"A lot of similarities between current times and 1968," Jim Sturgess on 3 day re-release of 'Across the Universe'
Half a century has passed since the world-shaking protests of 1968, when young people around the world – fueled by a vision of a different future – took to the streets and rose in revolt against the chokehold of the military and bureaucratic elites, and their political oppression.
That pivotal moment in history forms the background of Julie Taymor’s 2007 Beatles-themed jukebox musical 'Across the Universe.' Starring Jim Sturgess ('Cloud Atlas', '21') and Evan Rachel Wood ('Westworld,' 'Thirteen') as Jude (a reference to The Beatles' 'Hey Jude') and Lucy ('Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'), the film tells the story of the duo whose love inspires them to become involved with the protests and counter-culture movement that dominated the cultural landscape in 1968.
Visually and sonically unique, the film was lauded by legendary critic Roger Ebert as "an audacious marriage of cutting-edge visual techniques, heart-warming performances (and) 1960s history,” and popped-up on notable critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007. 'Across the Universe' incorporates 34 original Beatles compositions (most of them recorded around 1968), all performed by the film’s extraordinary cast.
A decade after the release of the film and to mark the 50th anniversary of the pivotal year that was 1968, 'Across the Universe' will return to movie theaters nationwide for three days only on July 29, July 31 and August 1. Helmed by Fathom Events and Sony Pictures Entertainment, the film will hit more than 450 select movie theaters across this weekend.
I had the chance to have a brief chat with lead actor Jim Sturgess, who comes from a musical background himself. Forming his first band at the age of 15, Jim took to acting while attending university in Manchester. Jim is a multi-instrumentalist and plays the guitar, keys as well as the drums. He's basically a one-man-band! But he did admit that he doesn't have a mastery over any of them but can play a fair bit of each of the instruments.
Apart from reworking several Beatles hits in 'Across the Universe' -- including 'Girl', 'Strawberry Fields Forever', 'With A Little Help From My Friends' and more -- he also acted in and contributed to the soundtracks of films 'Crossing Over' and 'Heartless'.
Talking about the relevance of Sony's exclusive re-release of 'Across the Universe' and the timelessness of the film's subject, Jim said, "1968 was when the film was set, and now we're living in 2018, at a time where people need to hit the streets and protest again. There seem to be a lot of similarities between the current times and 1968. In a beautiful way, Sony have decided to sort of represent that time period and release the film again for younger people to watch."
"There are a lot of protests happening across the world and a lot of things to fight for," Jim continued. "It's very similar to how things were back in the time when the film was set and I'm really excited that Sony has decided to do this."
We also discussed Jim's acting and musical contributions to the 2009 crime drama film 'Crossing Over', which follows illegal immigrants of different nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in Los Angeles. Jim plays a British immigrant Gavin Kossef who's struggling to fulfill his dreams in America. As mentioned earlier, he also wrote and performed two tracks - 'Mistake The Enemy' and 'Make Your Mind Up' - for the soundtrack of the film.
When I asked him if he ever felt like today's times feels like 'life imitating art' in the context of the film, Jim admitted that it did feel surreal to be a part of the film which was far ahead of its own time to stay as relevant if not more today, what with Donald Trump's harsh immigration policies and the mythical Mexican border wall.
Jim Sturgess is also starring in the upcoming 2018 memoir film 'JT Leroy' directed by Justin Kelly based on the memoir 'Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy' by Savannah Knoop. The film depicts six years in the life of Savannah Knoop (Kristen Stewart) as she pretends to be JT Leroy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law, the writer Laura Albert (Laura Dern). Jim plays Savannah's brother and Laura Albert's partner Geoff Knoop, who's also a musician. Jim also contributes the song 'If I Could Be' to the film's soundtrack, which he told me he co-wrote with Geoff Knoop himself.
"It was really cool to write a song with the actual character that you're playing. That was an experience I never had before," Jim said. "We were hanging out quite a lot, I was beginning to understand his story and we spent a lot of time together," he continued.
"And he was a musician and I was a musician so it was easy to bond and just kind of hang out, play guitar and talk about music. There was a scene in the film where we had to pretend to be writing a song. And I asked Geoff if he could write a little something that we could work into the scene. I ended up carrying on what he'd written and we ended up writing a whole song together. It was a story that was so close to his heart, such a big part of his life and something that he carried around with him forever, really. It was really special to both of us - a really interesting dynamic," he concluded. 'JT Leroy' is set for release later this year and the exact date is yet to be finalized.
Meanwhile, 'Across The Universe' will be screening at select movie theaters on Sunday, July 29, at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm; Tuesday, July 31, at 7:00 pm; and Wednesday, August 1, at 7:00 pm (all local times). A complete list of theater locations is available here.