Instagram, magazines, and media in general make celebrity and fortune look pretty desirable. But the new movie Yesterday, out June 28, and its star beg to differ. The fantasy movie about a singer-songwriter (Himesh Patel) who becomes world famous when he passes off the Beatles’ catalog as his own to a world where they’ve never existed doesn’t glorify fame, but also shows the difficult decisions and sacrifice that a life like that entails. Somewhat paralleling Jack’s rise, this is Patel’s first time leading a major feature film. And though the talent that he brought is all his own, he still says that the imposter syndrome is real.
While imposter syndrome manifests quite literally in the movie — Jack is being heralded as a genius for songs written by other people — you don’t have to have committed copyright infringement to feel inadequate or conflicted about your success.
"For me, I think it’s a much more irrational imposter syndrome," Patel says, speaking over the phone ahead of the movie’s release. "It’s kind of like, in the moment, where I find myself in strange situations, and I go ‘What am I doing here? Should I be here? Did they make some sort of mistake?’"
Patel played Tamwar on the long-running British soap opera EastEnders for nine years, more recently appeared in the British sitcom Damned, and has acted in some short films, among other projects. ButYesterday is Patel’s biggest break yet. "[Director] Danny Boyle and [screenwriter] Richard Curtis in one movie — what a privilege!" he says. "The Beatles… It was just one of those projects. What a clever way to celebrate the band, and a love story. It was kind of a no-brainer." And unlike Jack, Patel took no shortcuts to get here.
Jack does some pretty questionable things in Yesterday, and the movie encourages audiences to consider how they’d handle the situation differently. Patel’s solution is a pretty good one.
"I would’ve felt some responsibility — if I have some ability to play music or sing — to get the songs to the world," he says, of putting himself directly in Jack’s shoes. "But maybe I wouldn’t have done it on my own. I maybe would’ve done it with some other friends." (Jack, meanwhile, keeps his friends in the dark about where his songs came from, which leads to some conflict.) "I guess, you can only say that in hindsight," Patel continues. "As it were, it’s a weird situation, and you just kind of go with the flow."
Aside from these internal struggles, Patel also says that even pretending to be a rockstar was physically exhausting, especially filming the climax of the film, which happens during a massive concert at Wembley Stadium in London. "There [were] a lot of moving parts, a lot of different bits, and the long nights at Wembley, getting a bit delirious towards the end of the night there, getting tired," he explains. Still, he isn’t complaining. "Kind of surreal, kind of difficult at times, but really rewarding," he adds.
For the most part, the whole experience of playing a musician and making this cinematic tribute to The Beatles felt like "a really nice gift" to Patel, particularly because he was able to make music. Though he plays a singer-songwriter who’s been pursuing his career for years, Patel didn’t have any professional experience in music beforehand. "It was just the fact that I got to spend so much time with the guitar, with a piano, with my voice and just feel at home in it, which I have never done before," he explains.
Yesterday was full of "pinch me" moments for Patel that’ll hopefully put his own imposter syndrome to rest.
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