Disney lets ‘Scouse swearing’ in new Beatles Get Back documentary

Disney relaxed rules to accommodate the Beatles’ "Scouse swearing" in a new documentary, its director has revealed.

Peter Jackson directed The Beatles: Get Back, which explores the creation of the band’s 1970 album Let it Be and makes use of homemade footage taken during recording sessions.

The director said he persuaded Disney to relax its rules on bad language to accommodate more foul-mouthed footage from the Liverpool-born Beatles.

Jackson, best known for his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, told the Radio Times: "We’ve had to have a discussion with Disney about the swearing. The Beatles are Scouse boys and they freely swear, but not in an aggressive or sexual way. We got Disney to agree to have swearing, which I think is the first time for a Disney channel.

"That makes them feel modern, too. Obviously people did swear in the 60s, but not when they were being filmed."

The director has gone through 57 hours of footage, recorded in January 1969, showing John Lennon, Sir Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr making the album that would become their final release as a group.

A happy-looking John Lennon in footage from The Beatles: Get Back

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1969

The casual swearing Jackson encountered in these intimate sessions would appear ill-suited to Disney’s approach, with its film chief Alan Horn saying in 2019 that language such as the F-word would be unacceptable in the company’s productions.

There have been reported cases of content editing for its streaming service Disney +, including purging the F-word from the 1987 comedy Adventures in Babysitting and in the 2018 climbing documentary Free Solo.

A "casting couch" joke referencing giving sexual favours in return for acting parts was also edited out of Toy Story 2 in 2020.

Bad language is not the only content reportedly tightly controlled by Disney, with the former CEO Bob Iger outlining a policy in 2015 “to prohibit smoking in movies across the board”.

Mr Horn reiterated this in 2019, saying certain films could not be made under the Disney label "because the characters smoke cigarettes". But Jackson has described his upcoming three-part documentary as essentially "a film about chain smokers with guitars who play songs".

While Abbey Road was the final album recorded by the Beatles, the recording of Let it Be – which had the working title Get Back – has been remembered as a fraught time for the band which would dissolve in 1970.

Sir Paul McCartney remembers 'four mates giggling about the impossibility of it all'

Jackson said he was surprised by how cheerful and amiable the bandmates are in the recording sessions he reviewed, adding: "There’s not a single angry word spoken."

He said he respected them even more for their attitude in sessions, which Lennon remembered as being like "going through hell", concluding that the band was made up of "four nice guys".

Sir Paul has spoken of his pleasure at finding that footage from the period leading up to the Beatles’ break-up was less tumultuous than has been portrayed.

Jackson related to him the mood in the recording session, Sir Paul said, explaining that he and his bandmates appeared to be having fun together. He added: "These are four mates giggling about the impossibility of it all. That was the Beatles. That was us."

The Beatles: Get Back is on Disney+ across three nights from November 25.

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