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Comic-Con 2014: "The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story"

The first official day of San Diego Comic-con, Thursday, I sat down with the award-winning Broadway producer Vivek J. Tiwary for an interview about his first graphic novel, "The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story," which he is adapting and producing into a feature film.

Brian Epstein was The Beatles' manager and, according to Tiwary, the main reason for the group's success. Tiwary has the approval of John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and the surviving Beatles, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, so he was able to secure the rights to their songs—a first for a feature film about The Beatles.


The movie will begin shooting in 2015.

Although "The Fifth Beatle" is Tiwary's first novel (with artists Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker), it was on the New York Times Best-selling list. The day after this interview, Tiwary won the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Graphic Novel - Reality Based.

Tiwary may be new to writing novels and making movies, but he knows how to successfully entertain crowds. Tiwary's productions have won a combined 25 Tony Awards and garnered a total of 44 Tony nominations. Every single one of his shows have been honored, including: “The Addams Family”; Green Day’s “American Idiot,” the groundbreaking adaptation of the superstar rock band’s multi-platinum album; Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” (which has garnered the most Tony Awards ever) and “Young Frankenstein”; “A Raisin In The Sun,” starring Sean Combs; and “A Little Night Music” starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury.

THE FIFTH BEATLE Graphic Novel Trailer from TEG on Vimeo.

The movie will be directed by Peyton Reed ("Bring It On" and "The Break-Up") and produced by Bruce Cohen ("American Beauty" and "Silver Lining Playbook") with Tiwardy writing the screenplay.

Originally introduced to The Beatles by his parents who were both fans, Tiwary won't admit to a favorite Beatle and first learned about Brian Epstein while he was studying business at the Wharton School of Business.

At the beginning of the interview, I mentioned "Backbeat," the musical about Stuart Sutcliffe which had played last year in Los Angeles. The stage musical was based on the 1994 movie of the same name. The soundtrack to that film and the musical doesn't include any songs written by members of The Beatles.

Sutcliffe was the original bassist for The Beatles. He is sometimes referred to as the fifth Beatle. While playing in Hamburg, he met Astrid Kirchherr and later became engaged to her. He eventually left The Beatles and moved to Hamburg to attend the Hamburg College of Art. Sutcliffe died suddenly from a brain aneurysm in 1962.

Epstein began managing The Beatles after Sutcliffe had already left the group and would be the one who dismissed the drummer Pete Best who was eventually replaced by Ringo Starr.  Epstein managed The Beatles from 1961 until his death at 32 in 1967 from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. In the interview, Tiwary mentions the Ed Sullivan Show appearances which were in 1964 (February). The Beatles broke up three years later in 1970.


By the time of his death, The Beatles were already resisting some of Epstein's guidance. They refused to continue touring after the 1966 San Francisco concert at Candlestick Park. The group had also reportedly refused Epstein's offer of a fixed wage of 50 pounds a week for life, believing that they were worth much more than that. Other questions have surfaced about the contracts that he had The Beatles sign.

Still McCartney has called Epstein the "fifth Beatle." Tiwary's graphic novel "The Fifth Beatle" is published by Dark Horse. The interview took place at the Dark Horse booth in the center of the exhibition hall and you can hear the clamor of the crowd in the background.

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