Peter Jackson to Direct Documentary About The Beatles' 'Let It Be' Recording Sessions

Courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd.
The Beatles in the studio

The film will be based on 55 hours of never-released footage of The Beatles in the studio, and Jackson plans to use restoration techniques he developed during the making of his WWI doc 'They Shall Not Grow Old.'

Peter Jackson has signed up for a few hard days' nights in the editing suite.

The Lord of the Rings filmmaker is set to direct a feature-length documentary based on 55 hours of never-released footage of The Beatles recording their seminal album Let It Be in 1969.

The film will be produced through a partnership between Jackson's WingNut Films and Apple Corps. The companies say they have the complete co-operation of Beatles principals and widows Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison.

The archival footage Jackson will use to build the film captures Britain's most iconic band at a pivotal moment in its members' careers. Let It Be was released in May 1970, several months after The Beatles had broken up. The filming — the only time the band was recorded at length while working in the studio — was originally intended for a TV special, but changed shape and became Michael Lindsay-Hogg's Let It Be documentary film, culminating with The Beatles' legendary performance on the roof of Apple's Savile Row London office.

The original film has long been the subject of scrutiny among die-hard Beatles fans, who have searched for evidence of strain between the soon-to-break up bandmates. But Jackson says the source material actually provides a far more dynamic portrait. "I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth,” he said on Wednesday.

"After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure-trove," Jackson explained. "Sure, there’s moments of drama — but none of the discord this project has long been associated with. Watching John, Paul, George and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating — it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate."   

Jackson's most recent release as a director was the World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, which used a new set of digital techniques pioneered by the director's Wellington, New Zealand-based company Park Road Post to transport forgotten WWI soldiers into the present-day — in vivid, ravishingly detailed color 3D. Jackson says he plans to leverage these same tools to restore the 16mm film on which the Beatles footage was shot.

Jackson will again be working with They Shall Not Grow Old producer Clare Olssen and editor Jabez Olssen for the project. The executive producers are Ken Kamins for WingNut Films and Jeff Jones and Jonathan Clyde for Apple Corps.

"This movie will be the ultimate 'fly-on-the-wall' experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about," Jackson said. "It’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.” 

In the wake of They Shall Not Grow Old's success — critics have raved about the film and it was nominated for a BAFTA for best documentary — Jackson appears strongly enamored with his new tools of film restoration wizardry. In December, the director told THR that he plans to use the techniques to restore his first four films — Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles, BraindeadHeavenly Creatures —  all of which are considered cult classics but have been out of print for years.