Peter Jackson Reveals How He Convinced Beatles Members of ‘Get Back’ Documentary

by John Jamison

Peter Jackson is no stranger to hours-long meandering epics. The ones we’re used to from him just happen to be works of fiction. In the case of The Beatles: Get Back—a three-part docuseries comprised of nearly eight hours of outtakes from an original documentary that ran for only 1.5 hours—Jackson was ambitious as ever.

But this time, he was merely a fly on the wall trying to shape the story of the divided Beatles making the Let It Be album. Needless to say, eight hours of unfiltered looks into the personal and artistic lives of John, Paul, George, and Ringo were a tough sell, especially considering the original plan for Jackson’s documentary was a two-and-a-half-hour movie. So how did the filmmaker convince Paul and Ringo to sign off?

Well, there are a few things to consider. One, the 2.5-hour original pitch was being made with the intent of releasing the final product in theaters. When the pandemic broke out, Peter Jackson quickly realized he had an opportunity to tell the entire story, not an abbreviated version of it.

And when he put it like that, Paul, Ringo, Olivia Harrison, and Sean Lennon understood the necessity. After all, the footage covers a hectic 22-day period. So Jackson cut together a six-hour version, which he saw as the bare minimum, and sent it out.

“That was the most nervous time I’ve had on this whole project, waiting for their verdict … The Beatles were the ones that we were waiting for them to look at it –Ringo (Starr) and Paul (McCartney) and Olivia (Harrison) and Sean (Lennon) — and the verdict came back from them saying: ‘Six-hour — great. We understand why it’s six hours. We’re happy with a six-hour version,'” Jackson told Variety.

Peter Jackson Realized Something Even The Beatles Themselves Forgot

Much has been said, and more has been written about The Beatles during the late 1960s. It was reported widely as a miserable time, with the iconic group constantly butting heads as they fast approached a complete split.

So much has been said over the past 50 years that even Paul McCartney associated the “Get Back” studio sessions with negativity. But as Peter Jackson combed through the footage, that’s not what he found at all.

“I could see the nervousness on his face… I mean, he was there in 1969, but he hadn’t seen the footage. And he said, ‘…yeah?’ And I could see there was trepidation on his face. I just said, ‘Look, whatever you think it is, it’s not what you think it is. Because I thought it was going to be miserable, but I’m amazed at how funny and happy it is. It’s completely different to what imagined.’ … He said, ‘Yeah? What? Really?'” Jackson said of showing McCartney some of the footage for the first time.