Anthony McCarten on Writing Bee Gees Movie: "This Is Not a Photograph, It’s a Painting"

Anthony McCarten and Barry Gibb - Getty - Split - H 2019
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The 'Bohemian Rhapsody' scribe is teaming up with Graham King, Stacey Snider and Steven Spielberg to bring the Bee Gees story to the big screen.

Anthony McCarten has signed on to write Paramount's upcoming movie about The Bee Gees.

The London-based scribe (The Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything) says he was recruited for the film by producer Graham King a few months ago, after they had worked on Bohemian Rhapsody, which won four Oscars in February.

"I was walking in Hyde Park and Graham called and said, 'What are you up to?' and I said, 'Walking in Hyde Park with my lovely wife,'" McCarten tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He said, 'Would you be interested in working on this project with Barry [Gibb] and Steven Spielberg?" 

McCarten took on the project and has since spent time interviewing Gibb, the lone surviving member of the band.

"I’ve flown down to Miami and had two long meetings with Barry," he says. "The way that you work, it’s a partnership and you join hands, and I always try to make them aware very early on that this is not a photograph, it’s a painting. It's impressionistic by its very nature and I have to be given room to move, and there may be aspects that you struggle with but if we leave those out, it’ll be dramatically inert and do you want a bad movie?"

THR reported exclusively on Nov. 1 that Spielberg and his Amblin production banner was added to the deal that King and producer Stacey Snider made with Paramount to make the as-yet-untitled Bee Gees film. Spielberg had been trying to make the movie for a decade at Amblin but was unable to get the rights to the band, partly due to "overwhelming" Gibb with a lengthy legal document. When King entered the picture, he was able to reduce the document to just four or five pages long and was able to persuade Gibb to sign off on a film about the band. 

The Bee Gees, comprised of Gibb brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice, are among the world’s best-selling music artists of all time. Maurice died from complications of a twisted intestine in 2003, and Robin died from complications related to colorectal cancer in 2012. 

McCarten, who penned Netflix's upcoming movie The Two Popes, says he understands the nervousness that his real-life subjects felt about telling their stories on the big screen. With 2014's The Theory of Everything, he says he spent time with Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane, persuading them to let him write their story. 

"I had to convince Jane Hawking and Stephen Hawking to take their journey," he says. "I think there was a huge degree of nervousness, but you have to build trust and I keep saying to them all, 'I come to praise Caesar,' I'm not interested in takedowns and the stories that deserve a takedown, I’m just not really naturally interested in them, more interested in inspirational true stories."

McCarten tells his subjects that his scripts "will tend towards the light, as your life has, and we’re not going to make light of all the other things in the way, the stumblings and the obstacles and your mistakes, that’s what makes us human and what makes us interesting, and if we leave that out, it’ll be bland."

McCarten says he met with Spielberg earlier this month to discuss another project. "I spent a wonderful morning with him ... [it was] just the two of us, he only wanted to meet me one-on-one, we’re cooking up something which I can’t speak about," he teases. 

Reporting by Stephen Galloway