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Jean-Marc Vallée to helm John Lennon & Yoko Ono film for Universal

"There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance."

- John Lennon

Today, Universal has announced to Deadline that they're in negotiations to secure the rights to an untitled drama based on the fabled love story of The Beatle's legend John Lennon and Japanese multimedia artist and peace activist Yoko Ono. Set to helm the film, which was aquired thanks to a spec proposal from Micheal De Luca Productions and Immersive Pictures, is WILD and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB director Jean-Marc Vallée. Anthony McCarten, who co-wrote the upcoming Queen biopic BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY will pen the script. Meanwhile, Ono herself is on board to produce alongside Michael De Luca, Immersive’s Josh Bratman and McCarten. Vallée and Nathan Ross will also produce.

Not long ago, Vallée dedicated himself to directing HBO's BIG LITTLE LIARS and SHARP OBJECTS starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Chris Messina. It was during that back-to-back gig for HBO that Vallée's name was placed among the top three to direct BOND 25 when Boyle took his leave. While the Bond project would have surely been a feather in Vallée's cap, the Canadian filmmaker removed his name from the list, explaining that he'd already promised himself to the John and Yoko film project. For the moment, no deals have been inked, though it's been said that music composed by Lennon is expected to serve as the backbone of the upcoming drama.

As legend has it, John Lennon and Yoko Ono first crossed paths in the late '60s, when Ono was new to the weird and wild music scene. In time, and after the breakup of The Beatles, Ono and Lennon became poster children for the concepts of love, peace, and activism during the Vietnam War. They parted ways in the mid-1970s, then became close once more, right up until Lennon's assassination in 1980. To this day, Ono remains the key master of Lennon's musical catalog and legacy.

According to Deadline, the project has been in the works for several years, with McCarten and Vallée doing several passes of the project's script. If all goes according to plan, Vallée hopes to have the movie in full production by late next year. De Luca, Bratman, Ross, Vallée, and McCarten have all claimed to be huge fans of Lennon's music, and have found the story of Ono and Lennon's courtship to be inspiring as time marches on. In fact, the group believes that in addition to shedding light on their powerful union, the film will reveal unknown aspects of their relationship to fans as well.

“We are all huge Beatles fans, and this is a dream come true,” Ross said. “There were inner and outer struggles John had, and family turmoil as a child, and things she had to endure before John’s tragic death. The thing we loved about the script was its stark honesty. You see so many biopic scripts where you can see that the cooperation of the subject’s family had something to do with the editorial, and that wasn’t the case here.”

Rather then follow the couple to the grim day of Lennon's passing, the producers have said that the film will be a celebration of Ono and Lennon's accomplishments as a couple with a mission to make love, not war.

“We’ll have to make a deal for the music, but with Yoko producing with us, we’ll have access to the estate and the library of songs,” De Luca said. “I’ve been listening to John’s songs forever, but as we developed the movie, I became aware of just how profound is the emotional impact of the music and their legacy is upon me.”

Production for the Untitled Yoko and Lennon project is expected to begin late 2019.

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