Newly discovered pics of Lennon show him enjoying cricket on movie set

Updated: Sep 23, 2012, 12:51 PM IST

London: New pictures of John Lennon, which were taken in 1966, show him on the set of the movie ‘How I Won the War’ during a brief break from ‘The Beatles’.

Directed by Richard Lester, who also made ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help!’ with the Fab Four, the film offered Lennon a serious acting role.

It also gave him a rare opportunity to escape from his increasingly enervating life with ‘The Beatles’, who were at the peak of their fame and besieged by screaming fans wherever they went.

In March 1966, Lennon had caused worldwide outrage with his comment in an interview that The Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus’.

Partly as a result of the public backlash their tour of the US that August would be their last, but just a month later he was on the set of the film, in which he played Private Gripweed, alongside ‘Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em’ star Michael Crawford in the lead role.

An absurdist comedy, it was set in North Africa during the Second World War, although its anti-war message was seen as a commentary on the situation in Vietnam, which was escalating at the time.

Photographer Zdenko Hirschler visited the blisteringly hot set in Andalusia, Spain, arriving during a tea break in which Lennon displayed his legendary dry wit.

According to Hirschler, Lennon was holding a cup of tea and a sandwich.

“He told me, ‘See? One does not have to be a star to get a sandwich and a tea – but it helps to get you to the front of the waiting line’,” the Daily mail quoted Hirschler as saying.

“In spite of his military uniform, he looked like a young student – fresh, clean and happy. He was 26 but looked like a teenager,” he said.

He was thrilled to be involved in the film, in which he first wore the round glasses which would become his trademark, hoping acting might provide him with a new direction.

“No more travelling, no more tours. We are going to split, for a while at least,” Lennon said.

Towards the end of the film, Lennon’s character dies after being shot four times. Lennon initially refused to take part in the scene, revealing that he was haunted by fears of an unnatural death.

He told Lester he was concerned about an ‘eerie prophecy’ which he said ‘may mean violent death for me later on’. His fears came true in 1980 when Mark Chapman shot him five times on the doorstep of his home in New York.