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John Lennon letter from 1971 inspires new film starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Renner

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1970s
John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1970s
Getty Images

Hollywood's a-buzzin' with news about a new film called "Imagine" which is set to star Al Pacino, Julianne Moore and Jeremy Renner. The movie, scheduled to start filming this Spring, was inspired by the true story of an aspiring folk musician who received a letter from John Lennon 34 years after it was written.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1970s
Getty (File photo)

Screenwriter and Director Dan Fogelman says he read an article on the internet from 2010 about Steve Tilston, a British musician, who was interviewed by a music magazine in 1971. In the interview, Tilston explained that he was worried about becoming a rich and famous musician and as a result, losing his creativity.

John Lennon read the interview and wrote a letter to Tilston and the journalist that interviewed him offering encouragement and help. Lennon reassured Tilston that "Being rich doesn't change your experiences in the way you think" and even included his home phone number. The letter was signed "Love John and Yoko" and sent to the magazine offices.

However, Tilston did not see the letter until 34 years later. The letter was intercepted and wound up in the hands of a memorabilia collector. In 2005, Tilston was contacted by the collector and shown the letter. (Note: A copy of the letter can be seen in the 2012 book, The John Lennon Letters)

It turns out that Tilston never had to worry about the effects of being wealthy. But screenwriter Dan Fogelman decided to explore what would happen in this situation if a musician like Tilston had become rich.

In a recent interview, Fogelman explained: "I thought, 'What about a guy whose life had gone completely off the rails, as he feared. He sold out musically and abandoned his family, and then gets this letter that could have course-corrected him, all the way back then. And he goes on this redemption quest in his 60′s.'”

In the film, Al Pacino will portray a fictional musician, Danny Collins, who discovers a letter years later written to him from John Lennon. As a result, Collins is motivated to make changes in his life which include reconnecting with his son, played by Jeremy Renner.

Fogelman has written the screenplays for films like "Crazy, Stupid Love" and most recently, "The Guilt Trip" starring Barbra Streisand. "Imagine" will be his directorial debut.

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