Artist to become darling of British cinema with loving portrait of John Lennon

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Looking back, the producers of a new film about John Lennon must wonder what stopped them from hiring Sam Taylor-Wood straight away.

Nowhere Boy will have its world premiere at The Times BFI London Film Festival in October, thanks in large part to the expectation surrounding the artist’s feature debut as a director.
Taylor-Wood said yesterday that she was not the first choice for the project and had to “stalk” the producers until they caved in. “Ecosse Films knew it was a good project and were rightly nervous about using a first-time director. But I’m quite determined and nothing could get in my way. I wrote countless e-mails and sent them ideas so that they could start to see the vision I had.

“I think in the end they probably got a bit scared of me. One of the producers said, ‘I feel like the target of an Exocet missile’. I really stalked them until they gave it to me.”

She also contacted Paul McCartney, who became a key source of information for the film. “He was incredibly generous with his thoughts and memories and details, such as telling me about the tape recorder he and Lennon used to record their first song,” she said. The result is one of the most eagerly awaited British films of the year. Taylor-Wood won the Most Promising Artist award at the 1997 Venice Biennale and was nominated for the Turner Prize the following year, but her private life has often overshadowed her work.

Her mother was a yoga teacher from Streatham, South London, she grew up on a commune and has overcome cancer twice.

Until last September she was married to Jay Jopling, the most powerful dealer in British art, and their home was visited regularly by celebrities such as Elton John, Kate Moss and David Walliams.

Her film tells the story of Lennon’s turbulent upbringing in postwar Liverpool, where he was raised by his childless aunt and uncle, and his life-changing meeting with McCartney when he was 16. The film follows them through the forming of the Beatles to the eve of their departure for Hamburg’s red-light district, a defining moment in the band’s evolution...

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