11 things you didn’t know about Yesterday: From hidden cameras and off-the-cuff castings to surprise A&E visits - Exclusive
Actor Himesh Patel, director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis reveal hidden secrets, funny trivia and Beatles Easter eggs about Yesterday, coming soon to Sky Cinema with NOW TV.
Yesterday is available to watch on the NOW TV Sky Cinema Pass from Sunday, April 12
Yesterday stars Himesh Patel (EastEnders) as struggling musician Jack Malik, who realises he's the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles after waking up in an alternate timeline where they never existed.
Also starring Lily James (Cinderella, Downton Abbey), Yesterday is directed by Danny Boyle (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) and written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral).
Raking in more than $100 million at the global box office, according to Forbes, becoming the movie hit of the summer - with movie journalists calling it a ‘a toe-tapping pleasure to watch’ and a ‘glowing tribute to The Beatles and their music.’
Speaking exclusively to BT TV, the show’s leading star Patel, director Boyle and writer Curtis reveal 11 things you wouldn’t know about the film just from watching...
1. The first day of filming involved hidden cameras, made up songs and lying to the general public
In the film, there’s a scene where Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) busks for money - before he discovers The Beatles discography and becomes a star. But at the start of the film, Jack is still an unsuccessful singer/songwriter, so the team - including Richard Curtis - had to make rubbish songs for Himesh Patel to sing to unsuspecting members of the public in Clacton-On-Sea!
Curtis tells BT TV: “So the first day was him singing this ghastly song we’d written called The Summer Song, so it was funny.”
Recalling the slightly embarrassing moment, which also happened to be the first day of filming, Himesh Patel said some members of the public thought he was a real busker, as he did his own singing as well as playing the guitar.
He tells us: “It was really fun actually because I was basically busking as Jack, with hidden cameras, and I was later told that someone walked past and was like ‘who’s that?’ and one of the crew members went ‘that’s Jack Malik’ and they went ‘he’s good, isn’t he?’”
2. Danny Boyle took inspiration from Bollywood to pitch his vision of the film to Richard Curtis
It was almost as if fate brought together the directing/writing team of Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis on Yesterday.
Curtis explains to BT TV that Danny wrote to him literally by chance after he’d finished writing the screenplay: “He asked if I’d got anything that I’d finished [for him to direct]. So I sent it to him, so we chose each other as it were.”
Boyle adds that after Curtis sent him the script - there wasn’t an Apprentice-style ‘You’re Hired’ moment. He recalls: “It’s like suddenly you’re aware that you’re doing it and nobody else is, which is a better way of looking at it I think.”
The Oscar-winning director (for Slumdog Millionaire) took inspiration from Bollywood to pitch his vision of Yesterday to Richard Curtis.
He explains: “I worked in Mumbai, India, and movie stars there, they audition directors. If you want a movie star in your film, you turn up at their house [as director] and you act out the movie in front of them and their family, they don’t read scripts.”
Boyle took that on board, so when film executives say they want Boyle to direct his film, he goes and speaks to the producers and writers.
He says: “In this case I spoke to Richard [Curtis] the writer, and said ‘this is what I’ll do with it’. Because there’s no point in doing it unless you agree on that really.
“So you’re pitching it yourself, even though you’ve sort of been hired, you sort of pitch back and say ‘if you hire me, this is what you get.’”
3. Himesh Patel ended up in A&E after being offered the role of Jack Malik
Richard Curtis says that him and Boyle interviewed ‘20 to 25 people’ before Himesh Patel’s audition, recalling that they were ‘very lucky’ to find him.
He tells us: “Himesh was very exciting. Suddenly this guy walks in with this kind of perfect, gentle, modest voice and a really good sense of humour.”
Patel clearly aced his audition, with both Boyle and Curtis impressed with his performance, but he was actually ill on the day of the audition - and ended up in A&E after being offered the role.
After his audition, he went to bed to recover as he was feeling unwell, waiting for what he hoped was a phone call from director Danny Boyle but admitting himself he ‘didn’t really know what was happening’.
He explains: “So I took myself to bed and my phone started ringing, and my agent said ‘Danny Boyle’s about to call you’ and then Danny called me, we had a nice chat and he offered me the part.”
Great news, right? Wrong. Next, he says: “I was celebrating with my cat, and I was ill, and then my friends came over and we had Lucozade instead of champagne, and then I threw up, and then I felt great and I was watching the Brits.
“Then my girlfriend came home and I was fine, and then I was ill again, and then I was like ‘I need to go to bed’ and I took some Night Nurse that send you off to sleep, and then I couldn’t sleep, I was shivering, so my girlfriend called 111, and she was like ‘I think we need to go to A&E’, so we went to A&E, and there was nothing wrong with me, I was absolutely fine, the nurse was like ‘he’s fine’.
“We couldn’t tell her that I was probably in shock [from getting the part]!”
4. Ed Sheeran wasn’t the first choice of musician for that role...
In the film, Ed Sheeran plays himself as Jack Malik’s sort-of mentor/guide to the music industry, with Malik being offered the role of Sheeran’s support act on tour.
And during one scene, where Jack first performs Yesterday, his friends claim that it’s not as good as Coldplay.
This is a massive in-joke, as Sheeran’s role was originally meant for Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who couldn’t commit due to scheduling conflicts. Sheeran was the second choice for the role.
Speaking about how Sheeran reacted to being the second choice on set, Danny Boyle said Sheeran didn’t take it to heart - teasing them on set for not being able to get Chris Martin.
Danny Boyle tells BT TV: “Originally it was meant to be Chris Martin, which Ed teased us about, because we tried to keep that from him, as you would, [we’d say] ‘you’re our first choice Ed!’ and he said ‘no I’m not, you asked Chris Martin first, and then you asked Harry Styles second, and I’m third’ and we said ‘that’s absolutely not true, we did not ask Harry Styles second, so Ed was second!’
5. … but he still took it incredibly seriously, even if he got mocked 24/7 on set!
Yesterday isn’t Ed Sheeran’s first time playing himself on the screen - you might remember his roles in Bridget Jones’ Baby, or Game of Thrones.
But his part in this film is arguably much bigger - which means more lines to learn, more time on set, and more rehearsals.
So what was it like to actually work with Sheeran on set? Himesh Patel speaks very highly of the singer/songwriter/actor, telling us: “He was very relaxed, he was very generous, I mean his whole team were very generous with us as they gave us Wembley Stadium for a couple of nights! He was lovely. He’s renowned for being a nice guy, very down-to-earth.”
Danny Boyle agrees that Sheeran was very easy to work with on set, saying: “He has a good sense of humour, which is really important for the role in this, because obviously he gets the mickey taken out of him, but he gives as good as he gets, he really does. He was very jolly!”
Richard Curtis says: “He was just very gracious, very funny, and he didn’t mind us mocking him!”. He adds: “ Ed’s a friend of mine, so it was very much like hanging out with Ed, doing a bit of work, instead of just playing football or eating as he usually does!”
The writer/director duo were unanimous in the fact that Sheeran took the acting ‘very seriously’, putting a lot of time into the process and and taking part in all the rehearsals with the other actors.
Curtis adds: “[Sometimes] playing yourself is the hardest thing to do, so I’m looking forward to seeing him as a psychopathic killer in a movie next year!”
6. Oh, and you might spot Ed Sheeran’s girlfriend in the film
There’s one scene in the film where Jack Malik travels with Ed Sheeran via private jet to one of their tour spots. Recognise the flight attendant on said jet? That’s Ed Sheeran’s wife, Cherry Seaborn!It sounds like Seaborn got casted a little off-the-cuff, with Richard Curtis telling us: “Yeah, she was around, we just so wanted Cherry to be in it because she’s just so lovely. She was just so fun!”
7. Richard Curtis stopped listening to The Beatles while writing the film
If you thought writing the script for a film all about The Beatles would involve listening to Yellow Submarine on repeat, you’d be sadly mistaken.
The film’s writer Richard Curtis confessed that during the process of writing the film, he actually had to stop listening to the band’s back catalogue.
He explains: “The strange thing is, while I was writing the film, because it’s about The Beatles having disappeared, I actually stopped listening to The Beatles, because I wanted to put myself in the position of the hero of the film.
“But then, the more it went on the more I got to listen to lovely old Beatles songs so it made me very happy.”
8. Kate McKinnon used to ad/lib lines on set
Richard Curtis is the King of Rom-Coms, penning scripts for classic romantic comedies including Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary, Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral and loads more.
But even he admits that actress Kate McKinnon - who made a name for herself as a comedian on US sketch show Saturday Night Live - often would come up with funnier lines than him on set!
He tells BT TV: “Working with Kate McKinnon from SNL was fantastic because of the fact that she would make up lines. We’d get to the end of the day and we’d just say ‘Kate, say what you like’ and often they were better than what I’d written!”
9. The film wasn’t originally called Yesterday
It’s hard to imagine the film as any other name than Yesterday, but it turns out that the film was originally titled after after Beatles track.
Richard Curtis tells us: “Originally the film was going to be called All You Need, but Danny thought that gave away the plot, which I think is rather good, because in a way the movie does conclude that all you need is love, or that’s the most important thing.”
In the end, they went with Yesterday, which Curtis asked Paul McCartney's approval for. Sir Paul gave his blessing, but also suggested they call it Scrambled Eggs" instead - a lighthearted reference to the fact that before coming up with the lyrics for Yesterday, Paul McCartney had the temporary lyrics of Scrambled Eggs as a placeholder for the song.
10. On that note, All You Need Is Love wasn’t actually included as a nod to Curtis’ work on Love Actually...
It’s not a spoiler to reveal that one of the songs that Jack Malik sings in the film is All You Need Is Love - and fans of Love Actually (and who isn’t?) can’t help but notice that this was included in another one of Curtis’ hits, Love Actually.
But the inclusion of the song wasn’t included as a sort of Easter egg for Richard Curtis superfans, because his memories of the song doesn't actually revolve around the church wedding scene in Love Actually.
He tells us: “It would have been a shame not to have that song in the movie, but it actually isn’t one of the biggest. To me, All You Need Is Love to me is the first ever international [satellite] broadcast sitting in that studio, singing that song, so the Love Actually one is only a very small part of my memories of that masterpiece.”
11. Thousands of local Norfolk residents appear in a major performance scene
If you were hanging around Gorleston beach for a paddle in the water on the day of filming, you might have ended up cast in Yesterday.
Because a major concert scene in the movie that involved Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) performing on a rooftop actually involved 5,000 extras on the beach of the Norfolk seaside town of Gorleston - with local residents first to be chosen as the extras filmed for the scenes of the crowd.
Recalling the day’s filming, Richard says: “I think the day at Gorleston [in Norfolk] when we were singing the parody of the famous Beatles rooftop [concert], Himesh was singing Help! and there were 5,000 people on the beach, the sun was shining, that was one of my happiest days.”
Watch a behind-the-scenes video from filming that scene below:
Yesterday is available to watch with the NOW TV Sky Cinema Pass from Sunday, April 12.