A few blog posts ago, we linked to an interview Ken Sharp had with movie director Michael Lindsay-Hogg about The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. At the end of that interview, Lindsay-Hogg replied to a few questions about the upcoming documentary based on the Let It Be footage and the re-release of his own Let It Be film. Here is that part of the interview:
Rock Cellar: (...) As the director of The Beatles’ Let It Be film, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask to gauge your thought about the Peter Jackson Beatles “Let it Be” sessions film and the long overdue accompanying reissue of your original?
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: What happened was Let It Be came out, it had a theatrical release and it won an Oscar for the soundtrack. But unfortunately by the time it came out in England and certainly by the time it came out in America, The Beatles had broken up.
So as Peter Jackson called it, the film had become a little orphan ‘cause there was no one really looking after it. They didn’t care anymore, they were off fighting amongst themselves and doing what they were doing.
And it also represented to them, as Paul said, a kind of sad time too with The Beatles, as we learned, were breaking up. Then for many years Apple, with an archivist, were working on a documentary about Let It Be. I used to see cuts once a year and would go over and look at them. I was interviewed for it too about what my memories were working on the film and the rooftop performance. I kept advocating for Let It Be to be re-released in some form because I knew it was very good.
So then when I was over in London in October of last year, I had a meeting at Apple and they said, “We have a new plan which is Peter Jackson is gonna have a whack at the material.” And I said, “fantastic!” because I would not have wanted to go in a time capsule back 50 years and do it again.
The reason Let It Be is as it was 50 years ago is The Beatles were the producers as well as the stars, so there was certain amount of stuff they didn’t want in the picture because they thought they’d stay together at the time when we were editing. I did do some slightly self-censored editing of footage but I did manage to get in some things, which were telling about the relationship between them, which was sometimes good and sometimes not so good.
Rock Cellar: For example, the argument between Paul and George takes on a life its own captured in posterity on the film and that has colored The Beatles’ own perception of that period.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Yes, you’re right. That argument was a small thing but it suggested there was certain amount of tension between them at this time in their life and indeed, why wouldn’t there be tension? They’re musicians and artists and they’ve known each other since they were teenagers and so they got married very young.
Rock Cellar: After viewing hours and hours of footage, Peter Jackson has asserted there are some very positive moments that negate the perception that the “Let It Be” sessions were miserable.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Oh yeah. That’s what attracted Peter to the project. We only had an hour and a half of screen time so we could only put in certain things in the original film. Some stuff was cut out for political reasons, internal reasons and length reasons. I think what Peter has been finding as he started to look at the footage is a lot of more fun stuff between them, which was a part of the the original cut of the film but we had to get rid of it because of time and some contractual obligations stuff like that. We had a cut, which was half an hour longer than what was released. There was a lot of good stuff, but for 15 different kinds of various reasons we had to cut it out. So I’m really thrilled and fascinated with what someone of Peter’s talent, who also loves The Beatles, is gonna come up with.
Rock Cellar: Apple is also going to finally release the original version of Let It Be too, right?
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: Yes. That’s what makes me the happiest. They’ve restored it and it looks great. We’ve been working on both sound and picture. It’s very good. So that’s ready to go and that makes me thrilled because people will get a chance to see the film again and then you’ll have the one Peter comes out with, which will have a lot of the footage of what it was like at the time.
That’s what we tried to do in Let It Be. The Beatles had never had any extensive filming done of them rehearsing and recording in the studio ever so this was really it. There’s plenty of wonderful material and Peter will dig that out, Let It Be will come out again, and we’ll all be happy.
A version of the interview is also available in the current issue of Beatlefan.