Richard Lester on his first day filming the Beatles
George shook his fist, fans chased the crew and they lost the first day of film, the Hard Day's Night director recalls
The first day on any job can be daunting, so spare a thought for Richard Lester, the 32-year-old director who was drafted in to direct the Beatles in their debut feature film, A Hard Day’s Night.
In our new book, The Beatles A Hard Day's Night: A Private Archive, the director recalls that fateful first 24-hours back in 1964, and why, over half a century since the movie’s completion, he’s glad he’s still remembered as the Beatles’ filmmaker.
“We all met at Paddington Station, London, on the first day of making A Hard Day’s Night. Seeing The Beatles literally being chased down the platform by their fans, I grabbed an Arriflex camera and started shooting — and a little bit of that footage got into the film. George Harrison was shaking his fist at me as if to say, “Why are we being subjected to this when we’re supposed to be actors?” and Rita, the continuity girl, made a note that I’d shot the sequence without her knowledge and that The Beatles were wearing the wrong clothing. She wrote: “If this is how it’s started, I don’t think I’ll last a week.”
“At the end of that first day, after we’d been down to the West Country on the train and then returned to Paddington, we lost half of our work because fans thought the young lad carrying all the undeveloped film was a Beatle. He had a Beatle haircut, so they chased after him, he panicked, dropped some of the tins, and — because it was negative stock — the light got in and ruined it. That was the first day, but it got better after that.
“I knew very quickly, soon after we started filming A Hard Day’s Night, that one day — when I fell under a bus and died — the newspaper headline would be BEATLES DIRECTOR IN DEATH DRAMA. And still, more than fifty years later, I’m sure that’s the way it’s going to be. I’ve had a lovely life in the cinema and a career that has thrilled me — and sometimes entertained audiences — but I know it’s because of The Beatles that I’ll be remembered. And I’m very grateful for that.”