Paul McCartney Thought ‘Yesterday’ Was a Terrible Idea

When Danny Boyle’s romantic comedy Yesterday was released to theaters, it received mixed reviews from critics. Although the film is a jukebox musical centered on the music of the Beatles, many felt that the film didn’t capture the Fab Four’s essence. Paul McCartney thought that the film was a terrible idea – until he didn’t.

Paul McCartney | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

Was ‘Yesterday’ a good idea?

Yesterday is a movie with an oddball premise. It’s about a musician named Jack Malik who wakes up to discover that he is the only person on earth who remembers the Beatles and their music. He uses his knowledge of the Beatles’ work to become a successful rock singer. The story of his rise to fame parallels his romance with a childhood friend.

When Yesterday was first released, many Beatles fans wanted to know what Paul felt about the film. Would he see it as a loving tribute to the group or an insult to their legacy? Paul was candid about his initial misgivings about the film in an interview with Billboard.

Paul McCartney in Boston | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

When asked about the project, the music legend said “That began when Richard Curtis, who [directed] Love Actually, wrote to me with the idea. And I thought, ‘This is a terrible idea,’ but I couldn’t tell him, so I said, ‘Well, that sounds interesting — good luck.’ I didn’t think anything more of it. Then someone said Danny Boyle would direct it, and I thought, ‘They must think they can pull it off.’”

Paul McCartney saw ‘Yesterday’ in disguise

Paul McCartney | Frank Tewkesbury/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Even though Paul felt the film could be good, it didn’t seem to weigh much on his mind. He admitted that after he heard about Boyle’s involvement he “thought nothing more of it until they asked if I wanted to see a screening. I asked [my wife] Nancy, and we said, “Let’s go, you and me, on a date to the cinema.” USA Today said the McCartneys “wanted to see it with people, rather than a corporate screening.”

People reported McCartney went into a screening wearing a hat and sunglasses so that people wouldn’t recognize him. “We were in the Hamptons in the summer and there it was, so we got two tickets and walked in when the cinema went dark. Only a couple of people saw us. We were in the back row, giggling away, especially at all the mentions of ‘Paul McCartney.’ A couple of people in front of us spotted us, but everyone else was watching the film. We loved it.” Paul also called Yesterday a “pretty good plug for me” as a character in the film describes him as the greatest living songwriter.

In many of their greatest songs, the Beatles were innovators, pushing the boundaries of what rock music could be. Yesterday, despite its fantastical twist, is a conventional romantic comedy with a by-the-numbers sense of humor. Although most critics felt Yesterday didn’t approach the quality of the Beatles’ best work, the film can boast a ringing endorsement from Paul.