Perhaps it was Billy’s fondness for the few cans of 16mm film that remain of the Beatles assault on America, circa 1965, at Shea Stadium? For what began as a 4 camera shoot and a desire to simply document the historic last concerts at Shea Stadium, evolved over 18 months, and reached back over 47 years of heartbreak, happiness and triumph, to become The Last Play At Shea, a feature film that rocked the Tribeca Film Festival last Sunday night in the rain. “Shea was just bigger than any of us ever imagined,” exclaimed Steve Cohen, a producer of the film and Billy’s lighting/stage designer. “Shea was not just another stadium concert on the tour schedule, it was New York. We are New Yorkers! It was the advent of the Mets after the loss of the Dodgers years ago; Robert Moses and the history of New York and Long Island; the story of Billy’s life and career; and the catalyst of the Beatles first play at Shea! It was and is our story, everyone who was there or everyone who ever passed through the porticos of that “haunted house” known as Shea!” Nigel Sinclair fellow producer of Last Play At Shea, is a British film maker responsible for The Who’s award winning “Amazing Journey”, and Bob Dylan’s “No Direction Home” among others, and added “I’m am certainly not a New Yorker, and know nothing about baseball, but from my perspective as a film maker, this is an “America Tale” like no other. And Billy Joel is undoubtedly a quintessential American artist who earned the right to close this American landmark. I think there is a great story here for everyone, no matter where you come from, no matter who you root for.” As Steve and Nigel parked their umbrellas and entered the red carpet at Tribeca, offering anecdotes and answers to the many questions about the film and it’s potential impact, Billy Joel and his daughter Alexa Ray arrived at the festival and joined the producers in the Q&A gauntlet, punctuated by the crowding cheers of “Yo! Billy!” amidst the sparkle of paparazzi photo flashes. Billy was dressed in a brown motorcycle jacket, scarf, and a cap blazon with a “Norton” manufactures patch. The fact of the mater, Billy hadn’t seen the finished film in months. He liked the direction of an early ‘rough cut, and funded it’s fruition, “I’m not an actor, I’m a musician,” and as hard as it is to believe in this age of celebrity manipulation, he remained comfortable in his role as artist and musician and confident in the film making team. Billy and Alexa would see the film, like the rest of us, for the first time in it’s world premiere at Tribeca. Billy’s grace is evident throughout the film in lines like “I want to thank the Beatles for letting us use their room” and “The Beatles, best band that ever was and best band that ever will be!”
The film is as much a story of Billy Joel’s long journey to Shea Stadium, as it is his homage to the Beatles and their everlasting inspiration. We’ve pulled 3 clips to from the film, and as Steve Cohen emphasizes in his introduction of the film at Tribeca, borrowing the words of the infamous Hyman Roth “Enjoy.”
See all the Tribecca Red Carpet Photos in the Special Events Photo Gallery.
See the film clips and the intro to the film from the Directors and Producers in the Video section.