Is Yesterday a True Story? Is Jack Malik Based on a Real Singer?

Danny Boyle’s ‘Yesterday’ presents an outlandish story about an impossible situation that turns a regular man into an overnight star with a heavy conscience. Following a roadside accident, struggling musician Jack Malik wakes up to find himself in a world where everything is the same except The Beatles never existed. As a result, Jack realizes that he can capitalize on his wealth of knowledge about the discography of one of the greatest bands of all time and propel himself into stardom. However, the complication of his newfound fame and the guilt of his secrets push him away from his best friend, Ellie, compelling him to confront the ethics behind his seemingly harmless but glaring plagiarism.

This musically-driven romantic comedy essays a love letter to The Beatles through transparent references and an appreciation for their timeless music. Thus, the film maintains a feel-good narrative as it follows Jack into an unpredictable time of his life, perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the same reason, the constant environment of popularity within the entertainment industry may compel viewers to wonder about the origin of Jack Malik and his story.

Yesterday: A Bizzare World Without The Beatles

No, ‘Yesterday’ is not based on a true story. The film’s instigating incident remains laced with fantastical elements that firmly cement the story into the realm of fictionality. The unexplained and unexplored nature of the accident that shifts the world slightly off-axis has a grounding effect on Jack’s story. Nevertheless, even though the film doesn’t equip fantasy in conventional ways, the protagonist’s experiences remain remarkably eccentric.

Consequently, the film is rich in the relatability factor, but its base premise of a Beatles-less world is entirely an original idea. Richard Curtis, who wrote the film’s screenplay alongside Jack Barth, formed an early interest in the popular English rock band. “I do remember I was hooked from the get-go,” said the writer when asked about his opinion on The Beatles. “I’ve got a favorite album, which is ‘Hard Day’s Night,’ partly based on ‘If I Fell’ and ‘And I Love Her.’ My first zap of The Beatles was all about that joy and happiness and exhilaration, the way even in the sad songs you feel uplifted.”

As such, it’s likely that Curtis’ own inclination toward the band paved the way for the inception of the film’s storyline. Yet, Director Boyle offered a more in-depth explanation for the film’s choice of musical artists in an interview with Variety. Since Jack’s story hinges on his ability to replicate timeless, instantaneously beloved songs, the film had to revolve around a monumental musical act.

Thus, citing The Beatles as “significant pop culture icons” who fundamentally changed society, Boyle said, “I think the Beatles are the perfect choice for it because there are not many people who cross generations as successfully as they do. That recognition was crucial [to the film].”

Consequently, the film finds The Beatles integration into its more outlandish aspect. Inversely, the rom-com-esque part of Jack’s story provides a sense of realism that balances the tale’s grounded nature. The same is a result of Curtis’ noteworthy skill within the genre, considering his past feats, like ‘Love Actually,’ ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ and ‘About Time.’ Ultimately, with Curtis’ penchant for endearing romances and Boyle’s grand direction, the film effectively presents a compelling story of self-discovery wrapped up in an ode to The Beatles.

Jack Malik: An Overnight Superstar

Much like the overall narrative, Jack Malik’s character is also a work of fiction, fabricated in service of the film. The man presents the perfect vessel for the story as an aspiring musician, down on his luck. Nevertheless, his luck changes once The Beatles’ music becomes a part of his arsenal in a brand-new world unaware of timeless classics such as ‘Let It Be,’ ‘Hey Jude,’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby.’

At the same time, Jack’s narrative superpower— an isolated ability to remember The Beatles, also becomes his central moral quandary, driving him through a journey of self-actualization. Therefore, despite its off-beat nature, the character finds himself in an innately relatable situation.

While the instantaneous rags-to-riches facet of Jack’s life is a condition of his storyline, it also provides a fascinating look into the fantasy of the music industry. However, his experience— though fictitious isn’t entirely improbable. In fact, interestingly enough, the lead actor Himesh Patel, who portrays Jack Malick, found an unexpected similarity between his character and co-star Ed Sheeran.

“In a way, Ed’s journey is one like Jack’s – he was just a local lad, and then suddenly he was the biggest star in the world, so it felt like it was right to have him as the gatekeeper of the story in a way, and it was a joy to have him around, he’s so down to earth, terrifyingly down to earth for a man who is the biggest star in the world basically,” Patel told Entertainment Weekly.

Thus, through attending Sheeran’s concerts from backstage and experiencing the artist in his element in front of thousands of people, Patel and Director Boyle found invaluable insight into a part of Jack’s world. Still, outside of relatable building blocks, reinforced to balance out the eccentricity of his situation, Jack Malik has no basis as a real musical artist.

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