'Lennon Naked' - BAFTA Screening + Q&A - Report

2010-05-04 Christopher Eccleston's coming TV film 'Lennon Naked' (BBC4, June) has been screened at BAFTA, London, 4th May. Afterwards Eccleston, director Edmund Coulthard and writer Robert Jones talked about the creative process and their choices as well as answered audience's questions.

Sans spoilers, it could be said that the film is worth waiting for - maybe it's not a smash hit, but it's certainly a well-crafted, thoughtful approach to such an impenetrably iconic figure as John Lennon. It doesn't offer answers, only an opinion, and Eccleston's Lennon is that too. As BBC4 controller Richard Klein said in his introduction, it is not about representation, but about reinterpretation.

Somewhat paraphrased report of the Q&A follows - as experienced by Alex and Neptunienne - follow to her blog for her personal account of the evening and thoughts; videos are hers too.
We were told that Naoko Mori was also in attendance, but she didn't appear on stage and neither of us saw her.

The session began with the question about the starting point for the film. Director Coulthard named the Rolling Stone interview - extremely candid, even severely so. He found Lennon's journey from being repressed whilst with the Beatles to being an artist important too.

Eccleston, at the same time as joking about the temptation of playing characters like Jesus or John Lennon, emphasized the importance of Robert Jones' script for his decision to take on the role - quality scripts being essential in any production - albeit, he joked again, the fact that Lennon in this film had more lines than all the other characters was a welcome bonus too.

Lennon was not Eccleston's hero, he said though he'd always been fascinated by Lennon, and obsessed over him while he was doing research. Furthermore, going by the same Rolling Stone interview, he found the Beatle 'fascinatingly flawed', a very flawed human being, he quoted Benjamin Disraeli, "half ape, half angel" - that's what drew him to the role. He said that Lennon could be in turn arrogant, dismissive of others, vain, destructive, brutally honest about himself, humble, gentle, he was a very contradictory person.

Regarding the physical transition, Eccleston quipped he wished he'd had Botox done (regarding the age difference that shows), and that it was all about holding the stomach in and also the wigs. Jokes aside, he said he did a lot of work with the voice, for that he had a coach. He supported Michael Sheen's position that impersonation shouldn't take over the role.

Research, according to the writer and the director, was what the film attempted to show as well - getting past the handy standard info, and, like Lennon did, trying to get back to basics, to reality. Eccleston continued, joking, when asked if he liked Lennon better now that he'd done this movie, "I didn't like him." He said that he felt more for him and thought less of him after doing the film, but loved him for his flaws, and for what he left for us. He allowed that there were both pluses and minuses about John Lennon, but the main fascination for him was in that Lennon was deeply flawed.

Asked about the film's impressionistic and dreamlike feel, the director explained that they attempted to get inside Lennon's head. Main thread was meant to be the relationship with the father. Jones added that they wanted to use certain selected facts, which did not necessarily follow from each other, so the result was somewhat impressionistic.

Question about Primal therapy brought the explanations of its principals and how it found way into Lennon's life. There were some jokes that Eccleston was half-primal, or even fully primal. Jones meant Primal therapy was crucial for Lennon. Eccleston said that this therapy was very useful for John Lennon, whether it was screaming on all fours or simply retelling what his parents had done to him. And he felt like Lennon had never been able to face what had happened before that. He also said that the fact that they placed this revelation about him so late in the film, made it more challenging, as Lennon might have seemed like an unpleasant character without an explanation why he acted like he did with his father.

Coulthard thought the film was about the father parts in 'Mother' song. Eccleston said he noted the confessional quality in Lennon's music, he put his childhood on vinyl, had a compulsion to confess. He said we loved Lennon for his abrasiveness - he did what he wanted to do and said what he wanted too (for example, his edgy relationship with the press), expressed it in his music, it was more than just a diversion (also a side others would probably like to have). Still, Lennon was "a bit of an egotist", Eccleston added, implying 'a bit' was way more than a bit.

Did the film show anything new? "Probably nothing", according to Chris Eccleston, but it helped imagine Lennon's inner life, the creation of his music, it's a try to imagine the landscape of personal existence; show a flavour, attempt a challenging portrait. The writer added there was more to Lennon than 'Imagine' and the image he created then.

This ended the prepared part of the Q&A, and the mic was handed to people in the audience.

First, public asked about feedback from Yoko Ono or someone else. The film's authors didn't have any, but they have notified the persons depicted in the film.

Then, there was a question about the original Beatles music which was extensively used throughout the film - writer and director meant it was essential, but apparently the rights weren't granted for worldwide release (?)

Underwater sequences with Eccleston that punctuated 'Lennon Naked' got attention too, and he used the chance for some more anecdotes. First, Eccleston claimed there actually existed an out-take where he plunged into the water, but his wig didn't exactly follow with him. He said John Lennon would have kept the out-take in the film, and overall, Lennon would have certainly loved doing this film himself, as there were 17 John Lennons running around. Then Eccleston mentioned the 90 minute film was shot in just 18 days. To which he added the punchline that he slept at the bottom of the pool.

Someone asked what Lennon would had been doing now, if he were still alive. Eccleston answered, "Well he'd shoot me, wouldn't he?" He said he expected that John Lennon would had been throwing another hand-grenade into his own life, because he seemed like a restless man. Some people thought Lennon had found peace at the time just prior to his death (compared to his chaotic life before), but that was more or less a myth. He thought that Lennon would have still been questing. He added that Lennon had a tragic, short life, it felt like he had a very full life, and yet he didn't have any time for personal development.

When asked if he was apprehensive about doing full frontal nudity, Eccleston retorted, "What do you think?!" He said that John Lennon did it in a sort of madness, "We're naked, let's show it," adding, "and then you all have to look at it."

Asked about inventing sequences for the film (the opening title said real events were presented in the film, but some scenes were writer-created), Jones replied the biggest part was documented, and it was mostly about filling in the gaps, not massive invention as such. They did watch youtube interviews of John Lennon's. But they didn't ask any of the living persons for inside information - it didn't have to be a personalized story.

Listen to the audio.


Neptunienne said...

You can find my full report with a lot of fangirling here, I'd be glad for you to repost it if you like, or just use what you can to fill in the gaps!

Photos and video clips to follow tomorrow when I get home and find the adapter thingy to read my camera.

I also belive that someone on the LJ group "ecclescult" managed to film the Q&A!

chiclit said...

Neptunienne-thanks so much for your excellent account, and being will to share-glad it came off well. I am pleased to hear people were generally giving Eccleston his space.

As one of the geographically challenged unable to attend, I am also looking forward to your pics and video-good luck with the "thingy".

Alex is still in transit from the event -be back to you shortly about how we will put together the BAFTA entry (entries?)


¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

Hi Neptunienne - thank you very much for the write-up, now the report is enhanced - I also added what I had more myself, because I ran out of time yesterday.

Have a safe trip home, and looking forward to the materials too. Let us know how you'd like us to co-operate further.

Anonymous said...

Great reports! I was geographically challenged too but Viv faithfully kept me posted!I just want to see it even more now (no, NOT just because of THOSE bits.....!!!) Ruth x

Anonymous said...

Can I say thanks to Oye Christobal and Neptunienne who posted before me, most of what has been said is all in my shorthand notes and waking up with a thumping great headache didn't help me this morning the recall the past night's events. Anyhow I diagress.

It is always difficult to pass comment on a such a drama as "John Lennon - Naked" without trying as one does what went on inside Lennon's troubled and flawed mind at the time. It would also be wrong of me to give a biais view on Christopher's performance.

As such this piece of work gave an insight what we as casual viewers would think and perceive in our personal opinion of who Lennon was as person, musician and more importantly as a father to both Julian and Sean.

At times, as I've grown up and had a difficult relationship with my own father, trying to tear down the walls between his generation and mine, the raw emotional impact he has over me and still has in a way that only a father's love has.

I remember sometime ago the actor Bernard Hill ("Boys From The Black Stuff") playing Lennon in a one off BBC drama as part of some Beatle season. It would be a tad unfair of me to comment to compare and contrast here.

I recalled afterwards to Christopher where I was when the news broke that Lennon had been shot dead outside the Dakota Building in New York in December 1980. I was eleven at the time, I was far too young to appreciate the Beatles being born at the tail end of the 60s but tried hard to understand the nature of such a complex man. I remembered too the interviews Lennon gave to BBC Radio 1 to Andy Peebles a few days before.

It is only now that I can fully appreciate what Lennon went through emotionally, the self-confessing that he had that urge to put it all down in music.

I was more than a little surprised by Christopher saying that Lennon wasn't a hero of his, but there again the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester is always going to be there not just in muscial terms but in sporting ones too.

After seventeen years of not knowing his father, all the frustrations came out of his pores and Lennon just couldn't handle his father's love. He wasn't a boy anymore, he had become a man moreover John had become like his father.

It will of course, innevitably be interesting what Beatles/Lennon fans will say on this.

Neptunienne said...

Here are the photos I managed to catch of Chris (and save fromt he trashcan... moving Chris + trembling me + no flash = blurry pics and/or silly faces)

chiclit said...

Neptuienne-great photos thank you!

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

Thanks again for sharing, Neptunienne.
Yeah, it was a right mess outside - I didn't even notice anyone taking pictures there.

As you can see, I used screencaps from your priceless vids for illustrations - cheers!