Two of Us (2000 film)
|Two of Us|
|Directed by||Michael Lindsay-Hogg|
Deborah Ann Henderson
|Written by||Mark Stanfield|
|Music by||David Schwartz|
|Editing by||Norman Buckley|
|Release date(s)||February 1, 2000|
|Running time||89 minutes|
Two of Us is a 2000 television drama (and the third original VH1 film) which offers a dramatized account of April 24, 1976 (six years after the break-up of The Beatles), the day in which Lorne Michaels made a statement on Saturday Night Live offering The Beatles $3,000 to reunite on his program.
It was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg (who also directed the 1970 Beatles film, Let It Be) and starred Jared Harris as John Lennon and Aidan Quinn as Paul McCartney. Beatles historian Martin Lewis served as the film's technical advisor, and the screenplay was written by "longtime Beatles fan and Beatlefest attendee, Mark Stanfield."
The title of the film comes from the 1970 Beatles song, "Two of Us".
There was great public demand for a Beatles reunion during the 1970s. For example, in September 1976, American promoter Sid Bernstein, who had booked many of the Beatles' historic American appearances in 1964-1966, published a full-page ad in the New York Times publicly requesting the group to reunite and offering millions of dollars. On April 24, 1976, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels parodied such offers with an on-air announcement that he would pay the Beatles $3000 if they would perform on his program together. He joked, "divide [the money] up any way you want. If you want to give less to Ringo, that's up to you." John Lennon discussed the Saturday Night Live episode, as well as his relationship with McCartney, in a September 1980 interview for Playboy:
Paul McCartney also remembered the event for an interview: "[John] said, 'We should go down there. We should go down now and just do it.' It was one of those moments where we said, 'Let's not and say we did.' "
Two of Us opens with the following introduction:
The screenplay consists of a series of long conversations between John Lennon and Paul McCartney (while their wives, as well as other Beatles, are referred to, they do not appear in the production). The discussions between Lennon and McCartney explore a number of issues including the breakup of The Beatles and the difficulties that developed between them after Lennon married Yoko Ono. According to Lindsay-Hogg, "most of the film [consists of] two men and four walls . . . you can't get more intimate than that."
Critic Kevin McDonough argues that, "in less talented hands, Two of Us, like any Beatles-reenactment movie, could have been an awful exercise in bad wigs and Liverpool accents. Instead, Lindsay-Hogg and first-time screen writer Mark Stanfield have created a small masterpiece, a variation on My Dinner With Andre meets The Beatles."
Structure and characters
Critic David Bianculli likened Two of Us to a three-act play with the following structure:
- Act I: "McCartney, on the New York leg of his world tour with his post-Beatles group Wings, arrives unannounced at Lennon's Dakota apartment at a time when Yoko is away; they exchange small talk and biting insults, consume some marijuana and eventually end up noodling around on the piano."
- Act II: "[McCartney and Lennon] don disguises, walk through Central Park and confront a few of their fans at a quiet little restaurant."
- Act III: "As the evening wears down, they watch Saturday Night Live together and, by chance, witness producer Lorne Michaels offering the Beatles a laughably low sum – $3,000 – to reunite on his show. Impulsively, they toy with the idea of speeding to Rockefeller Center to perform a few songs that very night."
Nanciann Cherry argues that, "[Harris and Quinn] are superb, capturing accents, mannerisms, and behavior of their two famous characters. More than a fine job of imitation, Harris and Quinn get beyond the trappings of fame and show us two men, former best friends, who have gone separate ways and no longer know how to recapture that friendship."
Critic Ed Bumgardner also notes that:
- This conjured-up day-in-the-life meeting between Sir Paul and Saint John, a pretentious project ripe for disaster, is actually a thoughtful, well-developed character study that shouldn't embarrass either actor or the two men they so beautifully portray [...] Lindsay-Hogg's sharp eye for detail lends credence to the storyline. The period clothes and haircuts ring true, as do the dead-on scouse accents sported by Quinn and Harris as McCartney and Lennon.
Jim DeRogatis interviewed Lindsay-Hogg about his involvement with the film. Lindsay-Hogg stated that he became involved with the project because the screenplay,
- wasn't so much about The Beatles. It was a very good script in which the agency of these two famous people and their story takes you somewhere deeper. To me, that's the nature of friendship: How we grow, how we grow up, and how things change. These boys knew each other when they were 16 and now they're 35 and they have to find a new truth. We all have our own relationships like that, whether they're matrimonial relationships or friendships.
Of the screenplay he further stated, "Mark Stanfield is a good writer and a Beatles fan who has a lot of knowledge [...] Some of that stuff was ad-libbed by the actors because they really got into this, but Mark also wrote characters instead of stereotypes or caricatures."
In another interview, Stanfield discussed the decision to create a fictionalized account of actual people: "I didn't give it a lot of thought. Certainly it's been done before, from Shakespeare through something like Melvin and Howard. And, more recently, in films like Gods and Monsters. Shakespeare in Love, for that matter."
The film's technical advisor (and Beatles historian), Martin Lewis, conducted extensive research, drawing upon both his, as well as Michael Lindsay-Hogg's personal knowledge of The Beatles:
- I spent a lot of time working on the project. I dug up hours of film, video, TV and radio material of John and Paul - so that Aidan and Jared could immerse themselves in the characters they were portraying. Much of the material was rare. What I especially wanted to give them were tapes of John and Paul talking when they were not "on" - but being themselves - as they obviously would be when the two of them were together without others around. We also spent hours discussing their characters and the dynamic of their relationship [...] Aidan and Jared were incredibly hard-working. They took their work very seriously. Neither of them planned to be IMPERSONATING their characters. They wanted to capture the ESSENCE of them more than anything.
To further prepare for the role of Paul McCartney, Aidan Quinn traveled to Liverpool with actor Ian Hart (who portrayed John Lennon in the 1994 film Backbeat). While there, he visited a number of places including McCartney's childhood home. Jackie Spencer at www.beatleguides.com was tour guide in Liverpool that day, and was impressed by Aidan's commitment to the role.
Quinn discussed McCartney's reaction to the film in an April 18, 2004 interview: "Just after I finished the film, I went on holiday and Paul McCartney was staying at the same place. I met him and we became quite friendly. Later, he saw the film and fortunately he liked it. It would have been terrible if he'd hated it."
The original soundtrack by David Schwartz does not include any songs by The Beatles because "the producers could not get clearance from the notoriously difficult copyright holders, a company owned by Michael Jackson." Critic Jim DeRogatis notes that, "the movie was over before it struck me that the soundtrack was devoid of any Beatles songs [...] Such is our saturation in all things Beatles-related that their actual music isn't even missed in the movie. And maybe that should tell us something about getting back to what really matters in this group's legacy."
Critic Kevin Thompson further argues:
- Lauren Zalaznick, VH1's senior vice president of original programming and development, notes, 'This movie is all about two souls, arguably the most famous musicians of our time. It's not an excuse for a Beatles hit parade.' Well, VH1 tried to get the rights to some Beatles songs, but wasn't successful. The songs weren't necessary, however. On the surface, Two of Us is about a long overdue meeting between two music industry icons. Look deeper and the film is really about friendship and loss.
- Bark, Ed. "Come Together: VH1 movie asks "what if' Lennon, McCartney had reconnected?" The Dallas Morning News. 31 January 2000.
- Bianculli, David. "New York Daily News. 1 February 2000.
- Bumgardner, Ed. "Imagine: Lennon, McCartney Are Subjects of a What If Film." Winston-Salem Journal. 31 January 2000.
- Cherry, Nanciann. "Two of Us is a Grand Fantasy: VH1 Film Explores The Realm of What Have Been." The Blade (newspaper). 31 January 2000.
- DeRogatis, Jim. "Chicago Sun-Times, 30 January 2000.
- ---. "Chicago Sun-Times, 30 January 2000.
- Leonard, John. "Past Perfect." New York Magazine, 7 February 2000 (issue).
- Et Tu Beatlus?" January 2000.
- ---." talks to Martin Lewis."
- ---."." 1 February 2000.
- McDaniel, Mike. "Beatles biopic asks, `What if?'" Houston Chronicle. 31 January 2000.
- McDonough, Kevin. "United Feature Syndicate, 1 February 2000.
- ---."A Day in the Life (That Might Have Been)" Newsday. 31 January 2000.
- Michaels, Lorne. "Saturday Night Live, 24 April 1976.
- Moore, Frazier. "Associated Press, 31 January 2000.
- Ostrow, Joanne. "Denver Post, 27 January 2000.
- Sisario, Ben. "New York Times, 30 January 2000.
- Spencer, Jackie & Jean Catharell. " hometown."
- Thompson, Kevin. "The Palm Beach Post. 31 January 2000.
- : And in the End...." 1 February 2000
- VH1 Official Site
- The Making of "Two of Us"
- Internet Movie Database