Movies

Yesterday based on his story, but Ed Sheeran not first choice to star

In an instance of art imitating life, the story for British rom-com Yesterday was drawn in part from English music superstar Ed Sheeran's rise to fame.

Opening here tomorrow, the Danny Boyle-directed film charts how struggling small-town singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) finds success by performing songs by the Beatles to a world that has never heard of the legendary band.

So it is odd that Sheeran, 28, was not the first choice to play the role of a real-life star who, after seeing Jack on a local TV show, hires him to be his opening act on an upcoming tour.

"Originally that part was written for Chris Martin of Coldplay, but he didn't want to do it," producer Tim Bevan said.

"So we went to Ed straight away."

"Ed's the son I never had," said Yesterday screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually).

"In some ways this film was about Ed - insofar as it is an Ed that hasn't succeeded, comes from Suffolk and is engaged to a girl he was at school with, which is the same story as Jack.

"They are all sort of ingredients from Ed's life that were in my head because we've known him for years. We were in Suffolk with Danny when Ed came over for supper and Danny said, 'You should be in the film. You should be the famous person who finds our not-famous person and helps him on his way'."

Sheeran, who set a new record for all-time highest grossing tour for his Divide Tour and married his childhood friend Cherry Seaborn last year, identified with the challenges Jack faces with newfound fame.

He said: "It is important to find a balance between your career and personal life. It took me about eight years to find that balance, and it is what Jack struggles with in the film."

He added: "Danny has not really done a film that I've watched that I didn't like. And same for Richard. It is a very weird pairing. I would never expect Richard Curtis' scripts to be directed by Danny Boyle. Which is why I think it works."

Yesterday may centre on the music of the Beatles, but the film-makers thought they would be missing a major opportunity if they did not get Sheeran to write a song for the final scenes of the film.

Curtis said: "I mentioned this to Ed and he said, 'I'll write you one'. He came back two days later with this song, and it was just perfect and we all got terribly excited."

The song was How Would You Feel. Unfortunately, Sheeran's record company agreed that it was perfect too, which is why it ended up being a single on his 2017 album Divide and not in Yesterday. Two years later, with Sheeran cast in Yesterday, the stars finally aligned and Sheeran's beautiful song One Life now plays nearly at the end of the film.

Music