Coming to theaters on June 28, Yesterday is about a world in which the Beatles never existed — and one person capitalizes on it by passing their songs off as his own. It's a mystery as to why the Beatles have disappeared from everyone else's memories after a worldwide blackout, so how does a movie like this end? Was it all a dream? Do people's memories return? Do any Beatles show up in Yesterday to prove their existence?
While it would have been possible for Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr to show up in cameo roles, none of the living members of the Beatles appear in Yesterday. Still, it was important to director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) and screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love Actually) to get the blessing of McCartney and Starr, as well as the estates of George Harrison and John Lennon before they made the movie, which they did.
Boyle spoke about McCartney and Starr's feelings on the story with Reuters at Yesterday's London premiere. He said that Starr and Harrison's widow, Olivia Harrison, had seen the movie and sent words of support. Of McCartney, he said, "I don’t think Paul has seen the movie, but he’s seen the trailer and he said 'Oh that seems to work!'"
"That [the story] is so typical of their sense of humor — and their bravery as well — because they are experimenters," Boyle explained of the band. "So I think they like the fact that it’s a bit left field."
While Starr and McCartney are not in the movie, Yesterday does visit the city where the band was born: Liverpool. Jack (Himesh Patel), the singer-songwriter who remembers the Beatles, visits Liverpool to try to connect with the band that doesn't exist. "It’s weird for him going to Liverpool because he’s kind of stealing the songs," Boyle explained in the production notes for the movie. "But the connection that you have between a songwriter’s gift and their hinterland — all the texture and culture that feeds into and produces the music. Jack just goes and piggybacks onto it. I guess you can forgive him because there is a danger that the songs will be forgotten, and he’s returning them to the people."
Unsurprisingly, it was hard to film in the city without accidentally featuring the Beatles. "It felt right to return to Liverpool to film it in a way that made it look as though The Beatles had never existed," Boyle continued. "That’s tough in Liverpool because they’re very proud of The Beatles. We did have to do a bit of digital erasing!"
Spoilers ahead. Now, while there are no actual Beatles in the movie, Jack does meet John Lennon at the end. An uncredited actor playing the late artist appears, still alive in the present because the band didn't exist. The movie shows him as an artist, happily living in the country at 78 years old. He just didn't write any of his famous songs.
It remains to be seen how fans feel about his inclusion, but at least audiences know that Yesterday had the blessing of the band and their families.