Brian Epstein, the man who shepherded the Beatles to stardom, will be the subject of the upcoming feature film The Fifth Beatle. The screenplay was written by Vivek Tiwary — a producer on the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun that starred Sean “Diddy” Combs — and it conveys the rock & roll manager’s life through historical scenes, dream sequences and hallucinations.
“It’s closer to [Pink Floyd’s] The Wall than Ray,” says Tiwary, adding that Beatles music will not be an element. “That would overshadow the fact that I’m trying to tell Brian’s story, not the Beatles story.”
Tiwary became interested in Epstein twelve years ago, when he decided to pursue music management himself (Tiwary represents Columbia Records recording artist Ari Hest and founded the musician community site StarPolish). The American son of Indian immigrants, Tiwary particularly related to Epstein, a gay Jewish man in post-war England, as an outsider, and he set out to explore the methods of the man who rewrote the rules for developing bands.
“He was a staggering success,” the filmmaker says. Indeed, in addition to discovering the Beatles at Liverpool’s Cavern Club and launching them to world stardom, Epstein also managed a stable of other British Invasion bands, brought Jimi Hendrix to the U.K., booked the Who and Cream, produced films and even owned a luxury car dealership.
“I was hoping to find a blueprint for success in the music management world,” Tiwary says. Instead, he found “this tremendously inspirational human story.”
Among those Tiwary interviewed for the film were Epstein’s former business partner Nat Weiss and his former assistant Joanne Peterson, who has been at work on a book called There’s a Beatle in My Closet, which allegedly claims that Epstein had an affair with a member of the band. Based on his research, Tiwary believes Epstein was attracted to all the Beatles, in particular John Lennon, but he doesn’t buy into — nor does his script dramatize — such an affair. “Epstein would have none of something like that,” he says, “if only because it would have been so unprofessional.”
The script also deals with Epstein’s death by overdose of the drug Carbital. Although there has been much speculation that it was a suicide, Tiwary stands by the official explanation, that it was an accidental overdose. He notes that the drug buildup was gradual, and that it would have been uncharacteristic for such a meticulous businessman to take his life without leaving a will.
Tiwary, who has the blessing of the Epstein estate for The Fifth Beatle, hopes to attract amajor director and would like to debut the film in Epstein’s hometown of Liverpool in 2008, the year the city will serve as Europe’s “Capital of Culture.”