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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Anne
Honorary Irish actress Anne-Marie Duff talks to Tara Brady about her new movie, Imagine This, which takes a fascinating look at the formative years of one of the most iconic musicians of all time, John Lennon.
Tara Brady, 04 Mar 2010
Never mind the recent restoration of the 24/192 intermaster on the mono mixes, if you really want to hear The Beatles as you never have before, we suggest you check out Nowhere Boy, director Sam Taylor-Wood’s heartbreaking excavation of John Lennon’s tricky transition into adulthood.
“It was definitely a bit strange”, says Anne-Marie Duff, who plays Lennon’s estranged birth mother, Julia. “In some of his songs I could hear things I would never have noticed before. I can’t listen to ‘Across The Universe’ anymore without thinking of Julia’s influence coming through.”
The film, which is based on the book Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon, by Lennon’s half-sister (also named) Julia Baird, charts the tug-of-love between John, his biological mother and his aunt Mimi (played with frosty relish by the divine Kristen Scott Thomas), the woman who raised him from early childhood. The ensuing conflict and the personalities involved would cement a bond with the young Paul McCartney and inspire a great deal of Lennon’s later work. Who could forget the tortured lament “Mother, you had me/but I never had you” on 1970’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band?
“Absolutely,” says Ms. Duff. “It was hugely surprising what an impact she made. She was a brilliant, articulate woman who taught him how to play. She opened up his musical horizons. I’m a Beatles fan but I was never a Lennon obsessive so I didn’t know too much about this whole chapter going in to make the film. It’s underrepresented in the biographical literature. Julia Baird’s book is the only work that delves into this whole complicated relationship.”
Between Ms. Duff and Sam Taylor-Wood, the former YBA making her eagerly anticipated directorial debut, Julia Baird emerges as an irrepressible, if tragic force of nature.
“It’s a sad story,” notes the actress. “But it’s hard to feel miserable for her. She was so in the moment, so fabulous, so receptive to the world. What she went through was bound to produce some cracks but that can make for a terrible day or a wonderful week.”