This past weekend at San Diego Comic-con, I got to catch up with a dear friend of mine, author of “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” writer of the upcoming film adaptation, and newly award winner of an Eisner award, Vivek J. Tiwary.
Since the last interview we did back at Wonder con, so much has happened. “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” has been getting rave reviews from every outlet you can think of and deservingly so. Not only that, but a lot has been going on with book related projects, from award nominations to film adaptation. Here is our SDCC interview:
Chris: The book has had so much success since we last spoke, did you ever think it would be so successful?
Vivek: It’s amazing…I mean, nominated for two Eisner awards, which are happening tomorrow night, so please keep your fingers crossed. Wish us luck.
Chris: I have a good feeling about that.
Vivek: The Eisner awards are…they joke around that they are the comic industries version of the Oscars, but they are incredibly meaningful awards. You know, for me being a life long comic fan, if you told the teenage Vivek that one day he would have written a comic book and would be nominated for two Eisner’s, I wouldn’t believe you, you know? It really is a dream come true. I’m not typically somebody that cares about awards, but the Eisner award is really pretty special. So I’m overjoyed about that and two days ago, it was announced that we were nominated for two Harvey awards, which are the other hugely important comic industry awards, the other one that I’m hugely excited about. The Harvey’s are particularly interesting because they are creators only that can vote, the creative community, you have to be somebody who actually makes comics, writes, draws, inks, pencils. You know you’re somehow involved in the creative aspect of making a comic, where as the Eisner’s anyone in the industry, including retailers, librarians, and stuff like that. So they are two very different types of awards. I’m honored to be recognized by the Eisner community cause it’s my first book. Just to be embraced by the community in that way, is a huge joy and the Harvey award is being embraced by my fellow creators you know, it’s been amazing. So, those two things have happened. We won an award. We won the “Indie Fab Forward Book of the Year” award, which is amazing.
Chris: I’ve read that, congratulations.
Vivek: Thank you. Our fellow nominees were amazing, some amazing graphic novels. It was really not one that I thought we had a good chance of winning and we won, so that was fantastic. Yeah, the awards have been rolling in, the film is moving forward.
Chris: Where are you at with the film? The last time we talked, you had just found a director and you were eying some people to be in the movie.
Vivek: Yeah, I was desperately hoping that we would be able to announce a cast here at Comic-Con, but unfortunately, that is not happening. I will be honest with you, that we will not be announcing the cast. I will tell you that since we last spoke, I’ve been mainly working on building the film out. Trying to focus on getting those attachements in place, so I can eventually make those big film announcements.
Chris: When you were writing the book, did you ever think at all, if it would ever be a film?
Vivek: Yeah, publicly, it looks as though the book that’s been hugely successful and in the wake of the success of the book, we are making a film but that’s a good legend, and if people want to believe that, that’s okay with me but that’s not really true. The truth is, we started developing the project 10 years ago and from day one, I envisioned it as a book and a film. I actually wrote the screenplay and graphic novel script at virtually the same time. When I started thinking about the Brain Epstein story, I decided I wanted to structure it around that last seven years of his life, the years he spent with the Beatles. I thought of the arc of the Epstein story, as mirroring the arch of the movement from black and white to color (A Technicolor Dream). I don’t know if that makes sense.
Chris: No, it does. Especially when you read the book, it makes a lot of sense.
Vivek: Thank you! To me, from the very beginning, I thought the two mediums that most powerfully use color are films and graphic novels. So, from the very beginning, I thought of those. As you know we secured music rights for the film, and that was around shortly around the same time we put the book out. That took me about three and a half years to get! It took me forever to work on that! So with that being said, there was clearly a moment we knew that the graphic novel was going to get finished first, so I shifted my emphasis to focus on the book part of the film and now with the book out and doing well, I’ve shifted my emphasis to focus over to developing the film while promoting the graphic novel, but the truth is, the both were truly envisioned at the same time.
Chris: You said you can’t announce a cast, but do you have one at the moment?
Vivek: I’m going to answer your question very honestly, there is not. We in conversations. We don’t have any, if there was a cast, I think I would immediately announce it.
Chris: Do you have any actors in mind?
Vivek: There are a few. I mean, Brian was 32 when he died. So he’s in his late 20’s for a good chunk of the script and he was British, which certainly doesn’t mean you have to get a British actor, but obviously your thinking starts with British actors. I mean it probably wouldn’t take you long to put a list together of who I have in mind. Young, British, fanboy friendly, you know, there’s a number of those guys out there.
Chris: So everything seems to be going great.
Vivek: Everything is going great, I can not complain. It’s all unfolding like a dream come true.
Chris: Yeah, it seems like just about every other day, I see some kind of nomination or something, so I mean, it’s doing what you set out to do. That’s got to be a good feeling that it’s doing what you wanted it to do. A lot of people get success here and there, but it’s not quite where they want it to be and it seems like you’re getting Brian’s story out there and it’s literally growing almost every week. You see more people reading it, more people talking about it, it’s obviously getting recognized more.
Vivek: That’s it…I feel like a broken record every time I say this but it’s a dream come true.
Chris: For me, being a huge Beatles fan, to interview you, I can tell that this all wasn’t for the money, it wasn’t to get famous. I see the passion that you have for the story and for Brian to get noticed. It feels a lot better that way, it feels very natural.
Vivek: Thank you. It’s really one defined wave of love. I’ll tell you a couple of none related Beatles things. I’m on a panel with Marky Ramone! I grew up listening to Marky Ramone. I grew up in New York, the Ramones were a very pivotal rock band and I mean, sitting on a panel with Marky Ramone, and talking about ‘The Fifth Beatle,’ at Comic-Con, there’s so many teenage dream come true moments all wrapped into that. So that’s a hugely exciting thing that I am doing in the wake of ‘The Fifth Beatle.’ Also, I wrote my very first superhero comic. I wrote a short story for Valiant comics, for their ‘Harbinger’ title. It’s in their issue 25, which is their anniversary issue. I’m doing a signing for the book and that is going to be with Gilbert Hernandez who is one of the creators of ‘Love and Rockets’ and Gilbert Hernandez is a legendary comic creator. He’s someone that is a hero of mine. I’m a huge fan. So the idea that I’m going to be doing a signing with Gilbert Hernandez, for a book that a wrote a short story in is also crazy! It’s been a huge year and a dream come true.
Chris: So other than ‘The Fifth Beatle,’ do you have any other projects you’re working on?
Vivek: ‘The Fifth Beatle’ is really the heart of it, the film is my number one project. I do have a few other writing things that I can’t quite talk about yet, and I’m working with Alanis Morissette. We are developing ‘Jagged Little Pill’ for the stage. We are turning it into a broadway musical. That’s going really really well. Tom Kitt, who did the orchestration and arrangements for ‘American Idiot,’ the Green Day musical that I produced. He’s going to be doing orchestrations and arrangements for ‘Jagged Little Pill.’ We also have Tony award winner for ‘Next to Normal,’ he’s amazing so it’s a huge talent that we have attached and we are out to writers right now. I’m hoping in the next few months we will announce a writer. It’s all going great.
It was a pleasure of mine to get to interview Vivek once again, someone who has turned into a dear friend of mine. As far as who they have their eyes set on for the cast with the hints Vivek gave me, I’m thinking maybe Benedict Cumberbatch? He would be perfect for the role of Brian Epstein. Wouldn’t you agree? If you have not read “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” please do. Whether you are a Beatles fan, Epstein fan, a fan of music, a fan of biographies, or just someone that wants to read a well written, beautiful story, pick this graphic novel up. It’s definitely worth the read.
For more info on “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” visit the official site here.