Reference Library: Joe Orton and the Lost Beatles Movie
From: "Allan Kozinn" (email@example.com)
Subject: "Up Against It" Beatles So-called 3rd Movie
Date: 19 Feb 1997 21:28:39 GMT
Mr. John James Whelan wrote:
Admitedly I don't know the whole history surrounding the
early stages of UP AGAINST IT, but I do know that Joe
Orton, the absurdist English playwright, wrote the script,
or perhaps at least a draft of it. It's odd this account
from Mojo Magazine doesn't even mention Orton.
Orton came into the picture a little later. The complete story is detailed
in the Roy Car book that John referred to (Chapter 15: Joe Orton's 'Up
Against It') and also, in Orton's own words, in "The Orton Diaries," edited
by John Lahr, his biographer. A not very accurate (i.e., somewhat
fictionalized) account of the transaction is also included in the film
"Prick Up Your Ears," based on Lahr's biography of Orton.
Basically, since there *was* no "third movie," there were quite a few third
movies, or ideas for third movies. They considered doing "Lord of the
Rings," and also "The Three Musketeers," but dropped those ideas as well.
The script that is described in the Mojo piece (and the Roy Carr book) is
an earlier effort than Orton's "Up Against It," but it was sent to Orton by
Walter Shenson in January 1967 to give him an idea of what they were
Orton was a hot young property in the London theater world at the time, and
particularly now that the Beatles were in an experimental art phase, of
sorts, Epstein thought he might be the perfect author for the third film.
Another reason, actually, is that McCartney was a fan of Orton's work, and
had invested a thousand pounds in one of Orton's plays, "Loot." Orton's
diary entry for January 12, 1967 notes that Walter Shenson called his agent
and said that he had a script, which he characterized as "dull," and
wondered if Orton would have a look. Orton agreed, and read it by the 15th,
when he wrote in his diary:
"Like the idea. Basically it is that there aren't four young men. Just
four aspects of one man. Sounds dreary, but as I thought about it I
realised what wonderful opportunities it would give."
He then details some of his ideas of what he would do with the story. After
a meeting with Shenson on Jan. 16 (he later met with Epstein and
McCartney), he set out to write a new script, which became "Up Against It."
Actually, as Carr points out, "Up Against It" used some fairly old ideas:
part of it was from a novel Orton wrote in 1953 with Kenneth Halliwell (his
lover, who murdered Orton and committed suicide on Aug. 9, 1967) called
"The Silver Bucket," and part came from Orton's 1961 novel, "The Vision of
Gombold Proval," which was published posthumously as "Head to Toe." He
delivered a first draft on February 25, apparently knowing full well it
would be rejected. He expected the reason to be that "the boys, in my
script, have been cauth in-flagrante, become involved in dubious pllitical
activity, dressed as women, committed murder, been put in prison and
committed adultery." (Diary, Feb. 11, 1967).
McCartney's assessment, quoted in Carr, was different: "The reason why we
didn't do Up Against It wasn't because it was too far out or anything. We
didn't do it because it was gay. We weren't gay and really that was all
there was to it. It was quite simple, really. Brian was gay...and so he and
the gay crowd could appreciate it. Now, it wasn't that we were anti-gay --
just that we, The Beatles, weren't gay."
Once it was no longer a potential Beatles film, Richard Lester was brought
in to transform it into a film featuring Ian McKellan and Mick Jagger, but
that version of the project was shelved after Orton's murder on August 9.