Two of Us

Michael Gerber
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Two of Us poster

…and so began the Tantric Sex Scene.

Commenter Karen pointed me to this interesting interview with Mark Stanfield, the screenwriter for “Two of Us,” the film that portrays a fictional 1976 reunion between Lennon and McCartney. Stanfield’s interlocutor is Martin Lewis, whom I used to see regularly at Beatle- and Python-themed events all over Los Angeles. I spent the evening of my 40th birthday listening to him tell tales of Peter Cook.

The interview meanders, especially at the end, but there are lots of bits worth reading and pondering over. This sentence jumped out at me, in light of all our recent Blackpool Choice talk:

“I knew that John’s painful childhood would play an enormous role in the way I portrayed him, that he would be seen as never having completely come to terms with being unwanted. And I knew that I wanted to get across how much Paul really loved and understood John, which, I believe, is what frightened John.”

Later, Stanfield says he envisioned Two of Us as “an indie film, something like My Dinner with Andre meets A Hard Day’s Night. It didn’t even occur to me that there might be a place for it on TV.” Today, TV is the first place you’d go; witness 2013’s Behind the Candelabra.

I blush to admit I’ve never seen Two of Us, even though I’ve heard some good things. I’m actually a bit frightened to watch because — as I can personally attest — writing something that’s meant to be John or Paul and not getting it exactly right produces a cringeworthy effect. Is it worth it? Should I take the plunge?


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  1. Avatar linda a. wrote:

    It’s a pretty good movie especially compared to most Beatles related movies. In my opinion they are all cringe worthy with the exception of Nowhere Boy and this, Two of Us. The only complaint I have is that John and Paul are portrayed in a somewhat one dimensional way. Paul is too nice almost to the point of disbelief and John is just a little bit too nasty. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. It’s worth watching just to finally see the relationship between John and Paul as the subject of a movie for a change. I think that is done pretty well.

  2. Avatar ODIrony wrote:


    I saw “all those years ago” when it first aired on US TV. It was good. I don’t remember even registering whether there were flaws in the accents (something that usually drives me bonkers). It’s fictional, but I remember it as plausible.

  3. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    I thought Jared Harris was a bad choice to play John. Too much the “angry young man” and no nuance. I liked Aiden Quinn though.

    What I liked about the movie was the script, more than anything– particularly the roof scene where Paul says to John,

    “It’s not always dangerous you know. Like right now, this moment…I’m not gonna do anything to hurt you; I’m no gonna leave you…..I see a beautiful little boy whose mother says goodbye; I see the same little boy blaming himself for his father’s mistakes, telling himself that everything is his fault. I see this little boy, believing that the world is a dangerous place and there’s nobody to depend on to protect him. So you grow trying to pretend that ordinary little things don’t scare the hell outta yah, but they do. I see my old friend, who used to skip classes and wonder off with me to the old graveyard looking back at me, still putting himself and me through hell; and I see a fighting man who doesn’t realize how beautiful he is.”

    • Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

      Good Lord, Karen! That kind of dialogue should make you feel ashamed to be alive! It put me in mind of that execrable John/Paul slash fan fiction and artwork that depicts Lennon and McCartney in bed in each others’ arms.

      Why write fictional dialogue for Lennon and McCartney when there are enough transcribed conversations between the two to fill a dozen movies?

      In 1964, for example, some lucky NME writer caught John and Paul backstage with their masks off. John had just answered the writer’s question about a sensitive topic when Paul interrupted, “I’ve had enough of you blasting off, John.”

      John responded, “You talk about what you want to talk about, and I’ll talk about what I want to talk about.”

      Paul complained, “You’re bad for my image!”

      John riposted, “You’re soft. Shut up and watch telly like a good boy.”

      • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

        J.R., I also don’t find the dialogue Karen quoted from “The Two of Us” entirely plausible, but neither do I think that the NME writer’s overheard conversation is the whole truth about Lennon and McCartney’s relationship. Like most longstanding relationships that require ongoing cooperation, I think it included moments like the overheard sniping and moments of closeness. I think that when they took their “masks” off it could go either way.

        • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

          I can’t hear those exact words coming out of Paul’s mouth in that he expresses himself differently, but consider this other comment of his about John:

          “He as a broth of a boy; a delicious broth of a boy.”

          I bet if that was written in a movie script no-one would believe it too.

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        No J.R., it’s doesn’t make me ashamed to be alive. You might be a little ashamed of saying that though. 🙂

        That dialogue, I think, was meant to reflect the emotional bond of the J/R relationship, rather than be a recreation of a conversation in Paul’s voice.

        Your favoured quote is the kind that makes me tired–a teasing conversation between two friends which gets overamplified as some kind of tribal war.

  4. Avatar linda a. wrote:

    Yes @ODIrony, flaws in the accents is biggie for me also. This brings to mind John’s accent in Backbeat which among the many things wrong with that film, ( and there are many ) is a huge mistake. If I’m remembering correctly his accent was very broad, very ‘scouse’ if you will and given his station in this life, I really don’t think he ever spoke with a thick scouse accent. The accent was too ‘working class hero’ to be be believed. Then again everything about Backbeat totally bugs the crap out of me.

  5. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    Overall I like “Two of Us,” but I agree that both are slightly one-dimensional. Especially in the rooftop scene, Paul comes across as John’s therapist.

    I understand why the writer and director wanted to plumb John’s psyche; there’s a lot to work with. But just because Paul was mentally stronger than John doesn’t mean that Paul wasn’t/isn’t grappling with his own issues, and this refusal by so many works in Beatles historiography to really explore that perpetuates an incorrect story. I was pleased when Davies acknowledged the issue in The Beatles Lyrics: “The characters of John and Paul are forever being contrasted, with Paul typified as the happy, cheerful, optimistic one and John the tortured soul thanks to his troubled background. But Paul had his own traumas, most notably the loss of his mother at a young age.” Despite this issue, overall I like the movie, and given that Paul has stated that John confided that “Jealous Guy” was written for him, I’d say the writer’s argument that John wrote it for Paul seems very plausible.

    • If “Jealous Guy” was written for Paul — something I did not know until this thread — I wonder what John was jealous of? My own pet theory was that John was jealous of Paul’s incredible musical facility; that after ’66 or so, John saw Paul growing as a musician by leaps and bounds, and was deeply insecure about his own ability to keep up. (Something that anyone outside of John could’ve reassured him over; it was OK that he wasn’t Paul McCartney; because he was John Lennon!)

      But I’d be interested in hearing how others put this piece of information into the John/Paul story.

      • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

        John was jealous of EVERYTHING: his looks, his ability with women, his talent, his stability.

        This is the man who though that Paul must feel strong when he felt weak. I think Paul was John’s personal barameter–emotionally and professionally.

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      I tend to think Paul WAS John’s therapist–or fairy princess, in Apple parlance. While Paul didn’t perhaps have the facility with language that was written for his character, I think he had the insight and most certainly had the skill to navigate the Lennon terrain.

  6. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    Paul’s claim that John said he wrote “Jealous Guy” for him comes from Paul’s February 1985 Playgirl interview. I’ve seen scans of the quote (on Amoralto, I believe) but I’ve never read the actual article.

    I think George Martin has made comments regarding John’s jealousy of Paul’s musical facility with melody several times; so, IIRC, have Pete Shotton and Tony Bramwell. According to Paul, John also admitted several times that he was deeply jealous of Paul’s swinging bachelor life in London.

  7. Avatar King Kevin wrote:

    I know that it irked John that Paul got on so well with Julian, too. I don’t think that Lennon ever really ever came to grips with being a dad until he had Sean. Tragic.

    • @Kevin, that’s what occurred to me after I’d hit “post” on the comment — because everybody from the period always remarked on how sweet Paul was with Julian. Of course, it’s easier to be Uncle Paul than Father John!

    • Avatar Ruth wrote:

      One of John’s most devastating comments on Paul and Julian came in an interview around 1974. Something to the effect of “I think Julian likes Paul more than me. I bet Julian wishes he had Paul for a father, but instead he’s stuck with me.” Paul wasn’t even around in this time period, and John was still automatically judging himself against Paul, and finding himself inferior.

  8. Saw it years ago, and thought it was worthwhile. I liked a scene where they are at the piano together singing “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds”. It had the ring of truth to it. You can actually picture it happening. There’s also a scene in Central Park where John is going on about trepanning to a skeptical Paul (based on an actual conversation).

    Overall, I’ll agree with other commenters that along with “Nowhere Boy” it’s one of the few Beatles-based films that doesn’t make me puke. Another would be “The Hours and Times”, about John and Brian’s infamous trip to Spain. I haven’t seen it in ages, but I seem to recall it wasn’t awful.

  9. Avatar linda a. wrote:

    Enjoying everyone’s comments as usual but another thing I didn’t like about Two of Us was Paul’s clothes. The baggy suit with the suspenders reminded me of early 90’s Paul. Nineteen seventy’s Paul looked a lot funkier and had more of a lean, rock star look. I believe the movie was made in 1999 or 2000, so maybe the costumers didn’t bother to check his 70’s look? I get picky about things like that.

  10. Avatar linda a. wrote:

    Oh speaking of Paul’s clothes in the movie, makes me think of an early scene that I enjoyed. Paul is just about to encounter John and he begins to fuss over a scarf he’s wearing, obviously deliberating whether to leave it on or take it off, and if he leaves it on how should he wear it? I thought it was a revealing scene that seemed to have a ring of truth also, like the piano playing scene that Beasty Glanglemutton mentioned.

  11. Avatar Nicole wrote:

    I always found it interesting, too, that it was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Better job than he did with ‘Let It Be’, lol. Also it has a tacit seal of approval by Paul. Aidan Quinn: “I had a rather bizarre meeting of him shortly after we finished making the film and where we were both at a vacation spot and on the beach in vacation huts right next to each other on the beach. We got to hang out and break bread and go to dinners together. The best part of that was in the end, he saw the film and he really liked the portrayal. So, yeah, he’s a great guy. Obviously a phenomenal guy and that was one of those bizarre coincidences.” I think Paul said about it that he wishes they HAD gone to Central Park and larked about there, lol.
    I think one of my favourite quotes from the interview with Stanfield is this: “And I would see these interviews with Paul where, whenever they asked him about John, everything would shift — his face, his tone of voice. I would watch him and think, “My God, he really loved John, and he hasn’t gotten over losing him.”
    I’d also recommend these from two fans, which I found quite interesting and amusing when they were first posted a few years ago: //

  12. Avatar ChelseaQW wrote:

    This thread was linked in another thread on the main page, so just saw it 🙂 and thought I’d weigh in.
    First of all, this is the ONLY film specifically about John and Paul that even exists, as far as I know. So that in itself is significant.
    I remember being super impressed with this film when it came out (which was admittedly quite awhile ago). Mainly I just thought it was so courageous, because it actually, boldly goes where no one has ever had the balls to go before. I also think the actors do an amazing job. I mean, they seriously commit. And I absolutely buy them as these famous people, for the purposes of the film. Aiden Quinn deserves a flippin’ Emmy for the care and energy he put into that performance…
    Having said that, I watched it again several months ago (after not having seen it in about 10 years) and it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. Mainly it suffers from format and budget constraints (awkward cuts for commercials, mediocre incidental music)… I personally think the writing is decent, even good most of the time. Yes, Paul does come off as a therapist occasionally, but… that personally didn’t bother me so much. (At least he’s not a vacuous idiot like he usually is in movies)
    Will you cringe? I mean… Maybe, but I didn’t. You kinda have to just suspend your disbelief. 🙂 I think the writer understands them very, very well. The characterization never seemed off to me. But knowing you, Michael, you’ll probably cringe at some dialogue. 😉

  13. My English is not very good. I am Braziian. In Brasil there is a difference between the words Jealousy and Envy. Maybe there is not such a difference in English. According to my language, John could be jealous of Paul’s looks. He used to envy his looks and every thing mentioned him. He would be jealous of Paul for two reasons only: if he felt Paul was stealing his position in the band Of if Paul was more interested in other people, instead of him. I do thnk he was jealous of him for several reasons. Probably that’s why he didn’t like Linda. As for the movie, I do like it very much. It was not supposed to be the truth. Just a declaration of love. A beautiful declaration. I wonder if the director added some hints, as he used to know the Beatles. He directed Let it Be.

  14. Avatar johntrem wrote:

    “Is it worth it? Should I take the plunge?”

    No. It’s standard TV movie/Beatle movie shite.

  15. It is a mistake to ask if a movie is worthwhile watching. Some people do answer according to their own taste…that might be not the same taste of the person who asked the question. You think it is a standard TV movie and Beatle movie shite. But that is only what you think. In my opinion , though it was really made for TV, it is far better than the usual stuff we see. Good plot, good acting, and very charming, as a matter of fact. My answer for th one who asked is: see it. And get to your own conclusion. Don’t let other people to influence you. I may think it’s rubbish, you may think it1s amzing! You might think it only so so, but worthwhile watching. Be yourself!

  16. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Virginia, you are one of my favorite commenters here, because of your eternal optimism and open-mindedness. My own personality and viewpoint tends toward the “extremely gloomy” setting on the dial. I have a bad habit of dismissing things out of hand, based on bad experiences from my past.
    Yesterday my wife and I went to see “Southside With You” and I was pleasantly surprised by the performances and the script. It was a moving experience, seeing the Obamas on their first date. I was somewhat grumpy when I first read about the project, but was rewarded with a deeply satisfying movie experience. I’m hoping the Ron Howard “Eight Days A Week” movie comes to our neighborhood theater. Not because I’m expecting any deep analysis of the touring years. I just want to see the Beatles up on the big screen in the blossom of their youth, the way I did when I was six years old and my father took me to see “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964.
    Thank you for your comments and positivity. I’m looking forward to your review of “Eight Days A Week”.

  17. I have just seen this comment about me by Hologram Sam. Wow! I am sorry I didn’t answer back before! Thank you so much! I have never thought of me as ethernal optimitic but I really like this idea. I wish I could make a comment about “Eight Days a Weel”. However, I haven’t seen it yet and I don’t know when it will be possible as it was not released in my country. Too bad. I believe it will get here in a DVD format. But…I would love to see it in a full screen.

    It was good to be here again as I noticed I made a mistake when I talked about Jealousy and envy. I wrote that ” According to my language, John could be jealous of Paul’s looks”. I forgot the word NOT. So, let me repeat it. According to my language , John could not be jelous of Paul’s looks. He could only feel envy. Now I decided to see if the same happens in English. I saw that for most people here, John could be jealous of his looks, and of the fact Paul had a great bachelor life in London, etc. In my language he could not. He could be jealous of Linda who maybe was receiving more attention than him, occupying his place. I am not saying it happened. I am only saying that is when we use the word Jealous. He could also be trying to make Paul feel jeaulousy giving attention only to Yoko and even saying he wanted to have only Yoko as his partner He was jealous, so he wanted Paul to feel the same. Not to hurt him, but…because he was a jealous guy. That is how we understand the word Jealousy ( Ciume) in Portuguese. If he wrote that song about Paul,( and Paul really said so in a Play girl magazine) he felt he was loosing Paul and decided to treat him badly out of jealousy. But I noticed that is not how you understand this word. So I researched in a English Grammar page. And I discovered that in English is the same as in Portuguese. Here is what I found.

    “Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another.

    Jealousy occurs when something we already possess (usually a special relationship) is threatened by a third person

    And so envy is a two-person situation whereas jealousy is a three-person situation. Envy is a reaction to lacking something. Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something (usually someone)”

    Tthere is a possibilty that John also didn’t know how to use this word the right way. But if we pay attention to the lyrics we can see he knew its usage very well.

  18. […] was inspired by our recent mention of the ancient medical (?) practice of trepanning to seek out the source of John Lennon’s […]

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