NEW YORK (AP) – Geoff Wonfor, a Grammy-winning British filmmaker who directed the acclaimed Beatles documentary series ‘Anthology’ and worked on the 1980s music show ‘The Tube’ as well as several projects with Paul McCartney, died of old age 73.
His death was confirmed on Tuesday by daughter Sam Wonfor, who said he died in Newcastle, where he grew up. Further details were not immediately available.
Released in the mid-1990s, The Beatles Anthology was an authorized multimedia project comprising an eight-part documentary, three double albums and a coffee table book. Wonfor spent 4 1/2 years on the film, which combined archive footage with new interviews with the then three surviving Beatles (McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, who died in 2001). Among Wonfor’s challenges was weaving in comments from John Lennon, who had been murdered in 1980.
“He was very vocal[in interviews],” Wonfor told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “I got the idea to listen to his conducted interviews … to get all the relevant questions and answers on every year we were in (on the documentary) and then ask the exact same question to the other three Beatles, so looked it up It looks like the four were answering the same questions, which of course they were.”
The Anthology helped renew the worldwide obsession with a band that had been little forgotten, and earned Wonfor and co-director Bob Smeaton a 1997 Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video.
Wonfor also directed the McCartney videos “In the World Tonight” and “Young Boy” as well as a McCartney concert video from The Cavern Club, the Liverpool venue where the Beatles played many of their early shows. He was also present at a 1990s Beatles “reunion” – a video of “Real Love”, a song left unfinished by Lennon, which the remaining Beatles completed and recorded.
His other work included Band Aid 20, a documentary about the anniversary re-recording of the UK charity song Do They Know It’s Christmas?. and “Sunday for Sammy,” a tribute to the late British actor Sammy Johnson.
Wonfor has been at the forefront of British entertainment since the 1980s, directing a handful of episodes of The Tube and making a documentary on Shanghai Surprise, a Harrison-produced feature film starring Madonna and Sean Penn. His work with Harrison would unexpectedly lead to the biggest undertaking of his career.
“I was with my dad and it was Paul McCartney who called and said, ‘Hi, are you alright’? And I’m like, ‘Yes, I’m fine,'” Wonfor explained during a 2018 performance at the Newcastle Film Festival.
“He said, ‘I was talking to a friend of yours last night.’ I said, ‘Who the hell does he know that I know?’ He says, ‘A little guy named George Harrison.’ … And he says, ‘Whatever,’ and we talked late into the night, and he says, ‘We want to do a story about the Beatles, and you’re that man.'”
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