Ron Howard on directing The Beatles documentary: ‘I began to think of this as a survival story’

On Monday’s episode of True Stories with Kurt Loder, Ron Howard discussed how he came to direct a documentary on The Beatles’ touring years.

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SiriusXM Editor
November 14, 2016

Ron Howard was initially hesitant when he was approached to direct a documentary about The Beatles’ touring years. On Monday’s episode of True Stories with Kurt Loder, Howard discussed how he overcame his reluctance.

An Academy Award-winning director known for movies such as A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and Frost/Nixon, Howard delved into documentaries in 2013, when he directed a film around the inaugural Made In America festival.

“That was the first time I experimented with making a documentary, and I actually really enjoyed it,” Howard said. “I enjoyed the creative process, I thought it was stimulating, I thought it was informing the way I thought about scripted movies in an interesting way. So I was open to doing more.”

Howard was approached by Nigel Sinclair, a producer who had experience producing many rock and roll documentaries. Sinclair told Howard that The Beatles and their multimedia company Apple Corps were collecting archival footage in hopes of doing a documentary “to remind people we were a great little band,” as Paul McCartney put it.

“I said, ‘Well, I need to read a little more about The Beatles, I’m actually not encyclopedic about them,'” Howard said. “I had my sense of it because I was 10 when all of that was going on. I saw The Sullivan Show, it didn’t change my life but I wanted a Beatles wig for my birthday, which was three weeks later.”

As he began to look at The Beatles’ story, Howard said he became more and more intrigued by the notion of  a film that encompassed their touring years beyond performing and recording music.

“Somehow I began to think of this as a survival story, like an ensemble survival story. I kept thinking about it like Das Boot: here they are, they’re on a mission, they have each other, depth charges outside the submarine, who knows what’s going on out there but they have to get from one place to another,” Howard explained. “Of course that’s a gross oversimplification, but that’s what I began to see in what they were enduring, this sort of gauntlet of public exposure, opportunity and this incredible creative growth in the midst of all of it, and of course all the pressure from the societal changes of the time. [It was] very unique, and that’s the story that I said I’d be interested in if the research team believes there’s anything to this point of view, and of course if the band likes it.”

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years was released in September theatrically and through the streaming service Hulu.

Howard also discussed his working relationship with frequent collaborator Tom Hanks, whom he directed in Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.

“He’s not looking to throw his weight around, he’s not looking to make people feel bad and in fact he wants to make people feel good so I think all those things add up to ‘nice,'” Howard said. “But is he judgmental, does he know what he likes and what he doesn’t like? Yeah, and he doesn’t mind talking about it.”

New monthly episodes of Kurt Loder’s True Stories air Fridays at 7 p.m. ET on VOLUME (Ch. 106).

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