Barry Keoghan as John Lennon? Who Sam Mendes should cast in his Beatles movies

Just when we were getting sick of the Marvel Cinematic Universe … Sam Mendes comes along with the Beatles Cinematic Universe. It’s a quartet of interlocking movies about the Fab Four, each centred on one band member, and with the fascinating promise of overlaps and POV shifts, perhaps inspired by Lucas Belvaux’s triple-decker Trilogy pictures or Joao Canijo’s mirror image films Bad Living and Living Bad. Mendes’s moptop movies may tag quadrilaterally around key moments … Shea Stadium, the Maureen Cleave interview, Lennon’s death? But who to cast? Here is my fantasy lineup.

Barry Keoghan as John Lennon

Barry Keoghan and John Lennon.

Keoghan has already played a scouser in Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, and showed us his dance moves to Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor (although Lennon, in fact the Beatles generally, were not dancers as such). The fully nude album cover for Two Virgins should, come to think of it, be no problem either. Keoghan would be excellent at Lennon’s cheeky and insolent grin, with the fierce scepticism, insubordination and the radicalism. His capacity for innocent open-faced guile would have a special complication in the granny specs, and the gradually lengthening hair would create a new gravitas and opaque quality. For Aunt Mimi it would possibly be Emily Watson and for Yoko I’m thinking Tōko Miura from Ryu Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car (but not just because of that film’s title).

Leo Woodall as Paul McCartney

Let it be … Leo Woodall and Paul McCartney. Composite: Zoe McConnell, Getty

Woodall is shattering hearts all over the country with his performance as Dexter in the Netflix version of David Nicholls’ One Day, opposite the excellent Ambika Mod. This casting – Leo would need a dark wig – would tap into the vulnerability combined with ambition that he showed in One Day. But it would also connect with the sly steel that McCartney always had and which Woodall gave us as the lairy and laddish Jack in the second season of the luxury-hotel satire The White Lotus. He would be great opposite Keoghan in the scene where Paul meets John for the first time at the Liverpool church fete in 1957, where Lennon was playing with his skiffle combo the Quarrymen. Boyish Leo/Paul meets tough Barry/John and there is bromance meet-cute electricity. (The Paul and John films could singly play the same scene from reverse angles of course.) For Linda I’m thinking Florence Pugh and for some scenes in Abbey Road where everyone starts quarrelling, it could be Dominic West as George Martin.

Finn Wolfhard as George Harrison

Finn Wolfhard and George Harrison. Got my mind set on you … Finn Wolfhard and George Harrison. Composite: Getty

Canadian star Finn Wolfhard can do the baby-faced quality, the weirdly almost unformed innocence that defines the Beatles in their early years but could also do the watchful detachment and also injured resentment that complicates the George persona, as he had to see his creative contribution overlooked in favour of the Lennon/McCartney double-act. Wolfhard is also in a band himself: initially the Canadian indie rock group Calpurnia and then the Aubreys. The Stranger Things star, playing Mike, started that show as innocent and ingenuous but also as a natural leader who grew to be a more complicated figure as the drama progressed, and this is the energy he would need to play George Harrison. For the sensational love-triangle heartbreak of his later years, I’m thinking Anya Taylor-Joy as Pattie Boyd and Will Poulter as Eric Clapton.

Harry Melling as Ringo Starr

Harry Melling and Ringo Starr. Don’t let me down … Harry Melling and Ringo Starr. Composite: Getty

Ringo has the capability to steal this whole four-movie spectacle from under the noses of everyone else, and Harry Melling (Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter films) is the actor to upstage everyone: he can play comedy and drama and he can play the bad guy or the misunderstood good guy. As Ringo, Melling could put across the pathos of his early years of illness and educational disadvantage – the years when he got a life-changing copy of the song Bedtime for Drums on his own sickbed. Melling could portray a deadpan insouciance from behind the drum kit, but he could amusingly fabricate Ringo’s wacky performance in the movie Help!, in the various black-and-white pastiche sequences, opposite Ian McKellen as Wilfrid Brambell.

Robert Pattinson as Pete Best

Robert Pattinson and Pete Best. A day in the life … Robert Pattinson and Pete Best. Composite: Getty

This could be a short film to precede each of the main four, with Pattinson as Pete Best, walking moodily and wordlessly around the rainy streets of Hamburg for three minutes in a leather jacket.

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