‘The Beatles Anthology’ Director Geoff Wonfor Dead at 73
He spent five years working on the eight-part series, which was first broadcast in 1995 and featured the previously-unfinished John Lennon songs “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” as new Beatles tracks. He also worked on the U.K.’s ‘80s music TV show The Tube, on several projects with Paul McCartney and a documentary about George Harrison’s movie Shanghai Surprise.
Confirming his passing in his native Newcastle, England, Wonfor’s daughter Sam said: “He was a one-off – a huge presence with a heart to match. His warmth, humor and encyclopedic capacity for remembering jokes of all qualities ensured people who met him rarely forgot him – and that has been borne out by the wave of wonderful messages and tributes we’ve received since his passing. He loved what he did and we’re so very grateful he got to continue doing it to the end.”
In 2018 Wonfor told an audience at the Newcastle Film Festival that he’d “welled up and cried” after McCartney called to tell him he was wanted for the Anthology project. “I was at my dad’s and it was Paul McCartney who rang up, and he says, ‘Hello there, you alright? … I was talking to a mate of yours last night.’ I went, ‘Who the hell does he know that I know?’ He says, ‘A little guy called George Harrison. I didn’t know you’d worked with him – but then again, he didn’t know you were working with me!’”
He said the pair had “talked long into the night” before McCartney told him: “We want to do some work with the history of the Beatles, and you’re that man.” Wonfor thought he was being asked to pick one year out of the band’s past. “What should I do, ’63 or ’64?” he asked. McCartney replied: “Don’t be a twat – you’re doing all of it!”
“It’s always a pleasure to look back on my time doing the Anthology and I’m always happy to share some stories from the five years we spent making it in London,” Wonfor said in 2014. “Working with the Beatles was a dream come true for me. I queued for days to get a ticket to see them at Newcastle City Hall in the ’60s and I don’t think I’ll ever get over getting [the] call from Paul McCartney.”
Watch Geoff Wonfor’s 2017 Showreel