Paul McCartney is getting the documentary treatment from Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville.
Neville helped announce the news Saturday afternoon (Feb. 4) inside Milk Studios, host of Universal Music Group’s star-studded artist showcase, an annual Grammy weekend event presented by chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge that typically features a packed program of musical performances mixed with some breaking news on Uni film projects.
Today’s installment, the first showcase in three years due to the pandemic, was no different with news on McCartney, a feature documentary on Grammy winner Jon Batiste from Oscar- and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman and a spring release date on HBO for Love to Love You, Donna Summer.
The McCartney project is titled Man on the Run and comes from MPL Communications (the umbrella company for McCartney’s business interests) and Polygram Entertainment (the film and TV division of UMG). Per official intel, the film will focus on the period of McCartney’s life after the breakup of The Beatles and feature never-before-seen archive material and new interviews. It will begin as the rocker navigates the aftermath of the breakup, his life with beloved wife Linda McCartney and the epic creative surge that followed.
Man on the Run will serve as “the definitive document of Paul’s emergence from the dissolution of the world’s biggest band and his triumphant creation of a second decade of musical milestones — a brilliant and prolific stretch.” His solo career delivered such tracks as “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Another Day,” “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” “Hi, Hi, Hi,” “My Love,” “Live And Let Die,” “Band On The Run,” “Jet,” “Junior’s Farm,” “Listen To What The Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs,” “Let ‘Em In,” “Mull Of Kintyre,” “With A Little Luck,” “Goodnight Tonight” and more.
Neville, who won an Oscar for 20 Feet from Stardom, comes to the film after having previously worked on other docs like Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain and the Mr. Rogers-focused Won’t You Be My Neighbor? He’s producing with UMG’s Michele Anthony and David Blackman, producer Caitrin Rogers, Maverick’s Scott Rodger and Ben Chappell from MPL. Man on the Run is fully financed by MPL and Polygram and presented and produced by MPL, Polygram and Tremolo Prods.
“How do you rediscover yourself after being in the biggest band the world has ever known? Well, until the breakup of The Beatles, no one had ever had to answer that question,” Anthony explained to the capacity crowd seated inside Milk Studios. “At its heart, it’s a story of Linda and Paul’s enduring love as he finds his own voice as an artist, resulting in one of the most creative periods of his life.”
Neville, a self-described “Beatle-maniac” and McCartney-obsessive, said he’d read every book and seen every documentary about the band but has found something new with Man on the Run. “I was too young to buy Beatles records when they came out, but I could buy Wings records, and I loved them. To me, the story of what happened to Paul in the wake of The Beatles when he had to rediscover himself is the story that has never been told,” he said. “When Universal and Michele called me about this, it took me about three seconds to say I have to do this. It’s the kind of thing I think I’ve been training for since I was 10 years old.”
Batiste also took a spin in the spotlight to announce his collaboration with Heineman on American Symphony, a feature documentary about his path to creating the stage show of the same name that debuted at Carnegie Hall last fall. The film is said to be an intimate look at his creative process and an unprecedented look at his personal life during the highs of winning five Grammys (including album of the year for “We Are”) and lows of facing his wife’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.
During brief comments this afternoon, Batiste touched on the rollercoaster. “Looking back, you know, it’s very hard for me. It’s something to share. For the sake of giving everyone a window into the power of art but mostly the power of our own resistance,” he explained. “This is a life-affirming thing that happens when you confront your mortality, and you confront the edge of your ability. You confront the edges of the thing you didn’t know you could do or didn’t know you could make it through, and maybe make it on the other side.”
He praised Heineman, someone he called an “incredible artist” who he allowed to film him “for a year straight, every single day, the most vulnerable and open-eyed I have ever been with a camera.” Heineman comes to the project after critically acclaimed work on docs like The First Wave, Retrograde, Tiger, The Boy from Medellín and Cartel Land. “Hopefully this film reaches you, and my experiences will teach you something about yourself, about life, about struggle, about triumph, about humanity,” said Batiste.
The film announcements were peppered in a program that featured a parade of performances from UMG acts in front of executives, music industry insiders and fellow artists. Seated inside Milk Studios o Saturday were Elton John (with David Furnish), David Zaslav, Niall Horan, Ice Spice, Fletcher, Yo Gotti, Sabrina Carpenter, Brooklyn and Bruce Sudano, Queen Naija, Natalie Jane and more.
UMG executives in attendance included Angel Kaminsky, Avery Lipman, Ben Adelson, Bruce Resnikoff, David Blackman, Dickon Stainer, Elliot Grainge, Frank Briegmann, Gary Kelly, Imran Majid, Jesus Lopez, Jo Charrington, Jody Gerson, John Janick, JT Myers, Justin Eshak, Marc Cimino, Michelle Jubelirer, Monte Lipman, Nat Pastor, Richelle Parham, Sam Riback, Steve Berman, Tunji Balogun, Tyler Arnold and Wendy Goldstein, among others.
“We’re back,” said Grainge in kicking off the program. “Can you believe it’s been three whole years since we were last in this room celebrating artists and new music? We’re all back together. A lot has happened in these last three years, and today is just about the music.”
Taking the stage at the showcase (presented by Merz Aesthetics’ Xperience+ and Coke Studio) were Kim Petras, Sam Smith, Samara Joy, Glorilla, Stephen Sanchez, Lauren Spencer Smith, Feid, Muni Long and Doechi. Grainge saved a surprise performance for the very end as he welcomed country icon Shania Twain to close the show. The audience was clearly into the performances, granting standing ovations to many of the artists, a rarity for sometimes stuffy label showcases.
That was certainly not the case today, which started on a strong note thanks to a standing ovation for blockbuster act Billie Eilish, who opened the program by taking the stage to accept an inaugural honor — a UMG x Reverb Amplifier award — given by Grainge on behalf of her eco-activism. Eilish said she feels “very seen” with the trophy. “Everyone in this room, we can all do our part. A lot of you got some money in your fucking pockets. Maybe use it for good things and not stupid things.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.