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Idris Elba and Paul McCartney’s BBC special was inspired by British GQ’s cover story

In September, Britain’s greatest living rock star Sir Paul McCartney appeared on the cover of GQ; now, he will appear in an hour-long BBC special interview with Idris Elba inspired by our cover story

Clear your post-Strictly viewing diaries: on Saturday night, Sir Paul McCartney will appear in conversation on BBC One with Idris Elba, in a wide-ranging, hour-long special programme that will cover all aspects of his five-decade career in music. And you have GQ to thank for it.

This summer, Paul was interviewed by GQ’s editor Dylan Jones for a September cover story, accompanied by pictures of him taken by his daughter, the photographer Mary McCartney. The wide-ranging piece was frank, revealing and occasionally wistful, as McCartney revisited the major beats of a life spent breaking musical records and pushing the envelope on what songwriting could be. From his family farm in East Sussex, where he and Mary were isolating during the first coronavirus lockdown, he spoke about The Beatles, John, the break-up of the band, his time in Wings, and the other monumental achievements of his career, in a ruminative discussion.

“I was lucky enough to catch Paul in an especially reflective mood,” says Jones, “and the resulting interview was one of the most intimate he had ever done. The piece broke the internet when it went online, and was seen by the very brilliant Jan Younghusband, the Head of Music TV Commissioning at the BBC. She wondered if we could somehow replicate the piece on film, and so she entered into negotiations with Paul and his team.”

The result is Idris Elba Meets Paul. Fellow multiple GQ cover star Idris Elba sat down with McCartney to conduct an hour-long interview for the BBC, on which Jones is credited as an executive producer. The interview is airing shortly after the 40th anniversary of the death of John Lennon, and ahead of McCartney’s 26th post-Beatles release McCartney III. Among the highlights, says Jones, is a section where Paul discusses why he and Lennon started writing songs together. “We think it echoes the original GQ piece beautifully,” Jones adds.

Paul is also working on a slate of different projects including an animated adaptation of his book High In The Clouds destined for Netflix, a reissue of Flaming Pie and a 50th-anniversary limited-edition re-release of his first solo album, McCartney. For fans who are finding the wait difficult, the deep dive into McCartney’s songwriting process and storied career should represent the perfect balm.

Idris Elba Meets Paul McCartney is on BBC One at 9:20pm


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