That’ll Be The Day (1973)
‘This was David Puttnam’s idea and began one Saturday afternoon in 1972 when I went to his house to borrow a book. We had a cup of tea and got talking about films and by the end of the day I’d been commissioned to write my first screenplay. Basically, it was a dark story about growing up and dropping out in the Fifties, and then becoming obsessed with rock music.
‘David had taken his two children to see the musical Godspell, and realised immediately that its star, David Essex, would be perfect for our lead character. Then Ringo Starr, whom we both knew, was so helpful in telling us what it was like to work in a holiday camp (Butlins) in the Fifties that we asked him to play the second lead.
‘As a producer David Puttnam wasn’t only brilliant with a script, and the most encouraging producer I ever met, he liked his writers to be involved throughout the entire filming process and to be involved in all major decisions. Not all producers think like that.’
(Writers Guild of Great Britain award for the best original screenplay, 1974)
‘Even before That’ll Be the Day was released David Puttnam was urging me to write a sequel. By now David Essex was a huge star, but, for reasons of his own, Ringo Starr didn’t want to play his road manager in what was, in effect, a morality tale of Sixties/Seventies rock self-indulgence. So we got Adam Faith. We’d expected to have Tony Curtis playing the New York Italian American manager, but at the last minute Curtis dropped out, and Columbia Pictures, who had the US distribution deal, sent us a TV star called Larry Hagman.
None of us knew anything about Larry, but on seeing him we realised that he wasn’t a New York Italian. So, I rewrote the part as a Texan, because Texas was where Larry had grown up. Later Larry told Playboy magazine that his performance as J.R. Ewing in Dallas was suggested by his role in Stardust.
Working Class Hero
‘Some screenplays get made into movies and others don’t. I wrote Working Class Hero, the story of the young John Lennon from childhood until the day the Beatles went to London to make their first record, for producer David Puttnam in the mid-eighties. Michael Apted, with whom we’d both worked on the film Stardust, was to direct. But, for reasons beyond our control and never explained, the film was never made. The screenplay is published here for the first time.’