John Lennon|
|Daniel Healy||Paul McCartney|
|Jamie Blackley||George Harrison|
|Oliver Bennett||Pete Best|
|Justin McDonald||Klaus Voorman|
|Kate Hodgson||Cynthia Lennon|
|Paddy Lannigan||Bruno Koschmider|
|Robert Reina||Bert Kaempfert|
|Charles Swift||Tony Sheridan|
Duke of York's Theatre, London
In 2011 the stage version opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. It was co-written by Iain Softley and Stephen Jeffreys, with musical direction by Paul Stacey, and directed by David Leveaux.
- Nowhere Boy - another pre-Beatles biopic, focusing on the life of young John Lennon and the formation of The Quarrymen.
- Backbeat at the Internet Movie Database
- Backbeat at AllMovie
- Backbeat at Box Office Mojo
- Backbeat at Rotten Tomatoes