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You say you want a Revolution Studios film?

Beatles songs, the Vietnam War and protests form the backdrop for a musical.

June 11, 2005|Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writer

Things are starting to "Come Together" for "All You Need Is Love."

Revolution Studios' $50-million romantic musical directed by Julie Taymor ("Frida"), which begins shooting Sept. 7 in New York, has just licensed the rights to about 30 classic Beatles songs.

It won't be John, Paul, George and Ringo belting out their original hits, like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" or "Let It Be," since the price tag would have been astronomical. "We'll have a guy you never heard of before singing 'Hey, Jude,' " said co-producer Jennifer Todd.

That said, the music won't come cheap.

Industry sources say just licensing "Hey, Jude" runs around $500,000. Despite that, the songs of the Beatles, the act that sold more albums than any other in music history, have peppered film soundtracks for years. "Moulin Rouge!," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Bowling for Columbine" are among the recent notable movies that tapped into the Beatles songbook for a screen tune. "I Am Sam" used versions of more than a dozen Beatles songs in the 2001 film and tie-in soundtrack, but, like the new Revolution Studios production, all were interpretations by other artists, among them Sheryl Crow and Eddie Vedder.

Tom Sherak, a partner at Joe Roth's Revolution Studios, won't say how big the film's overall music budget is but stressed: "The number of songs in the musical is not out of whack in relation to the cost of the movie. In other words, half the money is not going to music." He noted that by negotiating an "overall deal" with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, they were able to get a better deal.

The publishing rights of the Beatles songs are owned by Sony/ATV, a partnership between Sony Corp. and pop star Michael Jackson. Jackson's financial problems have put the partnership in the news in recent weeks as the singer -- currently on trial on child molestation charges in Santa Maria -- is reportedly weighing whether he should sell a portion of his stake in that partnership.

The story centers on a college-age English youth who comes to the U.S. looking for his father and becomes friends with a brother and sister, falling in love with the girl. The characters are named after characters in Beatles songs: The girl, for instance, is named Lucy (for "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"), while her boyfriend is named "Jude," and the brother is named "Max" for "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." The Vietnam War and the protests it sparked form the backdrop for the film, slated to be released in 2006.

This is one of two musicals in development at Revolution, Sherak noted. The other is a splashy screen version of the Pulitzer and Tony award-winning musical "Rent," about Bohemians living in New York City's East Village. That film, directed by Chris Columbus, includes six of the eight Broadway cast members. It will arrive in theaters this year.

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