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December 2000

Let It Beatle


A while back Phil McQuillan was working a part time job in a music shop in Dublin earning the princely wage of £5.50 per hour. Today however, he is the toast of Hollywood with an $18 million dollar movie already under his belt and the prospect of a major part in the next Bond movie. Tom Prendeville tells a remarkable story.


Phil McQuillanHand picked from over 5,000 hopefuls with stars in their eyes who auditioned for the part in the John Lennon Story; the producers of the two hour long movie, US TV Network NBC, held open casting sessions in Australia, America, the UK and Ireland before finally deciding upon the 23 year old Dublin actor and musician. "I first heard about the part on my day off from Waltons music shop when I saw a report on Sky News about the enormous crowds who had turned up hoping to be picked for the part during a public casting session they were holding in Liverpool," explained a delighted Phil.


Realizing that the odds of getting a part in the movie were miniscule; Phil decided, regardless to find out the name and address of the Production company and send them over a show reel and CV. Amazingly his letter was read and they got in contact with him a few days later: "The casting people rang me up and told me that they were planning to hold auditions in Dublin the following week and to turn up if I felt so inclined: needless to say I did —thankfully," he jokes.


After the Dublin round of auditions was over, Phil received a call on his mobile phone later that night informing him that he had been short-listed to play the part of John Lennon. A few days later he was sent over to Liverpool where he met four other would-be wise cracking Lennon wannabes: "We were literally brainwashed for an intensive seven day session into becoming like Lennon clones — it was unreal but great craic." After a week of intensive coaching, Director. David Carson, who directed three Star Trek Movies and the spin-off TV series, picked Phil for the role: ‘finding John Lennon proved to be far more difficult than any of us could have imagined," explained screen writer and Producer Michael O’Hara. "Then we met Phil, he had the edge and the personal charm and charisma as a performer that we were looking for. The fact that he was an excellent guitar player as well was a major plus."


In His Life — The John Lennon Story, began shooting less than ten days after Phil was chosen for the part, resulting in the young actor, who had never before had any screen experience, literally having to learn all his lines on set. The movie biopic, which was shot entirely on location in Liverpool, completed filming and was wrapped up less than eight weeks ago. To ensure total authenticity in the telling of the legendary musician’s life story, the film makers used the house where John Lennon grew up with his mother Julie and filmed scenes in his childhood bedroom where he first learnt how to strum together a few simple tunes on a battered second hand acoustic guitar.


"During the filming every aspect of his life was faithfully re-created including details such as the Woolton fete where John first met Paul and they hit it off and decided to form their own band which they called The Quarry Men. Strawberry Fields and dozens of other Beatle’s landmarks will also appear in the film," according to Phil.


The movie will cover the star’s early life from the age of 17 to The Beatles maiden trip to America when they were guests on the live coast to coast Ed Sullivan Show. The film will also feature the early pre-Beatles days when they were better known as Johnny and The Moondogs. Fortunately for the lads, they heeded the salty opinions of a Liverpool band promoter who offered them the now famous advice... "Change yer bloody name lads, you sound like a bloody skiffle band or you’ll go friggin nowhere."


According to Phil, the film will also controversially reveal hitherto unknown aspects of the Beatles story such as how their manager Brian Epstein tried to buy the band off contractually by promising to pay them £50 a week — a fortune in the early 1960’s —for the rest of their lives, while he pocketed the rest of the cash. The Hamburg years will also be documented as well as the notorious incident where John Lennon went berserk one night and beat up Beatle, Stu Sutcliffe, thinking Stu was his father. Stu who also suffered a severe beating at the hands of a gang of Hamburg Teddy Boys prior to that; died nine months later as a result of a brain hemorrhage.


Concerned at inadvertently causing any upset to the late Beatle’s widow, Yoko Ono, Phil kindly wrote to her some weeks ago reassuring her that her late husband’s memory was respected. Intriguingly Phil’s first ever-public performance was at the age of twelve when he sang Beatles songs at an open fair. Later after doing his Leaving Certificate he enrolled in a catering college and went on to graduate as a fully qualified gourmet chef four years later. A career choice he naturally no longer intends to pursue:


"It is still a complete shock to me over the way everything has happened," and so suddenly, he adds. "I was introduced to an agent during the filming and now I’m starting work on another major film project in a few weeks time. So many doors have opened for me both in films and music; acting was always my first love though and always will be," he adds.


To coincide with the recently passed 20th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination at the hands of deranged fan, Mark Chapman, Phil McQuillan embarks upon a major promotional blitz of the US this month.


Accompanying Phil on the tour will be "Paul McCartney", played by Welsh/Irish actor Daniel McGowan, and the duo will be guests on the Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno and David Letterman Shows. The producers of The John Lennon Story are expecting a TV audience of 80 million when the film is aired next month.



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