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‘Fifth Beatle’ Brian Epstein to Be Subject of Tom Hanks-Backed Biopic

Benedict Cumberbatch

It’s a big year for the man Paul McCartney once dubbed the fifth member of the Beatles. Fab Four manager Brian Epstein, who signed the band in 1961 and died in 1967 after accidentally overdosing on sleeping pills, is already becoming the hero of his own comic book, brought to you by one of the creators of Green Day’s American Idiot musical. Now the Hollywood Reporter notes that Epstein will also be the subject of his own biopic, directed by Paul McGuigan and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, both of the excellent BBC series Sherlock.

Tom Hanks is among the producers, via the Playtone company he co-founded circa 1996’s music-themed That Thing You Do!. Sundance-nominated screenwriter Todd Graff handled the screenplay, which the Hollywood Reporter confirms is about Epstein himself, not Epstein’s perspective on Beatlemania. The producers bill the movie as the tale of “the man who threw the biggest party of the ’60s but ultimately forgot to invite himself.”

The as yet untitled film arrives as author Vivek J. Tiwary prepares an Epstein graphic novel titled The Fifth Beatle, which is set to have a film adaptation of its own. Tiwary’s movie already has a deal to use the Beatles own songs. Could this be like when rival asteroid disaster movies Armageddon and Deep Impact both came out the same summer, and Dreamworks and Disney dropped competing animated insect flicks Antz and A Bug’s Life?

Epstein, who was gay in an era when being gay was still a crime in Britain, lived a famously troubled life despite playing an integral role in keeping the Beatles together (see Paul McCartney’s recent comments on how Yoko Ono didn’t break up the band). Interestingly, one of the bonus scenes in the extended DVD edition of That Thing You Do! suggests Hanks’ Epstein-like character is gay and in a relationship with a character played by former pro-football star Howie Long. This all probably has something to do with the interconnected universe of Hanks’ latest project, Cloud Atlas.