Yesterday: Danny Boyle’s quest to capture ‘forgotten’ towns

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Danny Boyle and Richard CurtisImage copyright
BBC Sport

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Danny Boyle (left) was taken along the east coast by Richard Curtis, who lives in Suffolk, in search of the right locations for their forthcoming film Yesterday

Director Danny Boyle has told of his desire to capture the “forgotten” side of England’s east coast for his new film with writer Richard Curtis.

Yesterday premiered at New York’s Tribes Film Festival last weekend, before an audience including event co-founder Robert De Niro.

The Beatles-inspired film features scenes in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.

Boyle said he was drawn to “amazing” seaside towns such as Lowestoft and Gorleston that were a “bit forgotten”.

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Yesterday/Working Title Films/Danny Boyle

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Himesh Patel, as Jack Malik, was filmed on the rooftop of a Norfolk hotel

The film tells the story of Suffolk singer-songwriter Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel, who claims The Beatles’ hits as his own after an event in which the Fab Four are wiped from memory.

In Gorleston, Patel – who grew up in Cambridgeshire – was filmed on a hotel rooftop performing a punk-rock version of Help! to a crowd of 6,000 extras.

Speaking ahead of Yesterday’s nationwide release in June, Boyle said of Gorleston: “It was huge in Edwardian times, like Brighton – it was the place – yet it’s fallen off the radar.

“This was all filmed at the Pier Hotel, working port behind, with ships coming and going, giving a fitting industrial landscape to that song.

“The lads did also come from a great industrial port, after all.”

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Yesterday/Working Title Films/Danny Boyle

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More than 6,000 extras gathered on Gorleston beach last year

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Bob Jones/Geograph

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Lowestoft is among the “amazing” seaside towns Boyle found himself drawn to

Yesterday was shot last summer along the coast from Gorleston down to Clacton, where the first two days of the shoot involved Patel busking on its streets.

Location supervisor Camilla Stephenson said Boyle “didn’t want chocolate box” settings but was keen to authentically reflect the area’s beauty.

“By choosing Gorleston, we’ve got an Edwardian seaside town that’s charming but also has a real edge,” she said.

“He wanted it real but didn’t want it gritty.

“Danny wanted to see the beauty, but not the quaint, English-village prettiness.”

Screenwriter Richard Curtis, who has a house in Walberswick, Suffolk, showed Boyle around and said the extensive search for locations – such as The Reedcutter pub in Cantley, Norfolk, where Jack plays a gig – went beyond the rural scenes he had envisioned.

“It’s a lovely little pub which has this extraordinary sugar-refining factory in the background,” said Curtis.

“It becomes a more definitive version of what I originally intended.”

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Getty Images

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Tribeca Film Festival co-founders Robert De Niro (left) and Jane Rosenthal (far right) greet Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle on stage at Tribeca Film Festival

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Yesterday/Working Title Films/Danny Boyle

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Curtis said the film was partly drawn on his friend Ed Sheeran’s rise to global fame

Curtis said the story was partly drawn from the unlikely rise to global fame of his friend and fellow Suffolk resident, Ed Sheeran, who appears in the film.

“I write in a little room facing out toward the creek at the beach and the sea,” he said.

“This is very much where I wanted to set the film. It’s a little part of England that you wouldn’t expect a massive pop star like Ed to come from, had it not happened to him.”

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