The celebrated filmmaker's three-part docuseries kicks off Thursday on Disney+.

In his own words, Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson shares his personal connection to his favorite band, the subject of his three-part Disney+ docuseries The Beatles: Get Back (kicking off Thursday):

In theory, I grew up at the perfect time for the Beatles.

I was born in 1961, so I must have grown up listening to the radio and hearing their songs, but my parents were never fans of that type of music. We had a gramophone player (as we called it, not a record player), and they had a collection of maybe 20 or 30 records, but it was all things like the soundtrack of South Pacific and Camelot and Tennessee Ernie Ford. There were no Beatles albums.

That changed when I was about 12. I'd been saving up to buy a model airplane and got on the train to go to the city, and on my way to the hobby shop I passed the record store and there was a window display for the Red and Blue Albums — and somehow they caught my eye. I had no idea, really, about the history of the Beatles, but this looked like a pretty interesting collection of songs. And so I abandoned my model airplane and bought those two compilation albums instead.

'The Beatles: Get Back'
| Credit: Apple Corps

I can't tell you what moved me to do that, but what I can say about the Beatles music then — and now — is that it just makes me happy. There's many reasons to listen to them, but it's just music that lifts your spirit. If you are feeling happy, then it's fantastic. If you're feeling a bit down, then it's going to perk you up. It just has that effect. It's infectious.

Being a filmmaker, I've become reasonably well versed in how to use music to guide an audience through a movie, but I've never really been interested in bands other than the Beatles. I've never bought a Rolling Stones album, for instance. That's not really where my brain is at.

But I do like Beatles songs. So when their company Apple Corps asked to meet with me a few years ago, I was very intrigued. They knew I was experimenting with augmented reality and wanted to discuss a potential Beatles project. That didn't end up happening, but during the conversation I asked them if they had any unused footage from Michael Lindsay-Hogg's 1970 documentary Let It Be. They said they had all the outtakes and were thinking about using them in a documentary, but nothing had been nailed down just yet. So I put my hand up and said, "I'll throw my hat in the ring."

They set up a TV for me in one of their offices and I spent the following week watching all the footage — eight or nine hours a day. They'd go down and get me a Big Mac for lunch and I just kept on going. I didn't get through all 57 hours that first week, but I got through most of it. And what I saw surprised me.

My understanding of what were called "The Get Back Sessions" was that it had been a period of depression and gloom. That's what I'd read in all the books for 40 years: that creating their final album was a very contentious time for the band, they couldn't stand each other's company, and they were being filmed while all of it was happening.

But the hours of unseen footage revealed a different story. It wasn't doom and gloom. I found myself laughing…a lot. It was so much funnier than I expected, and it just got funnier as it went along.

I've been editing that footage into Get Back for four years now, which makes it the longest postproduction I've ever done on a project. During that time, the pandemic arrived and ripped through the world. It was miserable and depressing, and still is. And yet every day I'd get to go into work and spend time with the Beatles. I'm incredibly grateful for that, because I could get away from the pandemic, get away from all the news on TV, and just spend time with these four musicians who've given me so much happiness over the years.

I've been making Get Back for Beatles fans, but it's not just for Beatles fans. The events of January 1969 make a compelling story that everyone can enjoy for a few hours. We all need some cheering up right now, and the Beatles certainly provide that — just like they've done for me these past five decades.

As told to Patrick Gomez

A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly's December issue, on newsstands now and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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