Richard Lester - DIRECTOR REMEMBERS HIS YEARS WORKING ON BEATLES MOVIES

 

DIRECTOR REMEMBERS HIS YEARS WORKING ON BEATLES MOVIES

From the Jan. 21, 1990, Deseret News

PARK CITY – As you read this, director Richard Lester is winging his way back to London, where Paul McCartney is waiting for him.

The director of the mid-‘60s Beatles films “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” currently is filming “Get Back,” a concert/documentary “portrait” of McCartney that is scheduled to resume shooting as soon as Lester returns to England.

In the meantime, he spent his 58th birthday Friday in Salt Lake City as a participant in the Sundance United States Film Festival and on Saturday was in Park City for the festival’s first seminar, “Richard Lester: A Knack for Comedy.”

Lester spoke informally for nearly two hours with an audience of about 200 people packed into the Elks Building, and later in the day two of his movies – “The Knack” and “A Hard Day’s Night” – were shown in Park City theaters.

An expatriate American who has lived in London for nearly 40 years, Lester directed the television programs that helped boost the career of Peter Sellers in the early ‘50s, and he said Sellers later returned the favor by helping Lester break into movies:

It was Sellers who introduced Lester to producer Walter Shenson. After an initial film together Shenson and Lester reteamed for the Beatles’ first film.

Asked why he’s never returned to the states, Lester said there’s no political reason. He simply found his success in London, married an Englishwoman, raised his children and never gave any though to leaving what had become his home. “I’ve had the same secretary in the same office for 25 years,” he said, “I walk to work every day – I’ve been very fortunate.”

Lester spoke candidly to questioners, even when someone brought up his as-yet unreleased “Return of the Musketeers,” a sequel to his mid-’70s films “The Three Musketeers” and “The Four Musketeers.”

 “Return of the Musketeers,” scheduled to be released in this country in March, had a pall cast over its eight-week shooting schedule when a cast member was killed in an accident during the fourth week of shooting.

Roy Kinnear, a close friend who appeared in many of Lester’s films, died when he fell from a horse. Lester said the next four weeks were miserable as he attempted to finish shooting the film – a broad comedy – and the resulting movie suffers for it. “That film will always be a tragedy to me. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.”

Though Lester discussed much of his career, questions kept returning to the Beatles, and he and his longtime friend Shenson, producer of both Beatles films, shared many anecdotes with the audience about working with he Fab Four at the pinnacle of their popularity.

Nonetheless, Lester told the crowd that after introducing “A Hard Day’s Night” he planned to “go hide until it’s over,” explaining that he never watches his old movies because he notices things he could have done better.

The festival continues in Park City through Sunday, Jan. 28, with screenings of independent competition films, out-of-competition premiere films, special collections of Colombian and Soviet movies and retrospectives of the work of Lester and writer-director-actor Melvin Van Peebles.

The festival is presented by the Sundance Institute in cooperation with the Utah Film Commission.