TALENTED BRITISH ACTOR HIMESH PATEL ON HEADLINING HIGH-PROFILE FILM YESTERDAY AND REVISITING THE BEATLES
by ASJAD NAZIR
It says a lot about Himesh Patel that he landed a lead role in a movie directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis.
The multi-talented British actor has impressively risen up to the challenge of headlining the big-budget film Yesterday. He plays a struggling singer who suddenly finds global fame after an unexpected accident results in The Beatles never having existed and him remembering their songs.
The newly-released comedy-drama includes a winning soundtrack and looks like being one of the feel-good films of the summer.
I caught up with Himesh, after having seen him impressively play Jack Malik in Yesterday, to find out more.
How did you feel when you landed a lead role in a movie directed and written by two giants?
I felt absolutely thrilled. It was so crazy and the whole process was a couple of months, and then I finally found out I had the job. It was a real thrill.
Were you nervous about being the lead in such a huge project like Yesterday?
I felt more nervous when I first auditioned. I was a bit nervous about how we would do it, but at the same time, I was up for the challenge. As actors we do love a challenge, I think. It was a little scary, but I kind of thrived on the idea that it was going to be a challenge.
I am guessing you didn’t grow up with The Beatles. How did you prepare for the role?
Yeah I didn’t, to the extent that some people had, I guess. So it was a lot of listening to The Beatles and reminding myself about the songs I knew, and of course, playing them. Just after I got the role, I went to see Daniel Pemberton who is our composer, with Danny Boyle. Danny had a list of songs that would be in the movie we kind of went through. I realised I needed to improve my guitar and piano playing quite a bit. So we set up this room in the office and made it look like Jack’s bedroom. Post-it notes on the wall, the piano, guitar and stuff. I spent two months in that room, learning songs, getting a lot better at guitar and piano. Kind of getting under the skin of what the music means.
I love that it’s such a feel-good movie. What did you most like about Yesterday?
I think it’s just an amazing way of celebrating the band. Short of doing a biopic, it is a very interesting way of celebrating the most influential band of all time. Also, celebrating what they were about, which is love and invention, in a way.
What is your favourite moment in the movie?
It is difficult to choose just one, but I am gonna say the Gorleston Beach Pier hotel is a really thrilling moment. It was kind of the peak cinematic experience and I can’t wait to see it on the big screen in cinemas.
I love the scenes of you and Ed Sheeran; what was he like to work with?
He was great to work with, very generous, kind and down to earth. He was up for going on the journey with us. As actors, we wanna be relaxed. He was up for rehearsing, relaxed on set, easy to work with and easy to get along with.
Which is your favourite Beatles song?
That is a really tough one, isn’t it? It changes every day. So today, I am gonna go with Blackbird. I just love it and think it is just a beautiful song. It is one I recently learned how to play on the guitar. It’s a really beautiful song.
What are the key things you learned while working on the film?
I kind of learned about the responsibility you have as a lead in a movie, especially on a film like this where I didn’t have a day off. I was on every day, so you can’t let that get on top of you because the way you are sets the tone for the entire day, especially when you are working with someone like Danny, whose tone is one of collaboration and kindness. Danny never comes to set shouting at anyone or doing anything like that. So as an actor, there can be a lot of pressure on you, especially when you are playing the lead in a movie like this. It’s about the fact that what you give to the crew and your fellow actors, you will get back.
What do you like most about Danny Boyle as a director?
It’s his enthusiasm and energy. His collaborative angle on the whole thing. He talks about his film as a collective. It is like ‘we’ made a movie and it’s ‘our’ film! The energy with which he directs. He has a little screen he looks at when we are doing a take. He is with you and when he comes to give you a note, he can tell you that he is feeling the emotions with you, which is a really inspiring thing to have every day.
Tell us, how did you feel watching the movie the first time?
I felt a bit dazed, I suppose. It was a bit of a surreal thing to kind of watch yourself in the middle of this thing and to have been on the whole journey from three months before we shot to shooting, then waiting, then seeing a rough cut and all the little bits that led to the finished product. It was kind of amazing.
A lot of actors have told me comedy is the most difficult genre, do you agree?
It’s a tough one, you know. I have got to say, I am lucky that, in some ways, it does come naturally to me. But in another way, doing the jobs that I have done, I have learned that there definitely is an art to it. It’s not an easy one and improvisation is a big part of it. There is something about comedy, you can’t be too aware of what you are doing, otherwise, the audience can smell that and I personally don’t think that is particularly funny.
People are gonna discover you have mad music skills after this film. Will you now explore music as an avenue?
(Laughs) I am not sure about that. I don’t want to make any assumptions. I know I am not half as talented as some of my friends who are musicians and devoted their life to it. But at the same time, it has kind of reawakened my passion for playing. That is something I just want to continue, be it for myself or anything else.
Today, what inspires you?
Kind people and little acts of kindness. I find that very inspiring.
Why should we watch Yesterday?
It is just an amazing cinematic experience. You have got two great filmmakers collaborating and telling the story of one of the best bands ever. You have a bunch of great actors and it is a story about love. It is a story about joy and I think that is something we need right now. To see a film as big as this in a cinema is something I think people should really do.
Yesterday is in cinemas now