Graphic novel colours in life of Beatles manager Brian Epstein

Brian Eptein

Brian Eptein - Credit: Archant

Broadway director Vivek Tiwary reveals his admiration for the man and talks about his plans for a landmark Beatles film

He was so influential in the success of John, Paul, George and Ringo that he was often referred to as the fifth Beatle.

The mastermind behind the band’s big break in America, Brian Epstein discovered the Liverpool quartet in 1961 when they weren’t even the biggest musical act in the city. By the time he died in 1967 in his Westminster home, they were the biggest band in the world.

Yet as New York resident Vivek Tiwary found out long ago, little is actually known about the man himself.

“When I started to research Epstein,” Tiwary says, “I was quite stunned to find there are no books about him in print. You can find a book about John Lennon’s astrologist but not the man who discovered The Beatles.”

Renowned for his success as a Broadway theatre producer with shows like The Producers and Green Day’s American Idiot, Tiwary has been a Brian Epstein fan since studying him at business school in his early 20s.

After realising how little was known about the revolutionary entertainment mogul, he has spent half of his life tracking down Esptein’s friends and business partners to find out the truth – a journey which has culminated in his new graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle.

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“The book’s a treat for Beatles fans, but the heart of the story is its human side. He was gay at a time when it was against the law, Jewish when there was a lot of anti-semitism and in Liverpool when there was not a lot going on.

“If you’d said back in those days that it would go on to become the European Capital of Culture, you’d have been laughed at.”

Considering the lack of literature on Epstein, the obvious option would have been for a straight biography. However, having grown up with parents who loved both The Beatles and comic books, Tiwary noticed the aesthetic contrast of Epstein’s journey - from ‘grey, dreary’ Liverpool to London in the ‘Summer of Love’ - would suit the graphic novel format perfectly.

Yet away from Britain, the book details how The Beatles’ conquering of America was where Epstein really shone.

“When The Beatles came to America, JFK has just been assassinated and the world was grieving. The Beatles came when America really needed to hear that message of love.

“Certainly, there was a base level of the band just being good but, beneath that, there was Brian’s influence of presentation and timing, with things like the suits and the haircuts. He had to hide his own love away as a gay man, so perhaps he saw this as a way to spread love to the world.”

Feature film

While the graphic novel is due for release on November 19, it’s not the end of Tiwary’s tribute to Epstein. In what came as groundbreaking news for Beatles fans across the world, he announced earlier this year that a film of Epstein’s life was also in the works and has received the rights to feature Beatles songs on the soundtrack – a first in any film about the Fab Four.

Furthermore, it is to be directed by Academy-award winning director Bruce Cohen, of American Beauty and Silver Linings Playbook fame.

“We’re very happy to have done the deal with Apple and Bruce Cohen is a huge score for us. If you see his other films, the DNA of The Fifth Beatle is in there,” says Tiwary.

“For me, this is an incredible story about the most unlikely man to succeed – for people who dare to believe in their dreams.”

n The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek Tiwary, illustrated by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker, published by Dark Horse, is out on November 19 priced £14.99.