According to director Peter Jackson, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr pushed back against Disney censors in their new docuseries The Beatles: Get Back.
Get Back features never-before-seen footage of The Beatles during the recording of their album, Let It Be. Of course, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are the primary focus. Other figures in the band’s history such as Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono appear as well. At a lengthy six hour runtime, the series does not shy away from showing the reality of the band’s recording sessions, which means, unlike other Disney fare, Get Back doesn’t shy away from cursing and smoking.
“The truthfulness of it is important to them,” Jackson explained to NME, discussing the surviving band members’ opinions on the series. “They don’t want a whitewash. They don’t want it to be sanitized. Disney wanted to remove all the swearing and Ringo, Paul, and Olivia [Harrison] said: ‘That’s how we spoke. That’s how we talked. That’s how we want the world to see us.’”
As far as creativity, Jackson admits his surprise at how much freedom he was given. Instead of handing him notes and asking for flattering edits, McCartney and Starr simply said “make the film you want.”
The Beatles Docuseries Features Content Warning
The resulting series is preceded by a warning not at all common in Disney+: “this footage contains explicit language, mature themes, and smoking.” Jackson’s goal was to be “tough,” resulting in what McCartney called a very “raw” depiction of The Beatles’ recording process.
“One of them said that they watched it and found it one of the most stressful experiences of their entire life,” said Jackson, adding that they insisted on not giving any notes.
Beyond the language and substance use, Jackson’s lax editorial approach to the docuseries allows viewers to get glimpses into the dynamic of the group. This dispels the popular myth about the band’s break up being the consequence of Yoko Ono’s involvement with John Lennon. It also shows fans the exact moment when George Harrison quit the band.
Instead of a dramatic fight, Harrison’s departure from The Beatles was simple. He actually just says, “Well, I think I’ll be leaving the band now” before walking out. Of course, Harrison returned within a few days and remained with the band until their actual split. However, his walkout became somewhat of a urban legend amongst fans.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr’s insistence on showing the world what those infamous sessions were really like paid off. For better or worse, the lack of censorship allowed Jackson to show the honest truth of The Beatles.
The Beatles: Get Back is streaming now on Disney+.