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Imagining John Lennon

There is a climactic moment in “Nowhere Boy” when a young John Lennon, played by “Kick-Ass” star Aaron Johnson, punches a young Paul McCartney in the face.

There is a climactic moment in “Nowhere Boy” when a young John Lennon, played by “Kick-Ass” star Aaron Johnson, punches a young Paul McCartney (Thomas Sangster) in the face. It’s a very cathartic scene, but one the real McCartney takes issue with, according to Johnson.

“Paul didn’t want to say too much. He loved the film, but he said, ‘I don’t ever remember John punching me in the face,’” Johnson says. “That was it, really. And I went, ‘Wow. If that was the only sort of thing that bothered you or was an issue, then I think we’ve got it pretty spot-on.’”

As to where the idea of having John sock Paul came from, Johnson thinks it was meant to convey a larger part of Lennon’s psyche at the time. “At this point in his life, he was just f—ing angry and bitter at everyone and everything,” he says. “I think we just needed to get that across in the film. Who better to hit than Paul?”

Disputes over punching accuracy aside, Johnson and director Sam Taylor-Wood were thrilled to have McCartney’s blessing, as well as Yoko Ono’s. “Yoko and Paul knew Lennon at different times of his life, but on such a personal, intimate level that it means a lot to us that they appreciate the film,” Johnson says.

While plenty familiar with Lennon’s work in the Beatles — and later as a solo artist and activist — Johnson admits the songwriter’s youth was something of a mystery to him. “I’m British, so it’s kind of embedded in our history — The Beatles, their songs. But I never knew anything about this side of Lennon’s life,” he says. “It was a part of his life that wasn’t really documented, so it gave us a freedom to do it sort of instinctively and naturally as possible.”

And the freedom to throw some punches, obviously, despite Sir Paul’s objections. “I think he just always wanted to hit him, didn’t he?” Johnson says, grinning.


 
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