'Lennon Naked'

lennon naked12 Jun 2010
TV film
Dir. Edmund Coulthard 
Wr. Robert Jones
Role: John Lennon.

Note on versions:
British TV - The Beatles & Lennon music soundtrack
Region 2 DVD - John Lennon music soundtrack
USA version - censored + Lennon music soundtrack

Nov 21, PBS
Jul 6 Roma FictionFest
UK: Jun 23, 9.30 pm, BBC Four, BBC HD
Japan: Jun 12, 8 pm, NHK BShi
Jun 2 Screening at BFI 
May 4 Screening at BAFTA + report + q&a audio

Gallery --- Sites at: 2 | Entertain --- PBS --- BBC --- IMDb --- Blast! Films

DVD release info - review 

at BBC site (UK) - on the blog
Excerpts: Magical Mystery Tour [Alt from Blast! Films] - 'You Are Here' Exhibition
Materials and - in the US - whole film available online for a month after TX at PBS


Radio reviews w/ excerpts from the film - Brief excerpts from the junket (via I. Wylie) - Naoko Mori LA inter

Pre-TX reviews:
Lesley Smith (PopMatters Nov 21), Tom Jicha (Sun Sentinel Nov 21), Mark Dawidziak (Cleveland Nov 20), Neal Justin (Star Tribune Nov 19), David Wiegand (San Francisco Chronicle Nov 19), Dean Robbins (Isthmus Nov 18), Michael Toland (KLRU Nov 18), Matt Roush (TV Guide Nov 18), Dave Shiflett
(Bloomberg Nov 18), Ellen Gray (Phily Nov 18), Brian Lowry (Variety Nov 17)
Damien Love (Herald Scotland Jun 21), Andrea Mullaney (The Scotsman Jun 21), Neil McCormick (Telegraph Jun 19), David Smyth (Evening Standard Jun 18)
, Ali Hughes (Jun 6 - post-BFI), Penders (May 11 - post-BAFTA)

Alex (in-house)


Jun 21 Orig. inter. Laura Kelly - Christopher Eccleston - The Big Issue
Jun 21 Orig. inter. Keith Watson - Former Dr Who star Christopher Eccleston gets Naked - Metro
Jun 19 Orig. inter. Amy Raphael - Imagine John Lennon played by Doctor Who [...] - The Guardian
Jun 18 Junket plus Andy Welch - Christopher Eccleston reveals all about Lennon Naked - AOL
Jun 18 Junket plus Ian Wylie - Lennon Naked: Christopher Eccleston - Manchester Evening News
Jun 18 BAFTA rehash Lisa Sewards - Imagine... Doctor Who's playing Lennon - Mail Online + review by David Wigg
Jun 16 Junket Laura Davis - Christopher Eccleston on playing John Lennon [...] - Liverpool Daily Post
Junket Adrian Lobb - Mind games - TV Times
Junket Richard McClure - All you need is love - TV & Satellite Week
Orig. inter. Martyn Palmer - 'TV is my way into my country, my culture' - Radio Times
Jun 14 Off Radio Times Eccleston quit Doctor Who to be his 'own man' - Wales Online
Jun 14 Junket Lennon star Eccleston bares all - Wales Online
Jun 12 Orig. inter. Paul English - I couldn't believe producer wanted me to play Yoko Ono [...] - Daily Record [Naoko Mori on the film and the role]
Orig. inter. Look at him - Mojo [CE on the film and the role]
May 7 From BAFTA Ian Wylie - Naked Lennon? I can stomach that, says Chris - Manchester Evening News

News quick navigation:

News (most recent first):
  • TX - November 21 is the American transmission date for the film (on PBS, check with your provider/local station). The DVD will be released Nov 23 (details tba). Also, the DVD (vanilla) is out in Netherlands Sep 23.
  • Audience: 792,900 (4%) watched the film on BBC Four (peaking with 882,800 (4.3%)).
  • Jun 15 BBC released the press pack for the film. Introduction with writer and director. CE on the role:
    Award-winning actor Christopher Eccleston reveals why taking on the role of one of Britain's enduring and enigmatic icons was difficult to refuse.

    "I'd been watching and reading about John Lennon avidly for over 20 years or more. I'm absolutely fascinated by him – he seems to have been kind, brutal, funny, arrogant, insecure, passionate and brilliant, in short – human.
    "I wanted to play Lennon because of Robert Jones's script. He captured Lennon's character and the world in which he lived with imagination and great originality. I had three weeks from accepting the role to prepare, so I read, watched and listened to everything I could get my hands on," says the 46-year-old actor, who starred in the relaunch of Doctor Who in 2005.

    "I re-read the Philip Norman biography and watched many documentaries and videos, but the chief source was the interview John gave to Jann Wenner, for Rolling Stone magazine," explains the star of critically-acclaimed dramas The Second Coming, Flesh And Blood and Hillsborough.
    "I think Lennon was intensely human and his flaws were amplified by fame. He had to wrestle with his qualities and his demons in a very public forum. Lennon had a very contradictory nature. I was hugely sympathetic to what happened to him when he was a young boy of only five years old – his mother and father told him to choose between them. It was insightful because I felt that incident drove him on in both good and bad ways.
    "The breadth and originality of his and the Beatles music is astounding, for example the leap from Love Me Do to Tomorrow Never Knows. I've got most of The Beatles music and music by John. There is a real confessional quality to his work. My personal favourite of John's, and I think a key to his life and this film, is Julia."

    The Salford-born actor, who trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, also sought help with perfecting Lennon's accent.

    "I had a brilliant dialect coach in Jill McCullough. John had a very distinctive voice, accent and physicality, the challenge was to capture his spirit without just resorting to impersonation. The costume and make-up departments were really brilliant and took great care in to perfecting the shapes and the look of Lennon, on a tiny budget."

    The 90-min film which includes the famous bed protest also features the iconic Two Virgins cover in which an unabashed John and Yoko bare all for the cameras. But for Chris and his co-star Naoko Mori this was more of a challenge.

    "Nudity – that's the hard stuff to do, but you just have to get on with it," says Chris. "I'd worked with Naoko before but we weren't naked in Doctor Who!" laughs Chris. "We had a good rapport on set... with nudity, actors always watch each other's backs, literally, instead of looking anywhere else."

    So what's next?

    "I have just finished filming the first episode of The Accused, by Jimmy McGovern. I've worked with Jimmy a lot. I'm excited. It's a really good script."
    Naoko Mori:
    "I'd worked with Chris before in an episode of Doctor Who and felt we'd worked really well together. I have always admired his work and had a lot of respect for him. He really is a tremendous actor – and a wonderful man."
  • lennon naked
  • Guardian:
    There are a few new shows this year though, starting with one-off Lennon Naked, in which Christopher Eccleston plays the Beatle during the "bed-in" years. Another solid Eccleston performance, and some great lines: "I was on acid, she was on the wane." Lennon says of meeting Brigitte Bardot.
  • TX - UK, June 24 23 (press release).
  • TX - Japan, June 12 (film's page at broadcaster's site); USA, autumn (tba, PBS Masterpiece).
  • BFI screening to take place June 2nd with Q&A. More.
  • May 6 Blast! Films page for the film - more here on the blog.
  • May 4 The advance screening was held at BAFTA together with Q&A. Report here on the blog.
  • BBFC have issued the film with "15" certificate (for strong language and one scene of hard drug use). Run time is 82 min 14 s.
  • The film will have its international première at Roma FictionFest (July 5-10). UPDATE: To be screened out of competition. -- Article - in Italian; calls it one of the three major premières and mentions that CE won Best Actor at the festival in 2007 for 'Perfect Parents' -- Variety report -- THR report
  • Advance screening and Q&A at BAFTA May 4.
  • Now part of Fatherhood Season on BBC Four:
    John Lennon’s role as a father, and the impact of the brief and unhappy reappearance of his own absent father into his life, is the focal point of this drama, in which Christopher Eccleston stars.
  • eccleston as lennon
  • Mar 25 TRAIL - here on the blog or UK only at BBC Four Spring/Summer press release (link on the right).
    Christopher Eccleston plays John Lennon in a single film charting his transition from Beatle John to enduring and enigmatic icon.
    Spanning a period of wildly fluctuating fortunes for Lennon between 1967 and 1971, writer Robert Jones articulates the burden of genius, as well as issues of fatherhood and fame.

    The unexpected death of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein in 1967 marked a turning point in Lennon's life. This film focuses on the turbulent and intense period of change that followed, and how John was haunted by his troubled childhood.

    Made in high definition, Lennon Naked also reveals the impact of re-establishing contact with his long lost father, and the events that led John to shed everything both personally and creatively, including calling time on The Beatles.
    Meeting Yoko Ono was the catalyst for this new era and the film explores the development of their extraordinary relationship, their growing disillusionment with Britain and what caused Lennon to abandon the UK to start a new life in America, a process which ultimately inspired him to record arguably the most powerful solo work of his career.
  • DVD for pre-order at HMV. Or at BBC Shop.
  • Trailer had been screened during BBC Showcase 2010 in Brighton (21-24 Feb).
  • TX: According to BBC News article, release now set for 'summer' (Naoko Mori had mentioned late spring/June; listen to her talk about the film and CE here).
    Lennon Naked will be the second film of the past 12 months to tackle the subject of one of British music's most enduring and enigmatic icons - John Lennon.

    Nowhere Boy, the debut feature by artist Sam Taylor-Wood, portrayed the precocious teenage Lennon before the Beatles and his complex relationship with his domineering aunt and free-spirited mother.
    The new BBC film, which stars former Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston, shows Lennon at the opposite end of his career from 1967 to 1971, fame-weary and disillusioned with the very band that made his name.

    The impact on Lennon of the death of the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein comes under the microscope as does his break-up with wife Cynthia and his meeting with Yoko Ono and the subsequent period of his life which resulted in his defining song, Imagine.
    Lennon Naked has been based, in part, on an historic "jaw-droppingly open" interview that Lennon gave to Rolling Stone editor Jan Wenner in 1970. During the course of the interview, Lennon spoke at length about the break-up of his band and his fractious relationship with Paul McCartney.

    "It's an extraordinarily revealing interview about Lennon's character," says Lennon Naked director Ed Coulthard.
    "He's very bitchy about The Beatles, he slags people off and it's very bitter. He also says he knew he was a genius at the age of 12.
    "It was that last comment that captured me, really. It got me thinking about him and that late destructive period of his life."

    [listen to the J. Lennon interview in full off-site here - ATBN]

    Fan fears
    The film is set to be one of the highlights of the BBC's summer schedule and has Beatles fans salivating, if not also feeling a little apprehensive.

    "Fans have an image of John and the biggest fear that any Beatles fan has, is that it doesn't capture what he was feeling at the time," says Ernie Sutton from the British Beatles Fan Club.
    "If it gives the impression that John wasn't bothered about his divorce from Cynthia or the break-up of the band and loss of Brian, that would be a real let down.
    "John had a caring side and was really quite thoughtful. If he comes across as just an angry person then it won't give an accurate portrayal."

    But Lennon Naked, at least according to the director, is not in the classic rock biopic mould.
    Rather than cramming Lennon's 40 years into a neat hour and a half, the film centres on a specific period in his life.
    But does this mean the film will avoid any number of dreaded rock biopic cliches?

    "I think that you've got to avoid the moments that we know about already which will just seem really corny. That's why Nowhere Boy really worked because it's his early years," says Radio 1 film reviewer James King.

    Lennon Naked shows Lennon telling the assembled Beatles the band is finished, surely a potential stumbling point. But Coulthard insists he should have avoided any.

    "I think the two pitfalls are that you make a hagiography, that is just a cardboard cut-out version of an artist's popular image or you choose to tell a negative story," he says.
    "The best films of this kind, and what I aspire to, is something in between that has light and shade. It is three-dimensional and has some complexity to it and gets you to a deeper sense of who this person was."
  • lennon naked
  • Jan 13 BBC announced Winter/Spring line up - see image and watch the clip w/ short extracts.
    The Sun provides an original photo of Lennon. Further explanation.
  • Dec 30 Variety:
    John Lennon is the next famous Brit to get the BBC4 biopic treatment. "Lennon Naked," set in the late 1960s as the Fab Four begin to fall apart, stars former "Doctor Who" thesp Christopher Eccleston as Liverpool's most famous son. [...]

    "Lennon Naked," a co-production between U.K. shingle Blast! Films and the BBC, may gain much-deserved international traction for these films, which deserve a wider audience than can be achieved on a niche net such as BBC4.

    "Potentially the Lennon film has the ability to reach a bigger audience because it is a more contemporary story than some of the previous films we've done," says BBC4 controller Richard Klein.

    "A lot of the things that Lennon is seen dealing with in our story -- coming from a broken family, drugs, divorce, the art world, celebrity -- are very modern subjects that will resonate strongly with today's audience."

    What all these films share are strong scripts ("Enid" was written by Lindsay Shapero while the Lennon biopic was penned by Robert Jones) and the opportunity for actors to engage at a deep level with the main character's personality.
    Lavish sets, crowd scenes and special effects are conspicuous by their absence.

    "They are all low-cost films that extract a huge creative dividend," says Ben Stephenson, the BBC's head of drama commissioning.
    "The focus is on a single, central performance and the script, which makes them incredibly attractive from an actor's perspective. The main actor or actress is on screen for pretty much every scene." [...]

    Coming so soon after Sam Taylor-Wood's portrayal of Lennon's teenage years in the feature "Nowhere Boy," isn't there a danger of over-dosing on Beatles nostalgia with "Lennon Naked?"

    "I don't think so," counters Klein. "Our story covers the years from 1967 to 1971 so it shows a completely different period in Lennon's life.
    "It covers areas that everyone wants to know about, including why did Lennon break up the Beatles and why did he leave London to go and live in New York."

    It also promises an intense performance from Eccleston, who may end up rivalling Bonham Carter's interpretation of Blyton.
  • Following the sighting of Christopher Eccleston on set for a new film about John Lennon on Nov 14, official information has been made available Nov 27.
    filming lennon naked filming lennon naked
    BBC4 Press Release:
    Christopher Eccleston is to star in Lennon Naked, a major one-off drama from Blast! Films for BBC Four.
    Lennon Naked charts his transition from "Beatle John" to enduring and enigmatic icon. It covers a period of wildly fluctuating fortunes from 1967-71; a time of worldwide adulation at one extreme, a combination of frustration and despair at the other.
    Writer Robert Jones articulates the burden of genius, as well as issues of fatherhood and fame in this 90-minute film.
    Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning says: "Securing Christopher Eccleston to play John Lennon is further testament to the calibre of drama on BBC Four." [...]

    When The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein died unexpectedly in 1967, it was a turning point in John Lennon's life. The film focuses on the turbulent and intense period of change that followed, and how John was haunted by his troubled childhood.
    The film reveals the impact of re-establishing contact with his long lost father Freddie and the events that led John to shed everything both personally and creatively – from divorcing his long-suffering wife Cynthia, to changing his name and ultimately calling time on The Beatles.

    Meeting Yoko Ono was the catalyst for this new era and the film explores the development of their extraordinary relationship. Together they experimented with both the musical and artistic avant garde but in doing so become outsiders.
    It looks at their growing disillusionment with Britain and what caused John to abandon the UK to start a new life in America. A process that included John harnessing the power of radical Primal Scream psychotherapy to lay the ghosts of his past and go on to record arguably the most powerful solo work of his career.

    Key cast also include Christopher Fairbank as Freddie Lennon, Naoko Mori as Yoko Ono, Claudie Blakley as Cynthia Lennon, Rory Kinnear as Brian Epstein, Allan Corduner at Art Janov, Michael Colgan as Derek Taylor and Andrew Scott as Paul McCartney.

    Lennon Naked is currently filming in London; the 90-minute drama is written by Robert Jones (The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Party Animals) and will air in 2010. The director and co-producer is Edmund Coulthard (Tales From Pleasure Beach, Soundproof); co-producer is Katherine Lannon (The Secret Life Of Mrs Beeton, The History Of Mr Polly) for Blast! Films, and BBC executive producer is Kate Evans.
    Naoko Mori, as Doctor Sato in the TV series 'Doctor Who' (ep. 4 'Aliens of London', 2005), and Rory Kinnear, as Father Dillane in 'The Second Coming' (2003), had previously appeared alongside CE. Also, Michael Colgan was Gerard Donaghey in 'Sunday' (2002).
    mori and eccleston in doctor whoNaoko Mori and CE in 'Doctor Who' (2005)

  • BBC News:
    Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston is to play John Lennon in a BBC drama marking 30 years since the singer's murder in 1980.
    Lennon Naked will tackle the death of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Lennon's developing relationship with Yoko Ono and his departure from the fab four.
    The 90-minute drama ends in 1971 - the year Lennon released his album Imagine and he and Ono moved to New York.
    Other secondary articles: Guardian, The Stage, c21media.net, Ireland On-Line.
  • Nov 15 'Set report' that broke the news first, at Daily Express:
    The former Dr Who star started his first day of filming as the Beatle yesterday for a BBC drama called John Lennon – Naked.
    The dramatic scenes being shot in London depicted the day Lennon and his then girlfriend Yoko Ono were arrested.
    The reconstruction is believed to be of when the real couple were taken into custody on October 18, 1968, following a drugs raid at the flat in London where they were staying.

    In the real event, police read a warrant through a bedroom window to Lennon and Ono, who days earlier had revealed she was pregnant, despite the fact they were both still married to other people.
    Police who broke down the front door found 200 grams of marijuana and half a gram of morphine inside the basement flat in London's Montagu Square. [filmed in Gordon Square, North London - ATBN]

    The property, near the famous Abbey Road studios where The Beatles recorded their greatest hits, belonged to Lennon's band-mate, Ringo Starr.
    Days after the raid, Yoko had a miscarriage.
    Lennon later pleaded guilty to possessing the drugs because he was worried that his lover would be deported. He was fined £150.
Naoko Mori guested on LA Talk Radio (Feb 7). Be advised it's a novelty show - site and source (there you can hear the whole programme, or if you want just the Mori interview, start at the minute 65).

Daniel Tatarsky's tweet had the first mention of the project: "Just heard: Christopher Eccleston (Aged 45) to play John Lennon from the 24 to 31. I guess Sheila Hancock will be Cynthia. 4:54 AM Oct 16th from web"


'Zanne said...

Some pictures of the first day of filming can be found here


¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

'Zanne, thank you so much!

joanr16 said...

Wow, this is wonderfully eerie.

I just returned from Thanksgiving at my brother's, where my 20-year-old nephew and I spent a fair amount of the time discussing John Lennon. My nephew is obsessed with the Beatles, and we share an admiration for Lennon in particular. My opportunity to introduce him to Eccleston's work has just been handed to me on a silver platter....

And after having watched yet another of the nephew's Tivo'd Beatles documentaries yesterday, I must say those photos of Eccleston as Lennon give me a chill. (Eerie coincidence #2: flipping channels in my motel room yesterday morning, I came upon Eccleston's wandering-ghost scenes in The Others.)

chiclit said...

The look is growing on me. I am pleased to see that there has been a lot of positive reaction on the blogosphere and the Twitterverse over the news of this project. I drove home from a holiday gathering today and two different stations were playing Beatles-when I got home, and turned on the tv our local PBS station was running a show about Ed Sullivan, and the first clip I saw was the Beatles..weird, huh?

Anonymous said...

The hairs on my back stood on end seeing these photographs 'Zanne. Thank you for sharing these with us!

Coupled with Christopher's fantastic Scouse dialect (see "Hillsborough" and "Revenger's Tragedy") the resemblance to Lennon is stunning.

Kitsa said...

Lovely photos, but he really should have tucked away the wardrobe tag.

chiclit said...

Actually the tag- that was part of the original look. Does anyone know the significance?

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

The original picture, ostensibly from 'an art gallery' is in fact from the first exhibition by John Lennon, 'You Are Here', 1968. During the event, 365 white balloons were released, with tags attached to them: 'You Are Here' written on one side, and address of the gallery, inviting to reply to J. Lennon, on the other. It was apparently inspired by Lennon having found a similar message when he was tiny.

In this Eccleston image, the tag bears three words, and one can safely presume it says 'You Are Here'

Read more about the exhibition here.
Watch a video from the event (also tells about Lennon and Ono meeting in 1966).