Original 'Yesterday' writer accuses Richard Curtis of taking full credit

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Jack Barth opens up about dealing with Richard Curtis on Yesterday (Image by Universal Pictures)
Jack Barth opens up about dealing with Richard Curtis on Yesterday (Image by Universal Pictures)

Jack Barth, the original writer of Yesterday who now only has a co-story credit on the romantic comedy, has opened up about Academy Award nominee Richard Curtis taking over the project. 

62-year-old Barth told Uproxx that, in his eyes, Curtis has taken “credit for everything” to do with Yesterday, something that he didn’t realise the screenwriter was going to do until the publicity for the film started to hit in the week of its release. 

At that point, Barth considered questioning Curtis’ version of events,  but he “didn’t want to jeopardise the film,” and when he did finally get in contact with lawyers Curtis’ own attorneys then “just dragged it out.”

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According to Barth, after writing a treatment for the film, which at the time was called Cover Version, in 2012, his agent gave it to producer Matt Wilkinson in 2013. However, Wilkinson was unable to get the film off the ground. That was until the project was mentioned to Curtis many years later. 

“Richard said, ‘That’s a great idea, I want to do it’ because he had a deal with Working Title/Universal to make a couple of films,” explained Barth. “He wanted [Cover Version] to be one of the films that he made.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: Richard Curtis attends the UK Premiere of "Yesterday" at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on June 18, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: Richard Curtis attends the UK Premiere of "Yesterday" at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on June 18, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)

Barth originally believed that Curtis was just going to be a producer. But when they got into the final negotiations Barth was told that Curtis was adamant on being the sole screenwriter for Yesterday, and he’d just be given the co-story credit. Barth reluctantly accepted the offer, as he had been working on the film for five years. 

During promotion for Yesterday, Curtis repeatedly played down Barth’s contributions, insisting that he’d only seen the one-sentence pitch, and hadn’t even read the original material.

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“By the time I realised I needed to get the story out there myself,” Barth continued, “It was really hard to pitch something that was for a film that had come out eight months earlier. Most of the media is concerned with just promoting the current films, they’re not interested in a story about the abuse of the powerless by the powerful.”

Barth even went as far as to say that his co-story credit for Yesterday has hampered rather than enhanced career, especially when he tries to get in contact with potential producers, agents and studios. 

“This is why I’m so upset. This is why I actually feel like Richard has damaged me financially. I write and say, ‘I’m the guy who created the film Yesterday,’ and they look and they go, ‘No, you’re not, that’s a Richard Curtis movie, you moron.’”