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Becoming a Beatle

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Rubber Soul Rubber Soul

Bangor man plays music icon in new film

Bangor native Joe Bearor, an actor currently working in Los Angeles, has undertaken a Herculean task.

In the new film 'Rubber Soul,' premiering at Austin's South By Southwest next month, Bearor plays music icon John Lennon.

'Rubber Soul' is based on a pair of legendary interviews given by Lennon and Yoko Ono a decade apart. The first with 'Rolling Stone' - took place in December of 1970, just a few short months after the breakup of the Beatles. The second, given to 'Playboy,' took place in September of 1980; Lennon would be dead before the year was out.

The film juxtaposes these two interviews in an effort to help bring a fuller picture of Lennon to the surface. Bearor's job? Bring Lennon to life.

As you might guess, it was no easy task.

'We rehearsed for about four months before shooting,' Bearor said. 'He [director Jon Lefkovitz] knew just what he wanted. The goal was to reconstruct those interviews as closely as we could. And we needed time to get the look right.

'We shot around this time last year,' he added. 'We rehearsed so much that the actual shooting only took a few days.'

That rehearsal time was vital, because this wasn't simply bringing a character to life. John Lennon was an icon; playing a real person especially one so well-known presents unique challenges for an actor.

'This performance isn't an impersonation so much as a personification,' said Bearor. 'We want to say to the audience This is an actor playing John Lennon.' I don't want to come off as Paul Rudd [in the movie 'Walk Hard']; we tried to be as respectful as we could.'

Creating that personification required a lot of work. The audio for the interviews served as the blueprint; Bearor spent his time trying to find ways to reconstruct Lennon's voice as loyally as he could.

'We had almost all of the audio from the interviews,' he said. 'I had a dialect coach named J.B. Blank who was great. I was working at a record store at the time that had a policy saying that employees could borrow used products, so I gorged on Lennon documentaries, obscure vinyl anything I could use, I snatched up.

'The director wanted the interviews to be as close to reality as possible. I had to memorize the lines, the stutters Lennon said y'know' frustratingly often. The director wanted every inflection intact.

'It was a very different process for me as an actor,' he continued. 'I found myself working from the outside in. I knew how I needed to say the words; the challenge for me was figuring out why I was saying them.'

The interviews aren't the only verisimilitude that 'Rubber Soul' concerns itself with. Director Lefkovitz was meticulous in recreating the scene, even striving to find photographic evidence of what Lennon and Ono were wearing on those particular days for those particular interviews. And judging by the film's acceptance in SXSW, the attention to detail paid off.

'South By Southwest took us by surprise,' Bearor said. 'We're in the 28 Beats per Second portion of the festival. During the second half, the musicians move in and things get busier; that's where the festival has us placed.

'28 Beats per Second is all music-themed movies. It's mostly documentaries; the only narrative films are ours and a Jimi Hendrix biopic starring Andre Benjamin.'

It is proving to be an interesting ride for Bearor.

'It could be really cool,' he said. 'More and more stuff keeps hitting me. This will be my first time in Austin. It's my first time in a feature film. So many firsts; it's constantly humbling. And it's a lot of fun.'

('Rubber Soul' premieres at SXSW on March 11, with screenings to follow on March 12 and 13.)

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