British film and theatre director Sir Sam Mendes is to tackle that most perilous of subjects, the rock biopic. His subjects are none other than The Beatles, still the most famous and best-loved rock band in the history of music and a group about which there has been no shortage of films and documentaries made since their break up in the early 1970s. The band even made some themselves at the height of their fame in the 1960s. But Mendes being Mendes – a big ticket director who is no stranger to cinematic extravaganzas thanks to his experience directing two Bond films and an epic set in the World War One trenches – there is a twist to this project.

What’s the twist?

Mendes will direct not a single film about the band but four, each examining the life of one of the quartet and showing events from four individual perspectives. “I’m honoured to be telling the story of the greatest rock band of all time,” Mendes said in a statement announcing the project. He added that where the stories intersect they will “tell the astonishing story of the greatest band in history” and build to a suite of films which will “challenge the notion of what constitutes a trip to the movies.” Big words, but then it’s a big subject.

What do the surviving members of The Beatles think?

Luckily he has Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (Sir Richard Starkey) on board, as well as the estates of George Harrison and John Lennon and Apple Corps Limited, the company the band-members founded in 1968. “To have The Beatles’ and Apple Corps’ blessing to do this is an immense privilege,” said Pippa Harris, Mendes’ long-time production partner. “We intend this to be a uniquely thrilling, and epic cinematic experience: four films, told from four different perspectives which tell a single story about the most celebrated band of all time.”

Who is Sir Sam Mendes?

Sir Sam is one of the UK’s most acclaimed film-makers, having started out in theatre in the 1990s before graduating to cinema in 1999 with his directorial debut, American Beauty. It was nominated for eight Oscars and won five, including Best Picture and Best Director. Not a bad haul for your first feature. Since then he has worked with Paul Newman and Tom Hanks on Road To Perdition, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on Revolutionary Road (he was married to Winslet at the time) and made the cinematic World War One epic 1917. He has also helmed two James Bond films, Spectre and Skyfall. His theatre work has continued as well and to date he has won three Olivier Awards and two Tonys.

The Herald: Sam MendesSam Mendes (Image: free)

When are the films out?

Sony Pictures Entertainment, who will finance and distribute the four films, have said only that the four films will have “an innovative release cadence.” The use of a musical term is appropriate enough given the subject, but doesn’t really tells us anything. The big question, as yet unanswered: will the films be released all at once, allowing for a Barbenheimer-style cinematic experience, or at a distance apart? What we do know is that we’re going to have to wait until 2027 to see the fruits of his labour. As yet there is no word on casting, budget or titles.

Let It Be or Baby You’re A Rich Man?

Sony will hope it is the second and that the appetite for everything to do with The Beatles remains undiminished half a century after the band’s demise. Also that the slew of similar biopics in the offing won’t saturate the market. Theirs will certainly be a massive undertaking, though one with potentially massive rewards. Tom Rothman, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures’ Motion Picture Group, said: “Theatrical movie events today must be culturally seismic. Sam’s daring, large-scale idea is that and then some. Pairing his premiere film-making team with the music and the stories of four young men who changed the world, will rock audiences all over the globe.”