Things are starting to "Come Together" for "All You Need Is Love."
Revolution Studios' $50 million romantic musical, which is being directed by Julie Taymor ("Frida") and begins shooting Sept. 7 in New York, has just licensed the rights to about 30 classic Beatles songs.
It won't be recordings of John, Paul, George and Ringo performing original hits like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Let It Be," since the price would have been astronomical. "We'll have a guy you never heard of before singing 'Hey, Jude,' " said co-producer Jennifer Todd.
Even so, the music won't come cheaply.
Industry sources say licensing "Hey, Jude" alone runs about $500,000. Despite that, the songs of the Beatles, the act that sold more albums than any other in music history, have peppered 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 CD of the soundtrack, all interpreted by other artists, among them Sheryl Crow and Eddie Vedder.
Tom Sherak, a partner at 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, the studio was able to get a better price.
The publishing rights to the Beatles songs are owned by Sony/ATV, a partnership between Sony Corp. and Michael Jackson. Jackson's financial problems have put the relationship in the news in recent weeks as the singer -- on trial in Santa Maria, Calif., on child molestation charges -- reportedly is weighing whether he should sell a portion of his stake in that partnership.
"All You Need Is Love" centers on a college-age English youth who comes to the United States looking for his father and becomes friends with a brother and sister, falling in love with the girl. The characters have names that appear in Beatles songs: The girl, for instance, is Lucy (for "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"), while her boyfriend is "Jude," and the brother is "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.
It 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's East Village. That film, directed by Chris Columbus, includes six of the eight Broadway cast members. It will arrive in movie theaters later this year.