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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is Christopher Eccleston too old to play John Lennon?

Intriguing news from the Telegraph the other day:

Christopher Eccleston to play John Lennon in Beatles biopic

Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston is to star as music legend John Lennon in a biopic set during the turbulent demise of The Beatles, it has been announced.

Lennon Naked covers the period from 1967 to 1971 when tensions within the band reached a peak and the star slipped into hard drug use.

Eccleston has already begun filming the 90-minute drama for BBC4.

Now, I’m as big a fan of Eccleston as they come, and I’m always delighted to see him in anything. But as the Telegraph goes on to point out:

At 45, the actor is a good 18 years older than the real Lennon would have been in 1967 and five years older than the musician at the time of his death in 1980.

Eccleston is a fantastic actor, and I have no doubt he can pull off portraying Lennon. But he can’t make himself look 20 years younger than he is. Is Christopher Eccleston too old to play John Lennon? Or does it not matter how old he is? Can a movie like this work when it’s all about the performance?

(And, and FYI, Naoko Mori — Torchwood’s Toshiko — will play Yoko Ono.)

Thanks to Ken for pointing out the Telegraph article to me.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • I think we all know the answer to this one.

  • MaryAnn

    But it doesn’t sound like this film is going to be anything as experimental as *I’m Not There*…

  • chuck

    CE is brilliant, and if any old guy could pull it off it would be him. Throw on some long curly hair and round glasses, a little vasaline on the lens and he is ready to go. I might have cast someone else though.

    What even more disturbing is who they found to play Yoko – http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Japan/Chubu/Niigata/Niigata/photo1063330.htm

  • Kimberly

    @ chuck: I started to get all indignant, and then clicked on your link. Tee hee!

  • MaryAnn

    any old guy

    Oh, Chuck, you’re only 12, aren’t you?

    Or were you just being sarcastic?

  • Cyndy

    I love CE and I’ll do what I can to see this movie. But if they’re doing that why aren’t they casting a 55 year old woman as Yoko? When will women get the same leeway with age. You’ll never see that happening outside an experimental film.

  • Kevin Spacey was 44 when he played Bobby Darin, who died at 37, in Beyond the Sea. Worked for me. And I think Chris Eccleston is at least as good an actor as Kevin Spacey.

  • Less
    any old guy

    Oh, Chuck, you’re only 12, aren’t you?

    Or were you just being sarcastic?

    Dear MaryAnn, I think you should look once again at how you worded this ‘question of the day’. You’re saying yourself that Mr. Eccleston is old!

    I’m absolutely certain that Christopher Eccleston is fully aware of the situation, just like the authors of the programme who know what they’re doing, – he wouldn’t have signed up otherwise.

    Although I’m tempted to say he should have been offered this role twelve years ago, I have no doubts whatsoever that they will be able to achieve what they want – whether it will be a success, it’s another question, best left for when we’ve seen the film.

  • Is he too old? Probably. Can he pull it off anyway? Absolutely. I just know I loved him enough to sit through GI Joe, and I never want to do anything like that again.

  • chiclit

    Ditto what Lize said, its just a pleasure to see him making television films again-he was in some brilliant ones in the past, and this seems like something I might enjoy. There is a lot of positive reaction to this , which hopefully warms CE’s heart as well as that of the BBC. Just hope us Yanks get to see it.

  • chuck

    There are a lot of years between JL’s age in 67′ and CE’s age now. I think CE is a fantastic, powerful force on the screen, but unless the makers are careful that nearly 20 year age difference might show. So yes, “old guy”, relatively speaking. I agree that CE 10 years ago might be better.

    With that said, “Benjamin Button” was well done, Brad Pitt appeared much older and much younger than his actual age, so maybe the makers of this film will borrow some tricks. If they do, then I think Chris has what it takes to do a killer performance.

    Maybe a better a question would be, “what is Ecclestons singing like?”

  • Less

    I think CE is a fantastic, powerful force on the screen, but unless the makers are careful that nearly 20 year age difference might show.

    Quoted for truth. I’ve seen loads of films with CE, and sometimes, depending on merely technical aspects, he’s looked much younger – and sometimes his real age. In the same film. He’s got a Face.

    Maybe a better a question would be, “what is Ecclestons singing like?”

    Oh yes. That would require special effects. From what I’ve heard – and where he’s not deliberately distorting it – he’s not a singing actor; can’t expect anything like f.ex. what John Simm did in ’24 Hour Party People’.
    But it’s not this film’s focus, I suppose. As for speaking voice, Eccleston does Scouse brilliantly.

  • Tarot

    I wouldn’t call Chris old. He’s only 45 and in darn good shape. Old are the 80+ year olds I take care of every night. And by the way this comment is being posted by a 36 year old.

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